After the death of Professor Shamim Hanfi, who resided in Zakir Bagh, Dr Anwarul Haque pays tributes to well-known Urdu critic.
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Professor Shamim Hanfi is one of the brightest stars of Urdu entity. He has served the language with his distinguishable mastery over genres and facets of literature that include translation, criticism, poetry, drama and children’s literature.
His contribution to the literature with more than three dozen outstanding books is still a gigantic asset and added colour to the tapestry of literature. The kind of applaud he received after his book “Jadidiyat ki Falsafiyana Asaas”—a noted kind of first few books of modernism that set philosophical apparition of modernism in Urdu literature—besides translating the milestone country-pride books “India wins Freedom” by the first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Pt. Nehru’s “Years of Struggle” into Urdu.
Prof. Hanfi is known for his irenic behavior and amiable personality. He doesn’t believe in extremism of any faction whether it is progressive or modernism. He believes in judicious treatment of literature. It was shocking fact for me that he believes in “literature for life sake”, as it used to be considered a religious conviction of progressive writers and modernists’ existence was for the sake of contrasting them. He also believes that any theory can’t be limited with era or period basis. This is why he rejects the idea of labeling the post modern era after 1970s or 80s or whatsoever.
When Prof. Hanfi was asked that, why modernism crossed the line of control and got cantankerous behavior, knowing the fact that this was the cause for the decline of progressive movement. Prof. Hanfi’s argument was quite sensible as he says that it happened because of some strong supporters of modernism crossed all the limits in enthusiasm. It was his faith that Jadeediyat is not an extension of romanticism rather it was an announcement of new realism, free from social-realism theory and a portrayal of the broad sense of realism.
I met this theorist of Urdu literature who wrote for children and is considered one of the finest playwrights Prof. Shamim Hanfi around sixteen years ago when he was about to retire and I just began my journey of literature from my dream institution the prestigious central University Jamia Millia Islamia.
He was leading the board of studies meeting where he suggested me to work on the extraordinary novel of the legendary Urdu fiction writer Qurratulain Hyder’s Chandni Begum for my M. Phil dissertation. I accepted his suggestion happily. I enjoyed thoroughly during my research. Later on it was proved that his suggestion was fruitful. Since then, I have been meeting him time to time in Jamia. I keep on hearing his lectures on and off.
Prof. Hanfi showed his mastery in creative literature too, and contributed four dramas to the Urdu literature that includes Mitti ka Bulawa(Call of the soil)Mujhe Ghar Yaad Ata Hai (I miss my home) Zindagi ki Taraf (Towards the Life) and Bazar mein Neend (A sleep in the Market) besides writing two outstanding short stories Bhooton ka Jahaz (A ship of Ghosts)and Kata Hua Hath(A Detached Hand). He used to be a columnist too. His collection of columns has been published entitled “Yeh kis ka Khwab Tamasha Hai”
Shamim Hanfi was born in Sultanpur Utter Pradesh. He was associated with the Universiy of Allahabad, Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia like prestigious institutes. He is known for his scholastic literary speeches and lectures. I wonder, it is hard to say whether he is a better writer or a better speaker. In fact he is hypnotic in delivering speeches and his writing dexterity both.
He was one of the opportune scholars who has got chances to meet with Aal-e-Ahmad Suroor, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Khalilur Rahman Azmi, Waqar Azeem Makhdoom, Sahir Ludhiyanvi, Sardar Jafri and Shahreyaar like Urdu legendary personalities. He was too close to Firaq that he wrote around two books remembering him, his poetry, literary capabilities and heights. Firaq Dayar-e-Shab ka Musafir and Firaq: Shair aur Shakhs
Very few people know that he is a poet too. He penned down many beautiful ghazals. He started writing poems in 1965. His poems and ghazals kept on publishing in the stupendous magazines of that time that includes Kitaab Lucknow, Guftagu Mumbai, Shabkhoon Allahabad, Sutoor Delhi and Funoon Lahore. He is more famous for his critical approach and modern theories. This is the reason that his poetry writing dexterousness was not highlighted as effectively as it should have been. In his poetry he depicts the loneliness of oneself. That oneself represents the society and its member’s seclusion, isolation and social malpractices too. One thing about Prof. Shamim Hanfi is still inscrutability that whenever he is asked to talk about his poetry he gives excuses and shows no fervor in talking about his poetry. However, his poetry bears all the eminence and distinctions that are needed for an astounding poetry. I would like to present here a few couplets with English translation as a sample.
saverā hote hote roz aa jaate haiñ sāhil par
safīne raat bhar dariyā kī tuġhyānī meñ rahte haiñ.
(As the dawn hits, they come to the coast
The boats that live all night in the whirl)
Haal se apna talluq bas baraye naam tha
Ya to ham maazi rahe ya harf-e-ainda rahe.
(Our relationship with present was for name sake
Either we were in the past or a letter of future)
Nuqtey lakhon Nuqte hain lekin tasweer kahan hai
Main kya hoon Akhir main kya hoon, main bhi nuqta hoon.
(Dots…millions of dots are there, but where is the picture
Who am I? Who I am…I am too a dot, lastly.)
Yeh keh dena keh kuchch unse gila shikwa nahi humko
Magar kuchch log yunhi besabab achche nahi lagte
(Say that we don’t have any complaint against him
But, few people don’t suit me anyways without any reason)
Sab apni maut ke saye mein ja base akhir
Musafiron ke liye rasta kharab na tha
(Finally, everyone got sheltered under the shadow of death
The way was not so bad for the traveler)
His book consisting poetry named “Akhri Paher ki dastak” published by Rekhta, released in June 2015 is so far his latest book. In this book he collected all his selected poems that he penned in last fifty years. He lived in Zakir Bagh, in front of Surya Hotel (Crown Plaza) New Delhi.