‘Saleeb’, translated ‘cross’, carries with it a painful scriptural history, and when that word is placed next to a term as soft as ‘sukhan’, which refers to the art of persuasive conversation, an oxymoron emerges that affects us too gives a glimpse of the personality of this very poet whose works have been compiled in this 2021 publication entitled Saleeb-e-Sukhan – Baba Pervez Chishti.
Saleeb-e-Sukhan, a book of poetry, is the attempt by the descendants of Baba Pervez Chishti to unite under one title the important poetic works of the journalist by profession but a poet at heart who even wrote a few film songs but had to say goodbye to the field , because it wasn’t lucrative enough. However, when he joined the newspaper as a crime reporter in hopes of earning a better income, his sensibilities as a poet and his experiences as an eyewitness to harsh incidents combined to create a literature that emerged as a rebellion carried out with violence, a genre associated with the most sensitive of all creative artist – poetry. However, Baba Pervez Chishti remained somewhat excluded from the election because his introverted disposition prevented him from actively participating in social gatherings. He either read his poems to his friends or scrawled them in the form of personal notes, which are now being investigated to find that Baba Pervez Chishti was just a rebel opposed to a society plagued by evils such as inequality, terrorism and monarchy .
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Baba Pervez Chishti was born in Amritsar in 1932 and later immigrated to Lahore after the division of the subcontinent. Baba Pervez Chishti lived until 1982 to witness some of the most disastrous events in the region’s history, including General Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law, on which most of his poetry is based. A newspaper for which he worked both as a journalist and a rebellious poet was banned as soon as Zia-ul-Haq made it into government, and the shock in the form of a sudden freeze on income caused Baba Pervez Chishti to write:
Jee ko jalaa raha hai yehi soch raat din
Din kis tarha guzaarein, ho jab raat, kia karein
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The fear of surviving the day and returning home at night without a cent in hand is conspicuous in the verses and thus also points to the unstable socio-political situation in the country. His utter disregard for dictatorship, even in the name of religion, is evident in his other verses as well. The following couplet clearly states that the poet is only referring to the Islamization of Zia-ul-Haq.
Labo’n pe naam-e-khuda aur kufr seeno’n mein
Hain sajda rez magar butt hain seeno’n mein
Baba Pervez Chishti expands on this idea of feigned Islamization to tell how even under the rule of a person who would boast of a theocratic society formulated in accordance with the principles of a peaceful religion like Islam, the most brutal events in Islam took the form of floggings, public hangings and murders.
Haadse sarko’n pe aur qatal hain koocha koocha
Marg-e-anboh se hai jashn-e-qazaa shehro’n mein
The poet’s disillusionment with the seemingly endless problems of the oppressed also sometimes led him to tend towards atheism and to wonder if there even is a God who sees what is happening on earth. Ruthless leadership and poverty were the stimuli behind these tendencies, the verses say
Behr-e-imdaad abhi tak nahi pahuncha shayad
Raasta bhool gaya mera khuda shehro’n mein
Har ik sitam tera tasleem hai raza ki tarha
Agar khuda hai karam bhi tou kar khuda ki tarha
These couplets by two different ghazals are not only an act of bravery by Baba Pervez Chishti in questioning the existence of God while witnessing inhumane acts on a large scale, but they are also a representation of the culmination of disappointment felt by the Heart of one who has had his fair share of life’s suffering and is now asking for good days. That he had reached this stage because of the vicissitudes of life is also reflected in a couplet of his in which he relates that he sold his house, shelter and comforts to survive in a country where inequality is widespread.
Kunj-e-aasaaish-o-raahat the magar bech dia
Mayyida aye khaanmaa’n barbaadi keh ghar bech dia
Stumbling upon these lines, one also understands why Baba Pervez Chishti was called “Shaayar-e-musaawaat” (The Poet of Equality). These lines express not only the pain of the person who writes them, but also of a poverty-stricken society in general and of every lower-middle-class person trying to make a living. After selling his last consolation, he again returns to the idea that God is nowhere and writes the following verse:
Aadatan haath uthaate hain wagarna hum ne
MudFILE’n guzree’n duaao’n ka asar bech dia
Baba Pervez Chishti also points out that in the period in which he lives, any person who openly rebels against the atrocities of the government will be sent to the gallows and in this way put himself on an equal footing with his peers, including Faiz and Josh Malih Abadi , both of whom went a little ahead in their rebellion and suffered penalties for doing so.
Waqt ka chooha yeh kehta hai har aik khargosh ko
Maar daalo faiz ko aur qatal kardo Josh ko
As the book comes to an end, Baba Pervez Chishti turns out to be a person who has completely lost faith in society and abandoned his dreams, which is why in the very last poem to “Saleeb-e-Sukhan”, Baba Pervez Chishti says:
Taabeero’n ko choro, saare khwaab bikaao hain
However, the discussion of the life of Baba Pervez Chishti does not end here. It is interesting to note that in the tributes given to him by each of his children in the book, all of them said that their father was a courageous person who never abandoned his children, from which Baba Pervez Chishti emerges as a man , who finds a perfect balance of keeping his family’s courage alive while enacting his own catharsis in the form of poetry, the proof is in his daughter’s foreword to the book, in which she tells that his children follow his notes to find some amazing poems that had not made it to the public, such was the personal pain it entailed.
Now out, the book introduces readers to the many facets of Baba Pervez Chishti’s life, who abandoned romantic film poetry in the face of life’s misery and channeled his talent for personal catharsis as well as a glimpse into Pakistan’s seemingly eternally unbalanced social system.
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