Sitarah-e imtiyaz
[Composed for SRF's 75th birthday celebration
in Charlottesville, VA, Sept. 30, 2010, soon after the
Government
of Pakistan had given him this award]


When the new writer rode into town
he was met with a sneer and a frown
.
The Progressives were swaggering around,
and their gang held the moral high ground.
They wore the right leftist white hats;
they were known as the coolest of cats.
But lo! --with the latest resources
and the aid of the stars in their courses,
the Sitarah attacked them by night
in the glare of a modernist light.
The result was a forty-year fight,
but he finally took the gang down!

The "natural poetry" crowd,
chanting their slogans aloud,
had shouted down Ghalib and Mir,
had made critical terms disappear,
had insisted that poetry should
say only things simple and good,
had played upon cultural fears
while shedding their crocodile tears--
But lo! --for those trapped in this puzzle
there rose up the brilliant Sitarah,
and he shone a bright light on the ghazal!

While the westernizers, the anglophile crew
killed off the old fiction to bring in the new--
"We want novels," they cried, "we want the short story,
for only these genres redound to our glory!"
Alas for the ancient, once-potent romance
that with wonders and shows, with love and sword-blows,
had whirled in a magic-filled dance--
it no longer had much of a chance.
But lo! --from the dark, a light-sword in his hand,
at the head of a smallish but resolute band,
the Sitarah appeared, that true sahib-qiran,
 and rekindled the flickering glow of dastan!

And even throughout all these tasks
he wore-- even more hats and masks.
He wrote his own fiction, in elegant diction,
he wrote his own verse, both elaborate and terse,
he made a fine pal of Muhammad Iqbal.
His family were true, he had loyal friends too,
he cared for small birds, and cherished pet words.

And when he saw all he had done,
he could tell it had been a good run.
He let himself rest just a bit,
for he knew that his act was a hit.
Having brains and commitment to burn,
the Sitarah had done a star turn.



--by Fran Pritchett
(with apologies to Ogden Nash)



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