Saturday, December 24, 2016


                                                        ( Mustafa Zaidi )

                                                 ( Mustafa Zaidi with Faiz Ahmed Faiz )
                                  ( ZAIDI WITH POET  JOSH MALIHABAADI )

                               ( ZAIDI WITH HIS WIFE VERA AND CHILDREN )

MUSTAFA ZAIDI ( 1930-1970)

(My homeland, I bring you

Charms, colours

Of many lands

Ashes of old minds, passions of young hearts

My empty hands

My nothingness

Don’t look at them thus, ashamed

In my heart, a thousand gifts

Some sadness, joys, odd people

Somewhere, thrills, somewhere, pain

A desert traveler lifts them

They won’t fit in sacks, in suitcases..

…………My homeland, there is nothing in my luggage

Just a dream and the ramparts of a dream

Accept the gift of my dirty shirt

For in its dirt are the lands of prayers

This robe cannot be washed for on its breast

Are the sacred bloodstains of Biafra

This is the dirt from Vietnam and in its specks

Are the shining faces of prophets.


( Lines from Urdu Poem Titled “Mussafir or Traveller “ written by Mustafa Zaidi )

                                                           ( Mustafa Zaidi in the centre ) 


In 1970 ,  a leading Newspapers wrote this :-


“Zaidi’s body was found with the telephone set in his hand. There was dried blood around his mouth and nostrils, and the buttons of his shirt were open. The air conditioner was running and there were naphthalene balls on the bed. An earring was found near the bed and there was a mug with remnants of some liquid in it. An unopened aerogram from Zaidi’s wife was also found in the room. An unconscious woman was lying in the sitting room, adjacent to the bedroom. She was identified as Shahnaz Gul, the wife of a Karachi-based businessman. While Zaidi’s body was taken to the morgue for postmortem, Gul was moved to hospital, from where, after she regained consciousness, her husband took her home . ”

Like the sensational Nanavati murder case, his death attracted lot of media attention .This news and so many connected stories became headlines of some newspapers of the subcontinent . Many foreign journals also printed stories on his mysterious death in the company of a married woman named Shahnaz Gul.

There are two views about Mustafa Zaidi's untimely death. The first alleges that he was poisoned by Shahnaz Gul. The other says he had committed suicide. The mystery has not been resolved, no one knows for sure what actually happened on that fateful night and in the absence of convincing evidence no one could be indicted by court.

Before marrying Vera Hill from Germany  , Zaidi had affairs with some modern and fashionable women ( Anjum, Saroj Bala , Saran, Sarla Kapoor, Ms Smith and Dukhtar Sadiq ) .

 Vera was profoundly hurt with Zaidi 's extramarital affair with Shahnaz Gul. Vera had confided to her close friends that enough was enough and she could take no more of this flaunting by Mustafa Zaidi . She had taken their children with her to enable them to continue their education in Vienna. When Zaidi died , His wife and two young children had left a few months earlier and were in Europe . Mustafa Zaidi died on  October 12, 1970. In the third week of same October month , he was scheduled to fly to Frankfurt and then to Vienna by Lufthansa in a ticket arranged by his wife Vera from Vienna.

 Syed Mustafa Zaidi was born and brought up in a wealthy family from Allahabad . He completed his education at Ewing Christian College and at Allahabad University. He started his poetry writing career in Allahabad in 1949 under his penname Tegh Allahabadi (Sword of Allahabad). Zaidi’s first poetic collection Zanjeerain (Chains) was well received . A close friend of Salam Machhlishahri , he was known as Mustafa Zaidi after he moved to Pakistan in 1951. Many writers have commented that like Josh Malihabaadi , he is reported to have regretted his family’s decision to move to Pakistan where he felt somewhat suffocated .

He was dismissed from the  service by Martial Government in 1969 on frivolous charges . Zaidi maintained his incorruptibility through his writings. He alleged that he was made a scapegoat as he was not willing to take  bribe from the relatives of a politically powerful person. His dismissal from his job or the  purge was carried out on the orders of the new military ruler, General Yahya Khan. Three hundred and three officers ( known as the group of “Three Naught Three”) were summarily fired in this flush out.

Some critics  say he was a new Asrar ul Haq Majaz of Urdu poetry. A few are tempted to call him as reborn Noon Meem Rashid. A sample of his Urdu poetry is as under:-



Har  ikk ne kahaa kyon tujhe aaraam na aaya

Suntay rahay hum lub pe teraa naam na aaya

Mat poochh ke hum zabt ki kis raah se guzray

Yeh dekh ke tujh pe koyee Ilzaam na aaya




Seenay mein ahizaan Aankhon mein barsaat rahi hai

Iss ishq mein har fasl ki saughaat rahi hai

Sufi ka khudaa aur thaa shaayar Ka khudaa aur

Tum saath rahay ho to karamaat rahi hai



Meri rooh ki haqeeeqat meray aansoon se poochho

Mera majlisi tabassum, mera tarjumaan nahin hai..

