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the Message Continues ... 7/93

 

Newsletter for May 2009

Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3 - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12

 

Dile bina bhi kar khuda se talab  /  Aankh ka noor, dil ka noor nahin  /  (Bale Jibril) 
" Pray to God that He gives you a heart that can see (Dil-e bina). The light in your eyes is not the light of your heart ". 

He sees through his heart !
By Nasir Shamsi

(This paper, which is also the preface to Sajjad Shamsi's book, " Gathering  Shadows " was read on the eve of a Grand Ceremony to introduce the author,  organized at the house of late Dr. Syed Haider Hussain Shamsi and Adiba Shamsi at  Demarest, New Jersey in 1995 ). 

A few years ago I had the opportunity to see the author of this anthology,  Sajjad Shamsi, reciting poetry in front of a small audience at his brother Dr.  Haider Shamsi's house in Englewood, New Jersey. Tall and handsome, and dressed  in a faultless and debonair style, the poet captivated the audience with a  smooth and sincere recitation of his poems. The impact of his poetry as well as 
its presentation is such that nobody can fail to feel his presence in the room.  The poet has quite instinctively, it seems, put to use his God-gifted talent  to overcome his handicap that became a part of his life after an accident. The  gift of poetry has helped him to keep busy as well as give a message to, and  communicate with the people he can no longer see.

In the Introduction to his Urdu poetry book "IK JUNGLE INSANON KA, Sajjad has  said, "The sky is still blue and the grass as green as ever. The garden also  is full of flowers of myriad colors, but alas, I am a captive in the prison of  darkness and loneliness and there is no other way to look beyond...".  Paradoxically, although he cannot see as a blind man, his disposition did not keep 
him from feeling a light or from seeing the things and visiting the people and  places which are indelibly preserved in his memory .Even though his eyes are  closed on the world, an inner light, the light in his heart helps him see. It is  this rare quality to which the Saint Poet of the East, Iqbal has so  beautifully referred: 
The Poet says: 

Dile bina bhi kar khuda se talab 
Aankh kA noor, dil kA noor nahin 
(Bale Jibril) 
" Pray to God that He gives you a heart that can see (Dil-e bina). The light 
in your eyes is not the light of your heart ". 
Iqbal' s invocation seems to be inspired by the following verse of Qur'an: 

"Have they not traveled in the land so that they should have hearts with  which to understand, or ears with which to hear? For surely it is not the eyes  that are blind, but blind are the hearts in (their) breasts".  (al-Qur'an 22:46) 

It was the light in the heart that illuminated the life of the exemplary  Helen Keller and gave her the ability to travel around the world six times.  Stricken by an illness when she was only 19 months old, she had permanently lost the  ability to see, hear or speak. Yet when she grew up, an inner light, the  light of heart enabled her to walk through what she called the "Valley of Despond" 
with courage. Through her books, travels and lectures around the world, she  tried in her words 
"to be worthy of (bringing) of light to the souls of men who are lost in the  horror of great darkness" and a light to a "world which is spiritually deaf  and blind".  (Light in My Darkness: Helen Keller) 

A poet asked Khalil Gibron, "Speak to us of Beauty". And he answered: "it is  not the image you see nor the song you hear,, but rather an image you see  though you close your eyes, and a song you hear though you shut your ears". 

Sajjad Shamsi reminds me of John Milton who lost his eye sight at age 43. The  great epic, "Paradise Lost" was written when he could not see. In the third  book (Paradise lost consists of 12 books), Milton, calls upon God to grant him  an inward light so that, illuminated, he may tell of things mortal men cannot  see. Once granted, this light enables a person to look within, through 
meditation, reflection and introspection. The inner self, rather than the outer world  becomes now a center of his attention. He is able to see and hear what others  cannot. James Laughlin wrote, "Yes, even sunlight has its sound though only  lovers are likely to hear 

The author of "Gathering Shadows" lives through his experience of darkness  and light every day. He lives in his past and its memories. In his poetry,, he  puts together a rosary of beautiful images -some times happy, more often sad-  which are revealed to his rich and roaming imagination. "But little buds of  sweet memories still delight my unhappy heart" , he says in "The End of The Road" 
.His poems are filled with pathos and melancholy, which is largely because of  his having to deal with his personal situation and very naturally he  complains and bemoans why it had to happen. 

