Life is perpetual in its essence and this selective, uncertain, inhibitive, and yet at times turbulent recurrence, elucidates its penchant for progress. Any qualitative anthropological study will show that a land of opportunity is always a land of uncertainty; consequently, a land of uncertainty is the breeding ground for change and progress with that quintessential element of surprise. Our beloved country, Pakistan has shown us time and again that it qualifies on all the above grounds to be that soil. Well, in a land where surprises are the norms of life, somehow they still manage to shock us by rather an uncharacteristically pleasant one, and it is on the intellectual and literary front too! You will know what I am talking about if you look at the names of the recipients of 2012 Civil Awards. It includes some very eminent people, but, at the same time, very unlikely candidates. Because they have been stereotyped, cast aside and victimised. These names should have been recognised a long time ago, but I guess it is never too late to start afresh and write a new chapter. We all know about cause and effect; nothing happens without a reason. So when you see such a significant shift, you start looking for a reason, especially when you see the outcast like Josh and Minto being honoured. You wonder, if there is a real shift in paradigm; is there a different mindset behind the scene; are we beginning to think rationally; or is it a mere coincident? You search for answers when you know that we have had much better governments in Pakistan - much more progressive and intellectually astute - but they never thought of making such unique choices, why? Maybe because we did not and still do not have a systematic, scientific, and analytical approach towards these things; and when you don’t, everyone and anyone gets in, of course, at the expense of the most deserving ones. The so-called advisors, the bureaucrats, do their part; the influence brokers closest to the corridors of power play a big role in the selection process as well. One would be naïve to think that somehow that has changed, but then what has. So notwithstanding my excitement, my cynicism got the best of me, and started looking for whys and wherefores. What I found out was truly refreshing because contrary to what we always do and everybody lobbies for himself; may it be an overseas Pakistani writer or an inland scribe they all promote themselves. Surprisingly, we came across some people, who are independent and fair-minded yet command a degree of grudging respect from the “power to be”, selflessly worked towards adding those names; above all, having Josh and Gopi Chand Narang included in that list was not an easy chore; one due to ideological and intellectual propensities and the other due to political and geographical divide. We must thank them for the glimpse of hope. For sure, once again someone has proved that “where there is a will there is a way.”  This domestically little known and internationally acclaimed group is called the Think Tank International. Its Chairman Dr Ammar Turabi deserves a lot of credit and commendation for having achieved such a significant change. Let’s hope that it is just a beginning and there is a lot more to come.I suppose getting Shair-e-Inquilab Josh Malihabadi’s name included in that list might have been the most daunting challenge, but I guess only Dr Turabi and his group can attest to it.  Josh has certainly been one of the most neglected, utterly hated and yet most difficult to ignore personality of our intellectual and literary heritage. I find it very appropriate to quote Faiz Sahib as he chided General Zia for not attending Josh’s funeral. He said: “We will never bury a more important soul in these soils again.”No matter how we look at it, Josh with his overwhelming passion and unadulterated conviction for oneness of mankind is not only unique in Urdu literature, but almost unmatchable in most other literatures because he sees no boundaries and has no limits. His intellectual prowess is unparalleled and his vision is uniquely remarkable. No wonder, he is the poet, who gave us the concept of “Bashinda-e-Afaq” in the late fifties and gave us Ektaara in the early sixtiesWe are all aware of the challenges that we face in this post-9/11 world; the disintegration of ethical values, involution of moral fabric, ebbing of collective wisdom, a tidal wave of religiosity, and the disillusionment of conscientious being, are definitely creating a very paranoid mindset. No doubt the future looks bleak, but then again humanity has survived the worse. We have walked out of the quagmire of history, time and time again. So let’s not indulge in despair; the question in front of us is “how to get out of this mess” and “how to sheath this double-edged sword of paranoia.” I guess we have to work from within and instead of being overly concerned with the mitigating external forces, we must focus on how to cultivate our inner self and work to strengthen the smallest unit within. We must cleanse ourselves, our families, our household and work outward from there. We must believe, practice, and inspire others to accept that whatever is good for the betterment of masses is good enough for the gods. We must not submit to the mindset of trying to appease some ecclesiastical being. We must see the good in others and then sincerely step forth with the goodness in ourselves. By doing so, if we not completely erase, we will definitely reduce this state of paranoia. We got to find the healing touch that will congeal us unto a unifying force to counter the forces of division and fragmentation. We must turn to a humanistic sage who can take us to the next level and beyond. Josh was definitely of these humanistic sages.Poetry is an ancient art that parallels the antiquity of gods. There have been zillions of poets and there be many more. But it is also a fact that we can name only a few in every era and fewer yet in every century that would stand out and become immortal. It seems what distinguishes a great poet from a good poet is the treatment of their craft and having an exclusive and intricate diction. But then again, what makes a great poet an immortal one, is that independent and indelible vision and the conviction of expression thereof.Josh is dear to us for what he represents; what he stands for - the objective and undiluted rationality; and the deep-rooted, subtly crafted, meaningful shades of words of articulate; and engage the sense data of human consciousness.Josh’s poetry will add unique dimensions to any literature let alone Urdu. He had this very rare combination of a diversified and panoramic vision and profoundly intricate diction. An observation so keen and sharp that it will not spare a thing and a diction so potent and comprehensive that will become the most sensitive and aesthetic articulation of emotions, feelings and events alike.He started as a fiery, revolutionary poet and remained revolutionary in the true sense of its meaning to the last day. He gave a fresh and most objective perspective to all the domains and topics that he touched, and did not leave many untouched either.  Josh may not be the slickest or most popular poet in recent times, and for obvious reasons, but definitely vision is the most important and relevant one to save us from this senseless fragmentation and self-destruction.

The writer is the president of the Josh Literary Society of Canada (Calgary)Email: