Agha Nasir, in his book on the Pakistani television (“This is PTV”, Published by PTV, 2011), relates that Nasir Kazmi often talked to him of his great desire to do a television programme, Raat kay Log. It was to be about bandits, call-girls, railway porters, watchmen, and beggars, i.e. those who did their normal work during the night. (It is not clear why he left out the journalists.)
According to Agha Nasir, Kazmi included himself among the “night people” and the message he left for the people of his beloved Lahore was:
“Woh raat ka be-nava musafir, who tera shair, woh tera Nasir,
Teri gali tak to ham nay dekha tha, phir na janay kidhar gaya woh.”
If we exclude porters and watchmen from Nasir Kazmi’s list, it would leave a pretty complete description of the “lumpen”, the persons who are not regarded as being essential to the reproduction of the economy. But surely, they would be essential to some degree as pure consumers. Well we can leave a critique of Marx for some other occasion. Let us stick for the present with what we began with.
The night does seem to have a hypnotic effect on not a few persons, specially the poets:
“She walks in Beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies.”
– Byron
“For of a moonlit steppe, and night
They cruelly, and vengefully remind me.”
– Pushkin
“Et le zenith s’emplit de lueurs sourdes.
 Blanche, Venus s’emerge, et c’est la nuit.”
– Verlaine
“Desolation deepens the night among the villages,
Through the snow I hear the lost wild geese calling.”
– Po Chu-I
“Che mubarak saharay bood-o-che farkhanda shabay,
Aan shabay qadr kay een taza baratam dadand.”
– Hafiz
And almost the whole of Urdu ghazal is bounded by shab-e-wisal on one side and shab-e-hijr on the other, the night spent with the beloved and the night without her.
“Ho chuka khatm ahd-e-hijr-o-wisal,
Zindigi mein maza nahin baqi.”
– Faiz
Nights in the northern climes are, very often, not clear. But, in our zone, except for the rainy season, stars hardly leave space for their dark background.
Of course, there are happy nights and there are depressing nights, depending on what kind of company one has or misses. But the most important thing about the night is that one normally has only himself for company. His experiences of the day just passed, or one long past, possess him. It is only when there is no one to share his sad or sweet memories that every remembrance is bloated.
“Teray firaq ki ratein kabhi ne bhoolain gi,
Mazay milay inhi raton mein umr bhar kay mujhay.”
– Nasir Kazmi
The writer is a retired ambassador.
Email: abul_f@hotmail.com