Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Philosopher Poet of Vehowa

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I learned of Jehanzeb Jehangir Raz from his poem in the Inspection Book of the Vehowa BMP Post. Written in response to the PA’s observation that the post be abolished, the four couplet poem showed not only the poet’s excellent command over the Urdu language, but also a shade of Allama Iqbal.
 
Born to a Khetran family in the small village of Vehowa in Dera Ghazi Khan district, Jehanzeb Jehangir remembers an easy childhood. The family had a medium-sized land holding managed by his father (himself a poet of Seraiki, Persian, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi) and life was good. The Land Reforms of Mr Bhutto, however, deprived the family of a great part of their holding and now on the verge of old age Raz faces pecuniary problems.

By his own admission he used to get ‘strange notions’ in his head from a very early age. He looked up into the sky and contemplated the reality of the blue welkin, the starry night got him thinking about the universe: how would it have started and how it must end, its vastness and man’s place in it. Not yet tutored in philosophy, when he was in the 8th grade in school, he one day gathered his classmates and lectured them on the universe. They looked at him as if he had gone barmy for they had never bothered about the things this loony was now talking of. That was the first realisation that not everyone was concerned with the notions that rankled him. That in the village he was alone in his interest in the natural world.

Wrestling with these metaphysical problems, Raz passed his matriculation from Vehowa and moved to Dera Ghazi Khan. But scarce had he finished his FA in 1966 when his father died and he returned home to manage the holding. Jealous relatives soon had him embroiled in tedious litigation over the property. Not certain of what would be the outcome of the litigation and looking for another livelihood he joined the Border Military Police, in 1969 as Dafadar. He was posted at the Vehowa post where he was to spend most of his service.

Even as a schoolboy Jehanzeb Jehangir had given himself the pen name of Mukhfi – the Hidden or Unknown. Now he called himself Raz – The Secret. He continued to struggle with the same metaphysical dilemmas that had plagued him as a child. Only years of reading had given a greater depth and substance to his quest. As a young man, the diversity of religious belief caused him sleepless nights and he worried whether he followed the True Faith. The answer evaded Raz and he found himself drawing further and further away from religion. The next many years he was to live without a belief.

Meanwhile, he nurtured his mind with books he found in his late father’s collection and with those borrowed from friends. In the intellectual wilderness of Vehowa, however, he could not find one person to engage in any meaningful dialogue. At his post he alone was the reader of books – forever lost in their company. Besides whatever he could get on metaphysics, he read the works of Faiz, Faraz and Iqbal and admits that his own poetry is indeed influenced by these great minds.

He became known as a bit of a loony: not only was he endlessly reading, but he also had no interest in the goodly sums of money to be made from the uniform of Dafadar that he wore. ‘It troubled me that my colleagues were only concerned with the making of money on the side. What made this enterprise doubly criminal was the fact that many of them were also otherwise unjust in their actions.’ Says Jehanzeb. Here then was a man without faith, without a religious belief, but whose character was far superior to those of his peers who wore religion on their sleeves and paraded their godliness.

Presently it came time for the veils to be lifted. And this happened through a series of occult occurrences that Raz hesitates to speak of, but he does mention several dreams that foretold important and not so important events. He says he is a Muslim again, and has been one for several years now. Perhaps it is a measure of his character that he has the courage to mention he is a Muslim without action, that is, he remains irregular in the five times daily prayer. That, he points out, is a habit that has to be developed early on in life, and since he missed out then, he has been unable to follow the prescribed regimen. But he is in no doubt that he has made his peace with his god and thanks him for so blessing him.

There are not many things that he may be proud of, but he feels he did his duty to the nation when he wrote out the long report about gun-running through Vehowa. It was the beginning of the 1980s (he does not remember the exact year), when immense quantities of sophisticated arms and ammunition were being smuggled through the area on the way to various parts of Sindh including Karachi. His report (to the PA) voiced his fear that something truly drastic and unfortunate was due to take place in that sorry province.

His words proved prophetic and Sindh has yet not recovered from its long war within. But his report was filed away and forgotten for the PA is reported to have said that Raz was merely gratifying his habit of writing petitions and reports. It was said he didn’t know what he was talking about. But the fact is that the man knew exactly what he meant and he knew the names of some very influential persons who were actively engaged in that unholy traffic. It was perhaps because of these powerful people that no action was taken on Raz’s report. Sindh and Karachi were permitted by the ‘patriots’ of Pakistan to descend into the dark hell of a long and unjust civil war.

Twenty-eight years of serving cleanly and honestly gave him an unblemished reputation. But in a society that is blatantly hypocritical he received no recognition other than the reputation. After almost three decades he retired from the rank that he had joined the service in. Burdened with pecuniary problems and an ailing heart, he is content that he lived a life unsullied by greed and corruption.

Strangely, there is even equanimity that his poetry has not been published and reached the reading public. He casually mentions that there might be sufficient compositions, disorganised and scattered about in various note books and on scraps of paper, to make two volumes. There is another manuscript as well that deals with the occult experiences that brought him back into the fold of belief. Publishing in Pakistan usually costs a good deal of money and he has none to spare. With his sad, lop-sided smile he says the work might be published and read some day. It will not matter if he is not around to be invited to the book launch.
 
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

8 Comments:

At September 27, 2013 at 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG, what if he was published?

 
At September 27, 2013 at 8:37 PM, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

کیا پوچھتے ہو میرے کاروبار کا!
اندھوں کے شہر میں آئنے بیچتا ہوں

 
At September 28, 2013 at 9:05 PM, Anonymous Ramla said...

You have made such a case of this poet. He may be noted by someone who matters and who could help.

 
At October 4, 2013 at 8:57 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Ramla, It's too late. Jehanzeb Jehangir Raz sadly died three years ago. Unsung. This is what we do to the real sons of this blighted country.

 
At October 4, 2013 at 9:01 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

So true, Saima. So very true.

 
At November 24, 2014 at 5:44 AM, Blogger Fahad Khetran said...

His children has found and collected all his poetry material from different notebooks and scattered piece of paper so soon they will publish his book, inshallah

 
At November 24, 2014 at 5:47 AM, Blogger Fahad Khetran said...

I'm his nephew and I wana tell you that his children found and collected all his poetry material so soon they are going to public his book and I remember is one shair which is
"Muj ko logoon ny daikha hai bhoot door sy Raaz
Muj ko ye loog bri dair sy pechany gy"

 
At February 22, 2015 at 3:04 AM, Blogger tayyab faiq said...

mujhko logon ne bahut door se dekha he raz mujhko yeh log bahut der se pehchaanyen gy

 

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days