Mohsin Naqvi’s poetic collection by Dr. Saadat Saeed



Mohsan Naqvi is no more with us. This is an article written about his poetic collection “Tulu-e-Ashk”.


The demolition of Babri mosque, facilitated by the not so covert blessings of the Indian authorities, is a tragic chapter of the already blood-soaked record of democracy in sub-continent. Far from being the demolition of a historical mosque, it is also the death chime of the democracy, so rancorously trumpeted for its established traditions. Borrowing an often repeated phrase from Iqbal, “the monster of despotism, in the guise of a mermaid”, is out in the open to devour its opponents alive.


Mohsin Naqvi, a poet dedicated to the cause of democracy, was fully alive to the shenanigans of this elusive ideal. Over the past couple of decades, he had fought on the forefront of the battle of ideas abreast with those who braved the wrath of the forces of the dark.


He had suffered frustrations, tactical retreats and of course occasional triumphs. Like a true son of the soil and a committed soldier, he had done well by recording the ordeals of his people in his poetry, a veritable chronicle of his time. His anguish for the promised but delayed dawn made his readers salute his integrity Mohsin Naqvi was not deaf to the sobs muffled in the storms of tears.


All over the down-trodden North, the wretched of the earth are being trampled upon by local villains and alien king-makers. They are struggling for a voice, a breath and a room of their own. Thanks to the quintessence of Mohsin Naqvi’s religious convictions, he had imbibed the tradition of defiance in the face of overwhelming forces of evil. In a poetic preface to his collection of poems, he writes, "I have been destined to voice my emotions in a body politic, mired in social oppression, political suppression and class contradiction; a society hesitating at the cross roads and painfully waiting for the imminent doom. Tyranny feeds itself on the dying humanity while justice stands as a passive onlooker. Paths have turned into death avenues. Gun power grows in the squares and naked brutality dances in the bazaars. Here truth is crucified and falsehood is the order of the day."

Mohsin Naqvi was in search of democratic values.


Mohsin’s poetry is a mixture of love and hate. Love for the beloved ones and hatred for the enemies of beauty, love, compassion, sublimity and the dignity of man.


In poetry, great importance is attached to the task of recreating emotional and sensuous experiences. Poet "wanders lonely as a cloud", gathers celestial ideas and feelings, enters the sphere of imagination, searches appropriate words and recreates a new world in harmony with his perceptions, reflections, morals and commitments. All men can kill the things they love but poet kills himself in order to manage the survival of his loved ones. A reader is welcomed by a diction imbued with a delicate blend of protest and love upon entering the world of his recently poetic collection, Tulu-e-AshkPhoenix rises from his own ashes but here the poet has chosen the metaphor of tears to express the stuff, the dreams of a better morrow are to be made of. In Tulu-e-Ashk, one neither finds any lack of practical struggle nor a cumbersome presence of an aimless confusion of ideas, more often than not generated to hoodwink intellectual debilitation. Calling a spade a spade, he writes,


"In spite of overwhelming tyranny, confounding hatred and turmoil around me, I am neither disgusted nor disillusioned with the significance of human relation, strength of passions, universal appeal of everlasting peace, victory of truth and domination of love over cold calculations."


Obviously, a hermit or a blockhead could not make these claims; however, we must accept this harsh reality that literature or art cannot solve the problems of deserted fields, famine stricken towns and miserable human beings. Poets and artists cannot snatch the right to live for the dying people.  Then, how can we expect the poets will cross the rivers of fire and water. If poets could treat humanity of its complicated maladies, then it would have been meaningful to request the poets to set aside all activities except writing poetry. However, such an approach can only damage the art of poetry and the poor chaps may get themselves into troubled waters. So poetry should not be employed to stall the bulging waves of flooded rivers nor expect to water the drought-stricken fields. The poetic compositions can only substantiate the struggle waged by the really decisive forces. He can neither fight dictatorial and fascistic injustice nor hope to succeed in isolation.


Unfortunately our poets generally ignore this reality and strive in vain to prostitute their art for objectives altogether outside the jurisdiction of their craft. Mohsin Naqvi, along with quite a number of other Urdu poets, took a leaf out of faiz's book and mocked the poets who betrayed some partiality for sensuous and aesthetical values without thinking much of social concerns. He chose to address the socio-political issues and protested against despotism and dictatorship. Mohsin decried the things bothering his conscience. His poetic imagination and artistic treatment chose to do

away with the meaningless romantic sobs. However his poetry has ample demonstration of the fact that a poet cannot fare well without the love expressions based on reality. Mohsin writes:

M y damsel,

A girl with crazy looks;

Beware of costly dreams

You'll be tired

The shatter of glassy dreams

May make you rue such lot

You may not know

The cost of glossy dreams

One has to sell one's eyes

leaving behind such precious things

Dear ones.


In Tulu-e-ashk many poems and verses belong to popular romantic strands. Thanks to mohsin's expression, several hexagonal shades of meaning are running against hoaxed romanticism, several of his contemporary poets are guilty of indulging in. His entry in the realm of socio-political analysis has made amends for his earlier romantic attitude.


Dwelling on the ideas, which have been expressed in Mohsin's Ghazals and poems we can conclude that no critic can find enough space to fiddle with the ambiguities of his compositions. Every metaphor, every simile recorded in this collection is explicit.


His symbolism communicates itself to the readers. His imagery is sharp and reflects his experiences in their entirety.

Mohsin has courageously reaped the crops of tears, sown in the dark years of ruthless dictatorships. He writes in one of his poems:

Silence descends in my room again

Like the dusk of mourners’ evening

Like the storm in a weeping eye

Like the air in an oasis

Silence descends in my room.


Here Mohsin Naqvi seems categorically against those writers who hoodwink their convictions and try to throw spanners in the wheels of history. His study of history seems to have convinced him that human consciousness is an ever-growing reality. Man is only entitled to precipitate its logical evolution.


The writers who live in the past and search for mythical and mystical metaphors to articulate their experience are living in a fool's paradise.

Mohsin has surveyed the problems of modern man caused by the lack of democratic traditions and social justice. That exactly was the function he assigned for himself and he has vindicated himself honorably.