Atif Tauqeer is a fine Urdu poet, but he is more popular in Pakistan as a social media activist and vlogger. Many of his political poems have gone viral on social media and some are overtly critical of Pakistan's ruling establishment. That prompted some people to dub Tauqeer a 'one-dimensional' poet. I believe the criticism is a tad unjust

At a time when the Urdu literary scene is rife with ghazals and poets who are adept at qaafiya [rhyming words], radeef [refrain] and a variety of bahoor [metres], here is a poet who chooses to pen paaband [metrical] nazms. Not only that, the subjects Tauqeer usually deals with are reminiscent of the landmark poems by Noon Meem Rashid, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz. This is no ordinary feat in today's fast-paced world with a limited attention span.

This also reminds me of a now somewhat obsolete and irrelevant debate about the supremacy of the nazm over the ghazal. In the previous century, many established Urdu poets looked down upon ghazals and claimed that the traditional genre had run its course. Now is the age of the nazm, they announced.

Fast forward to 2022, nazm poets in Urdu are a rare commodity. Young poets, especially, appear to be more inclined toward ghazal writing, which does not always require a great deal of erudition and rigour. Some conveniently write prose poems without having exhausted the conventional formats.

Atif Tauqeer's latest collection of poems is filled with a painful nostalgia for the poet's native country and a longing to set it right

Tauqeer, who is based in Germany, began his poetic career in Karachi writing ghazals. It was his mentor, Jaun Elia, who suggested Tauqeer pursue nazms as he thought his young disciple had the potential to excel in this particular form of poetry. Thankfully, Tauqeer paid heed to Elia's advice. His latest anthology of poems, Radd [Negation], is a testimony to both Tauqeer's extraordinary nazm-writing skills and Elia's mentorship.

In the nazm titled 'Lahoo' [Blood], for instance, Tauqeer writes:

Hum aab-i-Zamzam ya Ganga jal se bhi sadiyaan pehlay

Khayaal-i-kun ke rahien-i-minnat

Zameen pe bhaijay gaey thay aur phir

Na jaanay ye kya hua ke hum ne

Badan ke taankay udherr daalay

Wujood hisson mein baant daala

Bisaat khaanon mein torr daali

Woh tera khaana, yeh mera khaana

[We were sent to this world centuries before

Aab-i-Zamzam and Ganga jal

As a result of 'Let there be!'

Who knows what happened then that we

Pulled the stitches of our bodies apart


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