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Cross-cultural satire: poet combines American, Pakistani humor

Published: Updated:

"I never take the beaten path as a poet of humor and satire. The humor and satire, especially in the poetry, are not so easy, as it looks."

This way is slippery and full of pit holes. Every moment there is a danger of poets falling in the deep mud or abyss of indecency," said Khalid Irfan. American-Pakistani poet Irfan is a famous name in the world of humor and satire and an eminent Urdu journalist from North America. He was recently in the Kingdom to perform Umrah.

"The burst of laughter comes first. Then, all of a sudden, the audience or the reader reveals the real meaning and the message that lie beneath the humorous or satirical words. Urdu language is famous for its sophistication. Urdu’s humor and satire are wrapped in a special foil of words that protects the inner message from the outer pollution of vulgarism. Such arrangement and administration make Urdu literature and poetry unique," said Irfan.

"In my poems I choose the words and meter that are familiar to the readers and the audience. In this practice, as I had already said, I try to keep myself away from the repetition and duplicity. In the selection of my topics I try to be careful. I take only those topics that not only belong to the common people but that have also become their identity and need. I was deeply inspired by Dilawer Figar, one of the greatest poets of humor and satire in the Indian Subcontinent during the last century."

"I had a chance to be very near to him for some years. During those days I was able to learn much regarding the humor and satire and its real importance and its place in Urdu poetry and in our life. Although I cannot claim my self to be a disciple of Dilawer Figar yet for the content and style of my poetry, I owe him too much."

"Dilawer Figar was a real genius and in my opinion he was the only trend setter in this field after Akbar Allahabadi. Like Akbar Allahabadi Dilawer Figar also heralded his era in his poetry. Keeping these things in mind I paint the real picture of my people and the country I live in."

"One can find a description of American culture and lifestyle in my poetry because I live in New York. Since my country of origin is Pakistan the glimpses of its culture are in my poems everywhere," he told.

Irfan is a fan of veteran Ghazal poet Ahmad Faraz and greatest elegy poet Mir Anees. These poets have paved way for his modulation.

Some examples of his poetry are following:

Aakhir panah mil gayee Maghrib ke tent men
Shalwar posh bhi nazar aate hain pant men
Visa visit ka maang ke liye the teen maah
Subway men ek kat gaya, do basement men
Janab-e-Shaikh ki Gori se ho gayi shadi
Bahut haseen nazara dikhayi deta hai
Jo pit raha hai shab-o-roz apni biwi se
Green Card ka mara dikhai deta hai

Irfan believes that the tradition of pasquinade (hajv), ridicule and lampoon in Urdu literature gave birth to satire. But the tradition of pasquinade flourished on vulgarity.

The victim of such poems had no place to hide his face after being shot by the arrow of such infamy. The topics were limited but the tone was always acerbic and the words laced with such filth that within hours of the composition of such poems such verses succeeded in making way to the public places.

This was the most dreaded weapon in the hands of the poets and masses against tyrants and unpleasant political figures.

"The satirist is supposed to be well-versed in the classical Urdu poetry and should have mastery over meters. His vocabulary and decency are a must to be a successful poet."

"We find Ghazal maestros like Mir, Mirza Sauda and Ghalib as classical examples but during the past two centuries this genre of poetry has gone through so many changes. Present social and political matters need great information and mastery to be dealt with humor and satire."

"After Pakistan came into being Syed Muhammad Jaafari, Majeed Lahori, Zarif Jabalpuri, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Bulbul Kashmiri, Shaukat Thanvi, Mister Dehlavi, Syed Zameer Jaafari and Dilawer Figar enriched this genre with their contribution for nearly three decades then came the era of Anwer Masood, Amirul Islam Hashimi, Sarfaraz Shahid, Inayat Ali Khan, Gustakh Gayawi, Shahid Alwari, Herfan Lucknawi, Ziyaul Haq Qasimi, Niyaz Sawati, Athar Shah Khan, Saeed Agha, Inamul Haq Javed, Zahid Fakhri, Haider Hasnain Jaleesi and Hakim Nasif."

"I don’t know whether the literary historian 50 year later would remember the mentioned names including mine while preparing his chronicle regarding humor and satire of our days," he said.

In contemporary Indian poets in this genre Irfan lauds Popular Merathi’s efforts. According to him during the last five decades Indian Urdu poetry had better satirist like Aftab Lucknowi, Nazir Khaiyyami, Adil Lucknowi, Suleman Khateeb, Hilal Seoharvi, Sagher Khayyami and Talib Khondmiri. "Dilawer Figar’s migration to Pakistan proved to be an irreparable loss for satirical Urdu poetry in India," he said.

According to him in North America Maqsad Allahabadi, Asadullah Hussaini Chakker, Hashmat Habib, and Ahmad Jaafari and in Canada Zamin Jaafari are popular in this genre.

In America Farhat Nadeem Humayun, Hammad Khan, Abdul Rahman Abd, Mehdi Hasnain Moon and Husain Ejaz too are serving this genre to some extent.

Irfan was born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Indian family. His father Irshad Ali along with his family migrated to Pakistan from Badayun in 1947.

Irfan has a Masters degree in Urdu literature. He has two sons. Irfan is in charge of the literary section of Urdu Times Weekly, the first and largest weekly Urdu newspaper in North America.

He has published 5 poetry collections. In most of his poems Khalid Irfan highlights the social and political conditions of his native country Pakistan and his adopted country the United States.

According to him the future of Urdu language is bright in America. To prove his point he said that 12 Urdu newspapers are being published from the New York City only.

Apart from it there are many weeklies and TV channels and radio programs. Many literary societies are there that hold Mushairahs and seminars.

Aalami Urdu Markaz Los Angeles is also very popular among Urdu-speaking community for its services.

There are many people that are serving the cause of Urdu language and literature in America.

Dr. Sabiha Saba, Zarrin Yasin, Mamoun Aiman, Muqsit Nadeem and Wasi Naqqash are some poets and literary figures that are famous among them.