Islamabad - It was the slogan of English poet Roger McGough — “Live fast, die young” — but he failed on both counts as he turned 80 this year, bringing out a collection of 80 poems called “Eighty”. McGough might have chanted this slogan for Burushaski poet , literary figure and activist Basharat Shafi, who lived fast and died young, but leaving behind a treasure trove of poetry in a language considered to be the only isolated vernacular in the family of world languages, inspiring an age group, who is equally committed to taking forward his legacy in the same fashion as did the late poet .

This week, Yasin Mahraka and Yasin Arts Council — which is working on the promotion and preservation of the Burushaski language— arranged a condolence reference in memory of the late Shafi, who passed away in August this year in a car accident in Hyderabad Sindh while going back to Karachi. The late Shafi, who was in his early 30s, gave the language a new recognition by playing with the words, conveying the message of love, empathy, unity and cultural affinity.

After the death of the late Shafi, it was implicitly assumed that the void his death has created may hardly be filled and his enviable legacy may face a hiatus. However, a new talent of Burushaski poets showcased an exuberant aptitude by presenting their poetry at the event.

The newcomers were equally careful in reading out their poetic diction at the Mushaira — a new paradigm in a language bracketed endangered by the UNESCO in world’s dying out languages — by bringing into use such words which had become almost extinct, or at least the young Burushaski lot was not familiar of.

Guest speakers were all praise for the younger poets and proudly announced that the new group of young talent will not only preserve the langue but also transfer it to their children.

“It is an ironic delicacy of a flower that it stops spreading its fragrance the moment it sheds petals, but Basharat Shafi started amplifying his sweet fragrance the moment he left this mortal world,” said Jan Madad, an educationist and a literary figure, while recalling one of the couplet of the late poet— “Datu diya wahjam noshol cheremi, (Shafi) milkhon yate guren osey” — “Lay your hand gently on the flower, Shafi, lets it wither in the wake of heartbreaking winter”. “Whosoever you talk to about Basharat Shafi, the person will talk about him with eyes filled in tears,” he said.

“It was a delightful surprise for me when world linguists gave me a standing ovation at a function in America when I was introduced to them to be the sole representative of a language with a unique and distinct family chain,” said Wazir Shafi, a linguist and a literary figure, who has also penned down a book — Burushaski Raxun— and a dictionary. “This unequivocal commitment of the young writers indicates that they will never let it become extinct,” he said adding that Burushaski-speakers should also be proud to have a language with a separate family chain in world languages.

“Though Basharat Shafi is no more with us after the tragic accident, the tribute showered on him today by the brilliant young poets lends credence to the fact that they will never let his legacy die down,” said Dr Gulsambar, a cultured critique of the language and a legion of a family, which has carried out extensive work on the language.

The Burushaski poets who narrated their verses included Asif Ali Ashraf, Abid Ali Shah, Riaz Saqi, Ali Ahmad Jan, Gul Nayab Kaiser, Ashfaq Ali, Niat Shah Qalandar, Imran Nasrand, Mehboob Jan and Pinin Ronaq. The homage they paid to the late poet was awe-inspiring.

 “Whether you remember the moment, when the whole human race came to a standstill in the midst of (our) overwhelming eye-contact,” said Burushaski poet Gul Nayab Kaiser in one of his verses: “Milchimo mihana chaq ochum yate, drusth dunya zrap basichom goski dowa”.

“I too am Mansoor, I tell the truth, the truth. I am on the right path, again I speak the truth.

The soil where my blood (was) spilled will testify, I speak the truth: “Ja ka mansoor juwa ba, chhan siyam ba, chhan kuxe gun yate ba chhan siyamba, Ja multan chut manom jaghachom tike seemi ja chan siyamba chan siyamba”” said Ali Ahmed Jan, another budding poet , while refereeing to the most divisive figure in the history of Islamic mysticism, Mansur al-Hallaj.

“People will discuss our love stories in the days to come, the love story of Shireen and Farhad is not getting any younger,” said Ashfaq in his couplet:  “Jimala mi minahang desachemen, Shirin-Farhad-e-minas yarum mani”.

“While perching on the tree, I (dove) had seen the hunter aiming his gun at me; yet I didn’t flutter since I didn’t want his children to be starving,” said Asif in his “Yesha daruskin-e-thowek yechamam, ja chham ne yoo ayota, ayi duwala”.

–The writer is member of staff