Lord I was not a common beggar
I sought Thy Grace, but received Thy Wrath 
(Confusion) 

And he cries in his free verse: 
My lips are parched and dry Will they ever smile again 
Shadows eclipse the fair face of the moon 
Will the moonbeams never dance in the courtyard? 
(Time Flies) 

There is a longing, a wistful, perpetual longing to be able to capture a fleeting glance of the faces and the places he loved and adored. The intensity of his feeling, feeling to behold anything, even a" grain of sand" is so great that it results in radiant bursts of remarkable poetry which can touch the 
mystical chords of a sensitive and perceptive soul: 
Moses beheld the glory of the Lord on Mount Sinai 
But to me every grain of sand is a mountain of revelation 
(The Wax Doll) 

Memories of the past haunt him, he perpetually lives in his past. These memories are both beautiful and sad. The pain and the anguish of his soul find frequent expressions in his verses. Poem after poem flows from his pen, expressing his spiritual and emotional heartbreak. However, this has made a new spirit of creativity enter his soul and the result is a stream of beautiful poetry .Sajjad paints a picture of the mind at work rather than its objects. The more you look and reflect at the picture, the more you will appreciate it. The quality of good poem is that it acquires deeper meanings upon familiarity .Sajjad's poetry is inspired by his inner most thoughts and emotions which are expressed in a powerful style. 

For example, read his poems, "Mi Mi" , "Diary" , "The Old Apple Tree", and "Your Caress" more than once and reflect; you will not escape the mystical impact. Talking of the mystical experience, I have to lean again on the wisdom of Helen Keller, whom I greatly admire. Having spent her life in darkness and silence, she wrote this beautiful message, which I found inscribed beneath her beautiful picture with a rose in her hand. She had never seen a rose but she could feel it. Miss Keller said: 

" If you could enjoy the sun and flowers and music where there is nothing 
except darkness and silence you have proved the mystic sense ". 

The poem, " Your Caress" is a masterpiece of poetic art which can live for ever. Sajjad must have written this remarkable poem in a moment of supreme tenderness. Shall I say that he created the allegory of the "Rose Bud" to tell his own story? May be! Now consider for a moment, the imagery, the picturesque description, the richness of the poet's imagination. It goes like this: 

I was a petite rose bud 
Green, and pink and cream 
Wandering breezes cradled me in their arms . 
The moon spread its silvery lace over my brow 
And lulled me to sleep. 

Isn't that beautiful? The "warm kiss of the golden sun" wakes him up from slumber and he opens his eyes. "The world was beautiful" and he smiled at the green lawn and the " carpet of soft colors, pink and red and white suspended in mid air " . 

And then: 

Bees and wasps and brilliant butterflies lookedat me in amazement, 
Resting for a moment on my upturned lips
Sucking sweet nectar of my life and flying away. 

Then: 

I danced in ecstasy, and so did the entire garden
To the symphony of heavenly music. 

Do you visualize that magnificent and happy scene ? Surely you do. And watch 
this: 
Then a shadow fell across my face It was you, looking fondly at me. 
Your nimble fingers caressed my velvety cheak, Your soft lips kissed my forehead. 
But as always, "the happiness was short-lived ", the scene then changes !

--then Next morning 

I pined for your touch, 
I yearned for your look, I was lonely 
I lay on the dust. 

What a sweet poetry ! how forceful! Knitting a chain of images, one after the other, like Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot". 
The true art is judged by its ability to cause " suspension of disbelief ". 
Sajjad created a life-size hero in Rose-bud, with all human feelings of pleasure and pain. We laugh and cry with him. Did the poet transport you in a moment to that fairyland of forlorn, that exquisite garden where happiness ruled supreme, and its inmates "danced to the symphony of heavenly music"? He certainly did! And when the scene changed and "the heart broke into petals which fell 
one by one", and "the lonely night quietly shed its tears" and our fallen hero "lay in the dust", didn't we feel pathos and sorrow for the Rose Bud? If you did, then " Caress " has all the characteristics of a successful drama, and an artful play! This is, without a doubt, a great piece of art! Sajjad Shamsi very skillfully, though spontaneously, employs the use of simile, metaphor and alliteration in his poem and this creates a remarkable imagery of the kind we have just observed. Dominated by love, ecstasy and loss, the poet ascends to the heights of introspection to come to terms with his personal tragedy. While reading his poems, I am reminded of Shelley's despondency and Keats' fervent romanticism: 

