If we compare the lives of artists and poets all around the world, the common cycloramic picture we get is that of a secluded, seemingly disturbed, and yet highly spiritual person. Similarly, the physical appearance and the aura of Rashid Deedar from Turbat, who was often regarded as a mendicant friar, matches that of many spiritual poets in South Asia. Deedar with a dusky and grim lineament could often be seen in dirty clothes, uncombed hair, and dusty beard sauntering the streets of Balochistan. His darveshi outlook immediately takes one’s imagination in history towards the streets of Lahore around the tomb of Data Durbar.
In the vicinities of Darbar in Lahore lived a poet by the name of Sagar Siddiqui with a similar lifestyle. He was a victim of slurs, manipulation, and ridicule. Despite living a socially unacceptable life, he came in handy for hopeless poetry connoisseurs, who would ask him to write the verses in exchange for some money. Although he died penniless, and unrecognized for his work, his poetry eventually won him a good name.
رہبروں کے ضمیر مجرم ہیں
ہر مسافر یہاں لٹیرا یے
معبدوں کے چراغ گل کر دو
قلب انساں میں اندھیرا ہے
What puts Siddiqui and Deedar in the same category of poets is their tatterdemalion appearance and poetic genius. Siddiqui and Deedar took refuge from the hustle-bustle of hypocritical mundane life to an immaterial existence. Both were called abnormal, drug addicts, beggars, and mentally unstable. However, people seem to neglect the fact that what they referred to as “abnormal” adds to the equilibrium of this abnormal world. Despite their unique ways of life, they have contributed greatly to the literature.
Unfortunately, in Deedar’s case, his genius has been beset by drug addiction, personal troubles, and financial circumstances. Instead of collecting or publishing his poetry, he always gave it out to people on the streets for some applauses and pennies. During that process, a lot of people ended up stealing his work. After a lot of struggles, Deedar finally managed to publish his Balochi poetry collection called, “Don’t Fall in Love with a Human Being (بنی آدم ءاشکءمکپ)”.
قسمت کے جیتے ہارے ہیں
ہم تودیوانے سارے ہیں
کون بچانے آےگا
دوذخ کے ہم نارے ہیں
Despite having a pool of talented artists and poets, our society has always disparaged their work. Artists and poets were never their due share of praise. People seem to neglect the importance of art and poetry in our culture. It is believed that the ability to write poetry and create art is a Divine gift, and adds an element ethereal beauty in the world.
The examples of artists whose work was underappreciated during their lifetime are many. Vincent Van Gogh, one of the greatest artists that the world has ever produced, among them is one. He was not only ridiculed but put into a mental asylum. His most famous painting “The Starry Night” was painted at Saint Paul de Mausole, a psychiatric hospital in Saint Remy. Today, his painting is sold for millions of dollars in auctions around the world. About his mental condition, he said, “ I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.”
Like other forms of art, poetry provides an insightful understanding of all the aesthetic subtleties in the world. Poetry molds words and expressions to communicate feelings that are otherwise uncommunicable. Rashid Deedar’s poetry is a product of his versatile life experiences, which he earned through rubbing his shoulders with the harsh and bitter realities of life.
Besides, poetry is a universal language, which transcends culture and other worldly boundaries. Each can interpret the text however they seem it fit their context. The meaning of poetry produces differs from person to person.
Countrymen in Pakistan have always been hypocritical when it came to appreciating art and poetry. No one bothered to save Sagar Siddiqui from himself while he lay on the roadside heavily drugged. Similarly, Faiz Ahmed Faiz was being shackled and tortured in jail, and no one came to his rescue. Habib Jalib, who was the biggest opponent of the status quo and a dictator leadership, was not in the least supported by people in power during his struggle. However, the same people today refer to him and his poems in political gatherings.
It has come that we change our attitude towards how we treat artists in this country. People like Rashid Deedar need the support of the government to survive in the long run. He requires medical care, and resources to keep doing the work that he does. It was only recently that an NGO took notice of him in a street, and has taken the responsibility to make sure his work reaches out to more people; however, this could only go on for so long, he needs financial stability to stand on his own.