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Another Chronicle of Loss and Love

Nishat Zaidi

By Agha Shahid Ali
Penguin, 2010, pp. 393, Rs. 350.00


When I met Agha Shahid Ali’s father Agha Ashraf Ali a few months back, he told me about the latest collection of ‘Bhaiya’ (as the poet was lovingly called by his family) that had already come out in the US and was now being brought out by Penguin in India. He was excited about the launch of this collection. His eyes glittered with pride as he told me about Izhar Patkin’s (Jewish painter) collaborative project with his beloved ‘Bhaiya’ and how after Agha Shahid Ali’s death Patkin invited the family to show his series ‘Veiled Threads’ which was based on Agha Shahid Ali’s poems. The book carries a remarkable never-before-published canzone. I had known Agha Ashraf Ali through the poetry of Agha Shahid Ali (he surfaces in poems like ‘A Lost Memory of Delhi’, ‘Cracked Portraits’, ‘A Call’) and when I met him in person, I got to know Agha Shahid Ali, the poet, through the eyes of a father who had lost his son at a very young age. Agha Shahid Ali was all of 52 when he died on December 8, 2001 of brain cancer following his mother’s death caused by the same disease. Agha Shahid Ali was born on February 4, 1949, in New Delhi and grew up in Kashmir and Delhi. He later moved to the US for his higher studies where he settled and had a long academic career. In his poetic career Agha Shahid Ali published eight anthologies of poems (Call Me Ishmael Tonight, his last anthology of poems was posthumously published in 2002), one collection of translations of Faiz’s poems titled The Rebel’s Silhouette: Selected Poems and one edited volume of Ghazals in English titled Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English. Ali was not just another Indian diaspora poet writing in English. He was a poet who introduced an entirely new idiom in Indian poetry in English, something that the critics of Indian Poetry in English have not yet fully appreciated. Coming in the closing year of a decade that opened with the untimely death of this illustrious poet, this anthology reaffirms the immense possibilities that exist in the poetry of Agha Shahid Ali waiting to be explored and duly appreciated. The volume under review comprises collections from six major anthologies of Agha Shahid Ali, i.e., The Half Inch Himalayas (1987), A Walk Through the Yellow Pages (1987), A Nostalgist’s Map of ...

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