COLUMN: A poet who sought to teach
By Intizar Husain
THE sad demise of Shahzad Ahmad, our distinguished poet and scholar, has deeply saddened the Urdu literary circles, particularly in Lahore, where he had settled after migrating from Amritsar after the Partition. Ahmad came to Lahore as an adolescence, and soon emerged as a poet with promise. He should be seen as probably the youngest member of the literary generation born in the twilight of Partition.
Those were the years when Urdu ghazal was showing signs of a revival after being maligned by the poets of the 1930s and 1940s. This revival had come in the wake of that age’s painful experience of destruction and forced migration. Ahmad, too, climbed on the bandwagon of this expression and earned a place in the rank of new ghazal writers.
As time passed, a group of new ghazal writers, while in search of a radical new expression, developed a style which was branded anti-ghazal. In this race, too, Ahmad did not lag behind. He readily owned this trend and started writing anti-ghazal.
While studying for his Master’s in psychology, Ahmad developed a craze for modern psychology, particularly for Freud, which brought a great change in his outlook. He developed a scholarly attitude and embarked on a long journey to seek modern knowledge. He was no more content with being a poet and wanted to write prose as well.
In his prose writings, Ahmad started with Freud and went on to Jung. He wanted to introduce the stalwarts of modern psychology to Urdu readers. And he did this with enthusiasm and efficiency. He also developed a taste for philosophy and from there moved on to modern scientific knowledge. Now possessed with a developed scholarly attitude, Ahmad was an ambitious soul bent on enriching Urdu with all the wealth of modern knowledge. He laboriously translated a number of scholarly works from English into Urdu.
In addition, he planned to write a series of books with the aim of introducing different modern subjects in Urdu.
At the moment I have before me two such books, both published in the current year by Sang-e-Meel Publications under the titles Tehlil-i-Nafsi and Islami Falsafay Ki Tareekh. The first is a study of three psychologists — Havelock Ellis, Erich Fromm, and Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud. Running to 440 pages, the book is divided into three parts, the first of which is a detailed study of psychoanalysis as practiced by Ellis, Fromm and Freud respectively.
Islami Falsfay Ki Tarikh, by Majid Fakhri, has also been translated from English by Ahmad. Translating philosophic thought in Urdu is a tedious job and so often such translated works lacks intelligibility. But Ahmad translates with ease and facility, making it easy for the reader to comprehend the ideas presented.
Ahmad was very clear in his mind about the worth of this job. In his introduction to Tahlil-i-Nafsi he explains its significance. Learning English, he says, is a must for us. “It opens a number of doors of awareness. But at the same time, it is incumbent for us to keep alive our national language, Urdu. Therein is our identity. And for the sake of promotion of Urdu we stand duty-bound to promote all the other languages of Pakistan. They are not merely regional languages. They are more than that. In fact, they are part of our psyche and a strength for us.”
It was with this awareness that Ahmad devoted his life to this noble cause, earnestly studying and translating and writing books which paved the way for modern thinking and contributed to the richness of language