Wednesday, August 10
Waris Shah is calling from his grave
This is not the world, especially this part, which was known to Sufis like Waris Shah, who preached ‘love to all’ till they left the mundane world to meet their Creator again.
Today he has more number of followers to what he had during his worldly days, but the levels of unrest, disharmony, despondency and hatred for fellow beings are the highest ever, if these have not touched their maximums. And now it seems that even his followers have forgotten Shah’s real message, and perhaps have become mere visitors to his last resting place, at least once a year during the Urs days, which is the 213th this year.
How unsafe have become such places of people who preached peace and love for humanity, can be gauged from the very fact that the Punjab government had cancelled all the literary programmes and banned the gathering of more than 20 people in the premises of Waris Shah’s mazar, which had obviously disappointed the devotees. The question is: Can the provincial dispensation not even secure compound encompassing three acres? If it could have been done, then people could have re-enlivened the days of yore when recitations of Shah’s Heer Ranjha enthralled a many, allowed permeation of Sufi’s spirit and promoted feeling of brotherhood. But the ‘steps meant for security of people’ did not allow this to happen.
India’s celebrated writer Amrita Pretam is less known in Pakistan, even for her autobiographical ‘Raseedi Ticket’ but mostly for 16-liner tribute to Waris Shah, where she has pleaded to the Sufi to rise from his grave, and have a look at the havoc played to this land. She says:
I say to Waris Shah today, speak from your grave
And add a new page to your book of love
Once one daughter of Punjab wept, and you wrote your long saga;
Today thousands weep, calling to you Waris Shah:
Arise, O friend of the afflicted; arise and see the state of Punjab,
Corpses strewn on fields, and the Chenab flowing with much blood.
Someone filled the five rivers with poison,
And this same water now irrigates our soil.
Where was lost the flute, where the songs of love sounded?
And all Ranjha’s brothers forgotten to play the flute.
Blood has rained on the soil, graves are oozing with blood,
The princesses of love cry their hearts out in the graveyards.
Today all the Quaido’s have become the thieves of love and beauty,
Where can we find another one like Waris Shah?
Waris Shah! I say to you, speak from your grave
And add a new page to your book of love.
(This translation is from Darshan Singh Maini's ‘Studies in Punjabi Poetry’.)
Shah’s Heer is better known among the Punjabi speaking population of the world than Shakespeare’s Juliet, and the former’s message is far profound than the writings of the English dramatist but the literati of the sub-continent considered it a huge tribute to the ever-living Shah when he is renamed as ‘Shakespeare of the Punjabi Language’. It is an acceptance by those, who might not have understood and comprehended Shah in totality. If more Punjabi knowing people would have read or his writings would have been made compulsory part of the syllabi, then Waris Shah would have been the one of the greatest writers of the world, whose message is for believers of all shades.
To some critics, Shah’s masterpiece Heer Ranjha is apparently a story of romantic love, through which he had tried to portray the love for God, the quintessential subject of Sufis’ writings.
Someone has rightly put it, “the first poet of Punjab who sang full-throatedly about Punjab and Punjabiat and left a writing (Heer Ranjha) which is the soulful passionate expression of the Punjabi psyche, culture and aspirations.” Through this, Waris Shah is calling out at the top of his voice – Reaching out to Him (Allah) is the finality.