Inhii pathron pe chal kar agar aa sako to aao

Meray ghar ke raastay mein kahin kehkashaan nahin hai


Wo dard-e-dil mein mila soz-e-jism-o-jaan mein mila

Kahan kahan ussay doonda jo saath tha meray

Wafa ka naam bhi zindaa hai mein bhi zindaa huun

Ab apna haal sunaa mujh ko be-wafa meray


Bhalaa kahaan ke hum aissay gumaan vaale hain

Hazaar baar hum aayen hamein bulaao bhi.

Tumhaari neend mein doobi huyi aankhon ki qasam

Hamein ye zid hai ki Jaago bhi aur Jagaao bhi.


A post graduate In English ,Zaidi was a lecturer before qualifying civil services . He was a modern poet who loved travelling , sports and swimming. He drove across Europe in his own Volkswagen . Mustafa Zaidi loved to fly small planes. But then he had an unfortunate accident and he had to do a forced landing. He survived this accident.

He was an intellectual who lived life to its fullest. He was candid , outspoken , non-conformist and a wanderer at heart .

We can rightly say that in his death  , the world of literature lost one of its finest poets. His wife ,family and friends lost someone who was exceptionally loveable and dear to them.

 From India , Salaam Machhlishahari wrote the finest elegy for his childhood friend Mustafa Zaidi.Firaq Gorakhpuri was a staunch admirer of his poetic talent . So was Josh Malihabaadi . Faiz read a paper at his memorial service. This is what Salaam Machhalishahri wrote:-


(Tegh , You became Mustafa Zaidi in Lahore,

Yet you were the same as you were in Allahabad.

Flowers longed for and came to your lips

That wild flame was still in your heart

Which long ago had burned for a woman.

People say you thought of dying

In the past as a sensual jest.

You thought of turning your back on life,

The flight that is wine and song and love.

But flight is nothing but fog:

The body’s rainbow, the wine in the cup and goblet

Are nothing but a leaping flame.

Two abandoned children and in your body the poison of Shanaz

Perhaps your spirit isn’t calm even in the hereafter.

You were always starved for love.

Maybe you cannot understand all this.

Well, death has come in the past like this.

We have always been punished for our dreams.)


( Salam Machhalishahri’s poem has been  translated from Urdu into English by Laurel Steele )


I conclude this post with my favourite poem of Mustafa Zaidi titled ‘Aakhri Baar Milo ‘or ‘Meet me for the last time ‘.


(Aakhri Baar Milo)


' Aakhri baar milo...!

 Aakhri baar milo aaisay ke jaltay huve dil

Raakh ho jaayein, koyee aur taqaaza na karein

Chaak-e-vaada na silay , zakhm-e-tamanna na khilay

Saans hamvaar rahay , shamma ki lau tak na hilay

Baatein bas itni ke lamhe unhein aa kar gin jaayein

Aankh uthaaye  koyi ummeed to aankhein chhin jaayein

Uss mulaqaat ka iss baar koyee veham nahin

Jis se ikk aur mulaqaat ki soorat niklay

Ab na hai jaan o junoon ka na hikayaat ka waqt

Ab na tajdeed-e-wafa ka na shikayaat ka waqt

Luutt gaye shehr-e-havaadis mein mataa'-e-alfaaz

Ab jo kehna hai to kaisay koyi noha kahiye

Aaj tak tum se rag-e-jaan ke kayi rishtay thhay

Kal se jo hoga ussay kaun sa rishtaa kahiye

Phir na dehkein-ge kabhi aariz- o- rukhsaar,…. Milo

Maatami hain dam-e-rukhsat dar o deewaar,….Milo

Phir na ham hongay,

Na iqraar, na inkaar,…. Milo

Aakhri Baar Milo...'


And Zaidi appears to  have prematurely captured words for his own obituary . I quote him:-


 “Mein Kis Ke Haath Pey Apna Lahu Talaash Karoun,

 Tamam Shehr Ney Pehne Huwein Hain Dastaaney”

 (On whose hand should I search for my blood?

Everyone in this city is wearing gloves!).


( Avtar Mota )


 All the poems in this post ( that appear in English ) have been translated from Urdu by Laurel Steele from the University of Chicago . Steele has completed doctoral thesis on Mustafa Zaidi’s life and poetry . I remain indebted to the translator . Laurel Steele’s doctoral dissertation on Zaidi, completed in 2005 at the University of Chicago, titled Relocating the Postcolonial Self: Place, Metaphor, Memory and the Urdu Poetry of Mustafa Zaidi (1930-1970) remains the authoritative statement on Zaidi in English


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