Ibne Insha - In search of El Dorado
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

ANYONE who has gone through A. Hameed's book 'Ibn-i-Insha: Yaden, Baten, Bahar, Khizan knows what a romantic and idealist Ibn-i-Insha was.

The book records some fond memories of 'golden* days when the two authors strolled together in old Lahore's streets which, according to A. Hameed, were carved out straight from The Arabian Nights.

Ibn-i-Insha was a progressive writer but he was a romantic, too.

Relics of the past and natural beauty haunted him. The moon mesmerised him and he named his first collection of poetry 'Chand Nagar'.

Yet at the same time he had a profound knowledge of all political movements and felt a deep af-finity with Marxism. He was an idealist and romantic who believed in realism and pro-gressivism. But above all he was a human¬ist.

Ibn-i-Insha admitted that he was a roman¬tic and that the contradiction between his disposition and the realities of the stony world around him gave birth to his longer po¬ems. He wrote that "in Grimm's fairy tales an obstinate dwarf says an ounce of humanity is worth the wealth of the entire world. Many of my poems are dear to me just because they are about that ounce of humanity".

Ibn-i-Insha adored Edger Allan Foe's mysterious works.

In the foreword of 'Chand Nagar, he wrote: "There is a poem by Edger Allan Poe, El Dorado, that is, the city of dreams. In this poem a knight embarks upon a journey on horseback in search of El Dorado, the fabulous golden city, travelling for years without any trace of his cherished land. Just when he was about to lose heart he found an old and decrepit man who told him to go beyond the lunar mountains, to the long valley of shadows. Who knows that knight found the city of dreams or not but he did find an excuse to go on and on. A poet should mentally be like that knight, like Ulysses, he must have an El Dorado, a city of dreams, a Chand Nagar to seek."

His other collections of poetry include 'Us Basti Ke Ik Kooche Men' and 'Dil-i-Vahshi'. 'Billoo Ka Basta' is a collection of poems writ-ten for children.

What surprises the reader is Ibn-i-Insha's dual personality.

His poetry is melancholic and talks of pains and sorrows but his prose has witticism and spontaneous humour.

His travel accounts, written in a lighter vein, transformed the entire course and mood of Urdu travelogue writing. Now rarely do we come across any Urdu travel account that does not try to be funny because this genre has been stamped by Ibn-i-Insha so indelibly that travel writing can hardly be imagined without a light, easy air that Ibn-i-Insha cre¬ated. His travelogues, 'Chalte Ho To Cheen Ko Chalye', 'Awara Card Ki Diary', 'Ibn-i-Batoota Ke Taaqub Men', 'Dunya Gol Hai' and 'Nagri Nagri Phira Musafir', though writ¬ten in the sixties and seventies, still have an appeal because of their beautiful prose and humour.


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His book 'Urdu Ki Aakhri Kitab' is ranked among the select humorous Urdu prose.

The satire of the book, in addition to making you laugh, makes you think hard about our history and society.

Ibn-i-Insha's humour columns that he wrote for Imroze, Hurriyet and Jang, have been collected in two volumes' 'Khumar-i-Gandum' and 'Aap Se Kya Parda', though many of them are yet to be published in book form. He translated some of O. Henry's and Edger Allan Poe's works into Urdu.

Ibn-i-Insha was born on June 15, 1927 in a small town near Ludhiana, East Punjab. His real name was Sher Muhammad but he adopted many pen names such as Asgher, Mayoos Adamabadi, Sehrai and Qaiser. Finally he became Ibn-i-Insha which gave him such fame that his real name was forgot¬ten.

After graduating from Punjab University in 1946, Ibn-i-Insha joined the agricultural research council as sub-editor in 1947. Before migrating to Pakistan in 1947, he remained associated with All India Radio briefly. Here he joined Radio Pakistan but then he came to Karachi and from 1950 to 19G2 he worked in different capacities in the constituent as¬sembly, department of village publicity and council of agricultural research. In 1962, he was made director of the national book coun¬cil, Karachi.

Ibn-i-Insha was a romantic who had em-barked upon a journey early in his life in search of his El Dorado that was beyond Chand Nagar.

In the quest he passed through many a beautiful valley but as is the fate of every writer, the elusive great and golden city remained beyond his reach. He died in London on January 11,1978 and was buried in Karachi.

Written by Dr. Rauf Parekh