A Man Outside History
Poems by Naseer Ahmed Nasir
Review by Kamran Awan
A Man Outside History
Paperback: 173 pages
Publisher: Lifi Publications, New Delhi, ( 2014)
Poems English translationCopyright: Bina Biswas
A Man Outside History… as the title suggests, Naseer Ahmed Nasir’s poems are not confined to the boundaries of a specific era, geographical location or even the deep void that exists beyond our planet Earth as well as deep inside every sensitive person’s heart. Naseer Ahmed Nasir masterly crafts the notions of Metaphysics, time warp, metamorphism (of human beings), Sufism and much more through the annals of history, not only bygone but what is yet to come, which I believe he does so effortlessly as every single poem and every single line seems to be originating from a divine source almost… that is, a man’s heart that is pure and holds the secrets of eons and what is in between Earth and after Earth… from the epochs of distant Alien invasion in the distant future, to the times of Neanderthals in the forgotten past to the maddening era of industrial and technological development, with the fear, that the man might start progression in a reverse order from this point in time.
Saying what is brewing inside in a few lines is another art in which Naseer Ahmed Nasir is seen standing tall in the modern era of Urdu poetry. In a concise rhyme and rhythm, “A Life-consuming song to the Conqueror Enemy”, Naseer Ahmed Nasir depicts the gloom, the despair so candidly that it not only takes you back to medieval ages in an instance with rampant Golden and Ilkhanate Hordes all around, but anyone with unfulfilled desires in his heart and the dreams yet to be seen can relate his own predicaments with this elegy.
Here some flowers are mine,
Write them on the trees!
Here some dreams are mine,
Write them on the wall!
Here some songs are mine,
Write them on the swords!
Here some people are mine,
Write them too on the gallows!!!
In the beautiful ballad of a love lost, “Lighthouse”, Naseer Ahmed Nasir transforms the disillusioned lover into a lighthouse, standing on the shores since ages, awaiting his love. The agony of forced parting, the doomed high seas voyage of unwilling slaves, the helplessness, all have been beautifully entwined like a Greek odyssey,
Tell me, O the sacred name of redemption
I’ll perform the rituals of departing
Amidst the long rows of stony pillars
I will meet her; and
holding her in my arms
will commend all the odysseys
of land to her
just for kiss!
In another poem, “A Faraway Village”, Naseer Ahmed Nasir weaves the imagery of a far off village of his childhood and the nostalgic pain, one feels, who is still simple and pure at heart despite having lived in big cities for decades, for the distant days spent in that village. One almost feels like crying reading the following lines, because it beautifully narrates the story of every one of us and the longing to relive those bygone golden moments of our life,
The lisping words
that fell from my lips once
are still alive
on the aged, bowed staircase that’s
breathing its last
in the long abandoned house
like a rapier tucked into
the breast of silence
Having said that, it is needless to say that to translate poetry of this magnitude and sphere, the poet and the translator, both need to be on same wavelength of thought and imagination, otherwise, it is feared that the reader might get astray reading and may eventually lose interest, thus resulting in full stop on his own thought process, which is not the case with this anthology. Not to praise the translations par-excellence done by Bina Biswas would be a great injustice. She has maintained the originality in most of the translations that is hallmark of her scholarly works.
To sum up, it would not be out of order to state that Naseer Ahmed Nasir’s poetry is truly universal, or as I mentioned earlier, even cosmic in its premise. I can safely say, Naseer Ahmed Nasir has taken the Urdu poem to new heights and vistas never seen before in Pakistani Urdu poem. The vast panorama that his poetry covers include but not limited to the topics, from mundane life to philosophical deliberations, from love to desertion, from life to death, from war to peace, from atomic catastrophe to environmental disasters, from history to economy and what not, and the English translation of his poems has helped incite the interest of a much wider readership as is evident from the global acclaim pouring in on this compilation.
On a personal note, Naseer Ahmed Nasir’s work gives me a much needed catalyst and impetus to break the boundaries of time, space and history and by translating more of Naseer Ahmed Nasir’s poetry, I hope to be following the path of, the Man inside the history, actually.