M. Abul Fazl It was late in the evening, a friend, a pensioner like me, recited a few lines from Keats Grecian Urn, on the telephone: She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair. If they had reached each other, as in Verlaines Colloque Sentimental, what would have happened: Dans le viex parc solitaire et glace, Deux specters ont evoque le pass.--- Quil etait bleu, le ciel, et grand, lespoir, Lespoir a fui, vaincu, vers le ciel noir. (In the old park, deserted and cold, two spectres evoked the past. How blue was the sky, how great the hope, the hope has fled, defeated and cold, towards the black sky.) No. One need not seek melancholy. Nazeeri writes: Heech akseer ba taseer-e-mohabbat na rasad, Kufr avurdam-o-dar ishq-e-to iman kardam. Mir writes: Yaad-e-ayyam kay yan tark-e-shakebai thha, Har gali shahr ki ek kucha-e-ruswai thha. Ghalib sees both sides of the relationship: Vidaa-o-vasl judagana lazzatay daarad, Hazaar bar buro sad hazar bar biya. Though Faiz puts it with more delicatesse: Ho chuka khatm ahd-e-hijr-o-visal, Zindigi mein maza nahin baqi. The economist, Amartya Sen, says: Our entire understanding of the world, it can be argued, is thoroughly dependent on the perceptions we can have and the thoughts we can generate, given the kind of creatures we are. But, feeling the inadequacy of the remark, he adds: In our speculative thoughts we can, of course, consider going beyond the anchors that seem to fix us to the world in which we live and the bodily activities that govern our discernment and cogitation. (The Idea of Justice, Penguin Books, London, 2010, p 169-70). But when one goes beyond the anchors, his thoughts are still conditioned by the materiality of his existence. Our wildest thoughts, while seeming to have liberated themselves from the laws of cause and effect, are still rooted in our prosaic lives, in our need to communicate. But maybe it is this need of release, even for a moment, from the iron grip of reality that induces the man to write poetry - or to read it. Ghanimat Kunjahi (17th century) writes in his Ode to Panjab: Ba garma ham havayesh dil nasheen ast. I dont know where he got that, for the whole Indo-Gangetic plain blazes in summer. Or about young women: Butaanash choon ruey mehr joshand, Shakar goyand-o-gaohar mi faroshand. And this about a time when all middle- and upper-class women were locked up and the peasant girls were crushed by endless labour. So the greatest problem was to get to them. Therefore, if one may modify Marx a bit: If there were no difference between reality and its imaginative replica, there would be no need for poetry. For example, early Urdu poetry, in its attempt to catch up with the refinement of the Persian poetry of its classical period, gave birth to: Khilvat-e-bal-o-par-e-qumri mein va kar rah-e- shauq, Jada-e-gulshan ba rang-e-raisha zair-e-khak hai. (Nuqoosh, Ghalib Number, Lahore, July 1984, p 215) It was only when no one was ready to even listen to Ghalib, what to say of reading him, that he came down to a more civilised manner of expressing himself. He was saved by his genius. Otherwise, in his pursuit of the way shown by Nasikh, he would have inflicted a deep wound on our poetry and lost himself in the process. Daagh gave us the modern Urdu language and Iqbal its modern thought. But it was brought to the level of the ordinary literate person by the Progressive Writers Movement. For example: Chhay qadam puray tay hek aadha, jail di hek kothri, Ki banda baith uthh sakay tay nisl vi ho lave. (Amrita Preetam) It was truly the kindness of fate that Ghalibs notebook containing alienated poetry was lost in 1857 and not found in his lifetime. Lord, its all so serious. Lets end with Mir Taqi harking back to his first love, a girl he loved deeply, but never saw again after a few short meetings in his teens: Kasa-e-chashm lay kay joon nargis, Hum nay deedaar ki gada-i ki. The writer is a retired ambassador.