Purani Numaish

Report by Zeb
July 27 2001
Pakistan Link

Cupertino: Purani Numaish, the latest book of Urdu poetry by Pakistani poet Harris Khalique was launched Saturday at an event organized at the Cupertino Community Library by Koshish Foundation, a local non-profit organization working to improve and expand the quality of engineering education and practice in South Asia.

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The evening was presided over by renowned Bay Area poet Farooque Taraz. Speakers included Rubina Geena, Kamran Khimani, and Sabahat Ashraf. Mr. Taraz presented his critique of Harris Khalique’s new book and his work in the light of the traditions of Urdu, Punjabi, and English literature as well as the modern influences that are apparent in his body of work. His mission seemed to be to help the audience better understand where Harris stood with respect to the landscape of sub-continental literature.

Ms. Geena spoke very eloquently and passionately on the role that the younger generation of poets and writers plays in society. The energy they bring to their writings, she said, and the hope that they have for the future, is a necessary counterpoint to the wisdom and understanding of our issues and problems that an older generation of poets brings to the table. Kamran Khimani, a poet currently residing in the United Arab Emirates in a speech read on the occasion by Syed Sohail Abbas, gave the audience some perspective on the literary career of Mr. Khalique and described his own experiences as a young poet going through his formative phases with Harris.

Sabahat Ashraf presented a description of the influence Harris Khalique has had on writers and people like him who have grown up abroad. His understanding of the literature and culture of South Asian parents and forefathers had grown enormously through access to the work of Harris Khalique and other writers like him.

Speeches on the poet and his new book were followed by the poet presenting some of his new work. The audience, some of whom seemed very familiar with Mr. Khalique’s early work, made some requests that the poet graciously fulfilled by reading work from previous books.

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In a second session, local fiction writer Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, who also very ably Emceed the event, presented what were billed as “Light Readings”.

His humorous essays in Urdu were very well received by the audience as they touched on topics that connected very well with the South Asian experience, poking fun at establishment figures.

The evening was attended by between fifty and sixty people and ended with light classical music presented by Karan Khanna and Ms. Nina. The audience seemed to be totally lost in the mellow moods and timeless rhythms of songs usually associated with Mukesh, Rafi, Lata, and Alamgir.

Purani Numaish is Harris Khalique’s newest book. Published by Scheherzade, a non-profit organization devoted to publishing and promotion of book-culture, this new collection of Urdu poetry brings together Mr. Khalique’s latest poetry in Urdu in a book beautifully laid out on art paper.

The intriguing name that reminds most Karachites of a locality in the old part of their home city, a bus stop on their way downtown, could also be a metaphor for the world of sights and sounds, an old exhibition ground; no less a symbol of the chaotic and decaying world, an exhibition encased in another exhibition.

Finely chiseled lines and a feel for sensuous, evocative language characterize the style of Harris Khalique. High-spirited mood-pieces are brought alive by vivid recapturing of the particular feel of Nepal, London, Peshawar and Lahore. A sequence of poems focuses on “Karachi types”, each poem a character piece. These poems were first published in Duniyazad and attracted wide attention from readers and critics alike. A pleasant surprise is posed by the three poems written originally in the Punjabi language. The collection closes with Himala, written to mark the new century and evoking Iqbal’s poem of the same name, written at the dawn of the last century. It is a plea and a prayer for peace and prosperity in this region.

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Harris Khalique is one of the most accomplished poets belonging to the younger generation of Pakistani writers. Writing in both English and Urdu, his published collections include Aaj Jab Hui Baarish (1991, in Urdu), If Wishes Were Horses (1996, in English), Saarey Kaam Zaroori Thay (1997, in Urdu), and Divan (1998, in English). His work was anthologized by the Oxford University Press in Dragonfly in the Sun - Fifty Years of Pakistani Writing in English, published to commemorate fifty years of Pakistan’s independence in 1997, as well as leading literary journals in India and Pakistan. Unfinished Histories - a book of light anecdotal essays on issues of identity, separation and belonging in the wake of the two partitions of 1947 and 1971 , in co-authorship with an Indian writer , is under print. A mechanical engineer by training, Harris is also past President of Amnesty International’s Karachi Chapter and works full-time in the field of Human Rights and Social Welfare.

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