Shah Latif and Khawaja Farid

By Manzoor Chandio
Written on March 16, 2006

WHILE reading Shah Latif’s magnum opus — the Risalo — one repeatedly finds mention of a place called Malir.
It is not just a poetical or imaginary land but a geographical reality situated in the Thar desert.
The inimitable poet describes the place as a land of ineffable beauty, peace and freedom.
Why has Shah Latif given everlasting glory to this remote and unattractive place in his poetry?
And why did he accompany jogis to the desert several times?
In Shah Latif’s poetry this is a focal point of his philosophy.
Khawaja Farid, whose grandparents had migrated from Thatta and settled in the Seraiki belt, also spent 18 years of his life in the desert of Cholistan.
He too mentions Malir in one of his kafis:

Meda ishq be toon,
meda yaar be toon
Meda mulk Malir te Maro Khalra Rohi Cholistaan vi toon

Actually, Malir and Rohi are two names for one place where one attains communion with nature. In today’s world when society faces heavy materialistic challenges, development of a sense of other — worldliness is even more necessary.
Latif’s attachment to Malir is thus important.
According to him, life in the desert is supported by hope which remains high between drought and wet spells.
When the parched deserts turn green after rains, Thar becomes Malir and Cholistan becomes Rohi.
It was Farid’s empathy for Rohi that he developed a special love for overcast skies and rains.
Prof Christopher Shackle writes: “It is impossible to describe properly in speech or writing the extent of the love which the Khawaja had for clouds, rain, lightning, and the sound of thunder, or of his knowledge of the various types of clouds.”
Shah Latif loved cloud patterns and rains. He knew from where clouds came and where they visit, where it is overcast and where it rains.
He portrays Malir after the rains in the following verse:

My folks smile,
spring rain falls,
All their worries are over,
Strong grow calves,
Soft wool of sheep they shear,
Umar! Maru whom,
sitting beside their spouses,
wool weave,
In Thar even the lambs have given their back’s shawls,
While starching shawls women cry
“We need Marvi in Malir.”

Shah Latif and Khawaja Farid have promoted Malir as an ideal place to live in.
Both are very appreciative of the Maru people (desert-dwellers) who live in Malir or Rohi and their simple lifestyle.
Though they do not have sufficient means but they live by their traditions.
In the words of Shah Latif they “do not change their love for glittering gold.”
Marvi of Malir in the palace of Umer Soomro felt as she was a prisoner. Remembering her pasture land...she says

In deserts they dig wells to water their goats and sheep
At dawn women draw water from wells
Pouring water in buckets, they raise shouts of glee
Every day I feel anew my folks’ separation pangs

Those from Malir must strive for freedom and break the chains of servitude.
As incarcerated Marvi says: “I will preserve my virtue and will not remain in the fort.”
Shah Latif makes Marvi say:

Longing for my native land, if I die,
Make my grave beside my folks, oh Soomra!
Let me be placed near climbers fragrant,
Though dead, I will live if my body is sent to Malir.

-Verses translated by Prof Amena Khamisani

No comments: