‘Light of the Shadows,’ the book under appraisal is a compilation, along with the literary English translation of the famous poet, essayist and playwright Amjad Islam Amjad’s ‘Love Poems and others’. The intellectualistic and artistic worth of the book tends to become doubled when we discern that it has been translated or poetically transformed by Baidar Bakht who is beyond any cavil, a highly recognised and admired master of converting the whole soul of the literary and poetic content, created by the legendary writers of the world from one language into the other without deviating from the pure spirit of melody, style, nature and genre. So the reader never cherishes any sense or feeling of going through a translated version when travelling through the lines and pages of this book. Born in Delhi, India, Bakht has been residing in Toronto, Canada, for last five decades and despite being a renowned bridge engineer by profession, he has been serving the realm of literature too, with equally admired craftsmanship by translating the worthy works of the celebrated literary icons of the subcontinent.
This literary feast has been skilfully divided into 17 parts and every portion comprises Amjad’s each poetic collection with the actual title; this very scheme provides the readers with sufficient backgrounds information about the volumes, in connection to their socio-cultural phases, and deep insight into the poet’s various moods and approaches he, from time to time, cherished, during his five decades of lyrical and rhythmic creations. Moreover, every poem and lyrical piece is presented in Urdu on the right side of the page with its English version on the left side to empower the booklovers with multiple options for reading, matching and analysing.
As we embark on our poetic voyage from the first page and proceed further crossing various milestones of portions, we become reality-bound to appreciatively notice that Amjad’s expressions and impressions have gone through a process of metamorphosis with every passing decade and life-stage. Pleasingly, the fact remains constant is that he is equally passionate and mature in his all the phases of life and epochs of poetic career stretching from blooming youth to the spans of sobriety, romanticism to classism, love poems to divine poetry, and, above all, love for a paramour to love for the whole nature with all its phenomena. His poems composed to pay tribute to family members, friends and other personalities, such as ‘A poem for my departed father’, ‘A poem for Firdous’, ‘A poem for Ali Zeeshan’ and ‘A friend’, portray Amjad’s love and care for familial, social and humanistic relations.
The very first two poems, ‘Life’s worth’ and ‘A cold evening’, are really a source of acquiring an insight into a young man’s feelings and emotions and the associated agonies in terms of expectations.
The above-cited lines from the poem ‘Life’s worth’ (1967) lead us to the grieving soul of the poet who is alone despite possessing an ocean of fellow human beings around him and that is the ultimate tragedy of human society where billions of the individuals, have to deal with their inner beings individually, while being simultaneously in and far from the madding crowd. The below-quoted excerpts from the poem ‘A cold evening’ (1967-68) create, in our mind and spirit, a transparent reflection of the rampage of anguish, bereavement, helplessness and melancholy the young poet had to cope with after his first experience of love and its ultimate breakup. In 2013, observing the anniversary of that cold evening, the poet created the poem ‘19 May’ that is an emotional and passionate outcome of his sweet and bitter memories attached to this date when he had to bid adieu to his love for good.
On the other hand, we discover a very logical, realistic, classical, practical and rational angle of our poet’s mind and personality when we come across the poems like ‘The tragedy of self-made people’, ‘Life is not an exam paper of mathematics’, ‘The last words of Steve Jobs’, ‘Come let us promise’, ‘Lockdown’, ‘A poem for Mohammad Ali Sadpara’, ‘Humanity is still alive’ and ‘Poetry is a strange triangle of quizzes’. The following stanza will adequately fulfil the purpose:
Poetry is a strange triangle of quizzes.
There is no law
To when it will rise or rest,
To know its nature and chemistry.
It is not possible to know beforehand
When it will come or stop
Apart from his hymns, sonnets and other divine poetic ventures, his poem ‘I salute the residents of Karbala’ shows our writer’s profound devotion for and understanding of the religious and social justice and righteousness.
Driving home the point, Amjad Islam Amjad is decidedly, an overwhelming ocean of literary and spiritual treasures and has made his niche in the world as a versatile artist with equally inspiring command over the genres of classicism, romanticism, mysticism and divine poetry. Baidar Bakht has admirably played his dynamic and matured role in expanding the canvas of worthy thoughts soaked into melodious expressions to all and sundry living in diverse nooks and corners of the globe.
(The reviewer is an author, critic and journalist, can be reached at [email protected])