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Urdu Book Launched: "Seasons in my Old Home"
Report By Ras H. Siddiqui

15th March 2003 -  A unique book launching took place in the Northern California town of Newark with a gathering of some leading California Urdu poets under the banner of the group Bazm-e-Arbab-e-Sukhan, San Francisco Bay Area at the Mehran Restaurant on Friday, February 28, 2003. The poet launching his work here was a young Pakistani-American, Irfan Murtaza, whose brand new book “Puraanay Ghar Kay Mausam”  (Seasons of my Old Home) received some well deserved attention. A respectable number of people gathered at this venue for dinner and a Mushaira (poetry recital) to appreciate Irfan’s artistic expression, and some like this reporter certainly left enriched.

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan but is spoken and read by many in India and beyond. It shares some of its roots with Hindi, but derives much added enrichment from Persian and Arabic.  One would not be too much off the mark here to state that poetry is to Urdu, what aroma and color are to saffron. And sometimes, after attending a recital by the masters of this language, there certainly remains a lingering intellectual fragrance that is hard to ignore.

  Annie Akhtar, one of the main forces behind the Bazm group in the San Francisco Bay Area opened the formalities on this night by welcoming the guests. She also happily informed us that the Barnes & Noble bookstore in the Los Angeles area had added this book to its shelves and even helped promote it, a first for a local work in Urdu. Annie also introduced the customary panel of poets that a Mushaira cannot do without. Syed Jahangir Hamdani was invited to preside and Abdur Rehman Siddiqi, Khalid Khwaja, Tashi Zaheer, Irfan Murtaza himself were invited to be seated up front along with Syed M. Ali.

Local poet Mahnaz Naqvi was the first to present her views on this book. She was followed by Tashi Zaheer, Khalid Khwaja, A. Rehman Siddiqi and Mr. Hamdani. All spoke highly of the work and its author and quoted from it at length. Irfan Murtaza himself came to the podium to present some of his verses to close the first segment of this recital. A book sale and signing took place right after and unfortunately I had to leave before some others there could present their views (Poets Jawaid Syed and Farooq Taraz?).

  Author Irfan Murtaza may not look like a poet. But, he is quite a formidable one from what we heard from him at this recital. He possesses a profound wisdom and expresses it in a boldly naïve way that many of us can appreciate with little difficulty. His poetry is not just for the sophisticates in our community. It has a very down to earth feel to it with a heightened sensitivity level. “Puraanay Ghar Kay Mausam” is about his past, his old home and country. It is a poetic effort of an immigrant that has flown away to settle in another land but still misses the sights, the scents, the family and friends that he left behind. It is a truly an immigrant’s story. His thoughts are best expressed in his work “Ab Bhi Aaisa Hota Hoga” (It must still happen like that) where the author paints an emotional picture of his old surroundings and asks if the same still happens there in his absence.

Many words of thanks are in order to the Bazm-e-Arbab-e-Sukhan group for keeping the flame of Urdu literature alive in Northern California after what seems like a long absence. So thanks to Nagesh, Annie, Mrs. Siddiqi and a handful of others along with The Urdu Academy for bringing such cultural enrichment to us. And on a closing note,

it seems that today we can appreciate  Irfan Murtaza’s book “Puraanay Ghar Kay Mausam” more,  possibly due to our  current “Nayay Ghar Ka Mausam”. 

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