I am a shadow now, alas, alas! 
Upon the skirts of human-nature dwelling Alone: I chant alone the holy mass, 
While little sounds of life are around me knelling (Keats: Isabella) 

Sajjad' s poetry is simple, spontaneous and natural. There is honesty in it. 
He does not pretend, nor does he hide his feelings. 
The poet fiercely hits at hypocrisy, greed and avarice. He passionately feels for the poor and the less gifted. In his poetry , his personal experience is enlarged to 

The true art is judged by its ability to cause a "suspension of disbelief". 
Sajjad created a life-size hero in Rose-bud, with all human feelings of pleasure and pain. We laugh and cry with him. Did the poet transport you in a moment to that fairyland of forlorn, that exquisite garden where happiness ruled supreme, and its inmates "danced to the symphony of heavenly music"? He certainly did! And when the scene changed and "the heart broke into petals which fell 
one by one", and "the lonely night quietly shed its tears" and our fallen hero "lay in the dust", didn't we feel pathos and sorrow for the Rose Bud? If you did, then "Caress" has all the characteristics of a successful drama, and an artful play! This is, without a doubt, a great piece of art! Sajjad Shamsi very skillfully, though spontaneously, employs the use of simile, metaphor and alliteration in his poem and this creates a remarkable imagery of the kind we have just observed. Dominated by love, ecstasy and loss, the poet ascends to the heights of introspection to come to terms with his personal tragedy. While reading his poems, I am reminded of Shelley's despondency and Keats' fervent romanticism: 

I am a shadow now, alas, alas! 
Upon the skirts of human-nature dwelling
Alone: I chant alone the holy mass, 
While little sounds of life are around me knelling (Keats: Isabella) 

Sajjad's poetry is simple, spontaneous and natural. There is honesty in it. 
He does not pretend, nor does he hide his feelings. The poet fiercely hits at hypocrisy, greed and avarice. He passionately feels for the poor and the less gifted. In his poetry , his personal experience is enlarged to speak for the collective consciousness of the downtrodden, the unheeded, the underdog. 

There is a humanitarian touch throughout his verse:

Do not scorn the entreaty of a needy heart 
Treat the downtrodden with mercy and compassion 
(Muffled Cries) 

He yearns for a new world, where, "There would be no hunger, no suffering, no unhappiness" and where "there would be song and fragrance and music in the air ". There will be "colorful blossoms" in the desert "and tyranny would be unheard of ". (Wishful Thinking). 

Sajjad Shamsi has a universal appeal. He laments destruction of Lebanon, " where the angels once descended ( kiss thy blessed brow" and asks what happened to " compassion, the humanity , the affection among me (Lebanon). 

Moved by the plight of a famine-stricken nation, questions the Nature, "How will the babes in arms survive/ when even blood has dried in the mother's breast (Ethiopia) . 

Sajjad Shamsi' s poetry , like other poets and think and philosophers, reflects development; it develops with changes in his life, mostly the changes in his outlook respect of his particular situation. Finally resigned to destiny, he lets his spiritual and emotional pain assimilate the suffering of the 
humanity at large. With a renewed faith in God, he gratefully surrenders to His pleasure. In a relatively recent poem, "Why Mourn II , he emerges like a "Born Again" Sajjad and declares in all humility: 

I have had a fair share of good things
Why should I not count my blessings?
I must renew my faith in the Lord 
And tread in the light of His guidance. 
Let me walk with Him confidentally 
Let Him worry about my todays and tomorrows 
(Why Mourn) 

"Faith and love are gifts from the Lord", he says. And they are "Worth living for and worth dying for" .(Faith and Love). Inspired by the saying of his great ancestor Ali ibne Abi Talib's, the cousin of Prophet Muhanmad (s), he wrote another spiritual poem, which lays down the cardinal rules for a righteous life: 

Stop and think by word or deed 
Did you hurt your neighbour 
Or did you by kindly act 
Bring joy and happiness to a sorrowing soul? 
(Stop and Think) 

I am grateful I was given the privilege to introduce this great work of art and will like to conclude with a prayer from the book: 

Lord! Fill my begging bowl with Thy bounties
For I am a humble supplicant at Thy threshold. 

 

 

 

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