WHEN Zia Mohyeddin weaves his magic one can’t help being mesmerised. One can even die of the sudden exhilaration… the sudden burst of energy as he gives new meanings to words one has read before. He is one of a kind and it was fitting that he was honoured at the conference.
As the conference was moving behind schedule, the organisers merged two sessions into one and the audience had the best of both worlds, getting an introduction by Asif Farrukhi to Zia’s two recent books, and words of praise from the likes of Rahat Kazmi, Arshad Mehmood, Intizar Husain and Shamim Hanafi. Even the rather loud and brash Ahmed Shah, for a moment, didn’t sound off-beat and synched well with the proceedings.
A translated portion from Zia’s book, Theatrics, was narrated by a young man who was criminally not introduced to the audience. He looked like a National Academy of Performing Arts student and reading just as Zia does. He was fantastic and if Zia is coaching him, he can only get better.
But the moment Zia himself took over the microphone, the difference was obvious. Not for the first time in his life, he earned a standing ovation from the crowd.
But if this session was delayed, the one to honour Habib Jalib the next day was even more chaotic and two sessions had to be postponed till the next day for it to take place. But when people interested in postponed sessions started leaving the hall, the chief organiser, with a microphone in his hand, tried to bring order to the proceedings, telling Kishwar Naheed to “take her seat immediately”, asking his fellow organisers to “go and grab Mujahid Barelvi”, and everybody else in general to behave themselves. It was quite a spectacle; the chaos reminiscent of Jalib’s life.
Nobody quite knew what to do next but even then Mujahid did a good job of it. A representative of the Yorkshire Adabi Forum spoke about the organisation and the work they do to support literary figures. Mujahid and Kishwar Naheed both read from their published pieces on Jalib, while Tahira Habib, Jalib’s daughter, recited the famous poem “Mein Nahin Manta”. The recitation was the high point of the session and brought tears to the eyes of all those who had heard Jalib recite it live.
Before it was all over though, the chief organiser again jumped onto the stage, marshalling people around to recognise the contributions of historian Dr Mubarak Ali. It was chaos all over again and though Dr Jaffer Ahmed and Tasneem Siddiqui — both respected names in their fields — did their best, many in the audience decided they had had enough of it and left.
- Humair Ishtiaq