Akmal Lewanay

پښتو :: پښتانه :: پښتونخواه :: پښتونوالی

Akmal Lewanay, Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)

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Akmal Lewanay

Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzai

A Unique Insane of my Homeland

Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005

A poetry concert in the memory of Sher Mohammad Mainosh was at its peak in the late seventies (in village Toolandai, Swabi) and I was one of the passers by who were attracted to watch and listen to the poets. I had hardly found a place to accommodate myself that the stage secretary invited a strange name to present his poetic gratitude to Mainosh Baba. By hearing the name, my eyes turned away from the stage towards a smart, ambitious young man, dressed in black Malaishia clothes with a sharp dark beard, running to the stage. The features I can recall were of a 25 to 30 years-old young man. Yes, all the features I saw were matching the name Akmal Lewanay (Akmal, the insane) but in those days, I was even more insane than him to understand his poetry and message.

The poetry concert came to its end and like everyone else I also disappeared. Today, after almost 25 years, I again happened to listen and watch to a poetry concert in the memory of well-known Pushto poet Khyber Afridi in Jamrud and again heard the same name Akmal Lewanay. The picture of the young Akmal I had in my mind changed completely. Today, he was not that young and smart. He needed a support even to climb a couple of stairs. He did not even appear insane to me. Yes, he was still presenting his poetry in his unique humorous style and entertained the audience to its best but his message was that of a selfless, true and sincere intellectual.

Probably, I was now grown enough to understand the message he wanted to convey. When Akmal sahib started to present his great poem, "Wazeer-e-Azam", a Pukhtun intellectual setting nearby me whispered, "Akmal sahib is doing a true post-mortem of our political icons".  Every line of his poetry was artistically reflecting the common man's feelings. Although, his only book of poetry I came across was the 3rd edition of "Tortum" (Deep Dark), with a preface by Pukhto Baba-e-Ghazal, Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari but he has published several books such as Yaw So Guloona (a few flowers), Rahbar-e-Ishq (the love guide), Lewanay (the female insane) and Goozaroona (the strikes).

He is even more popular for his humorous Qitaat always full of constructive criticism but the book I read had none of them. Most of his poetry is in the Ghazal form with a small number of poems. The language of his poetry is very simple. His message is very straightforward and has simultaneously decorated most of his poetry with attractive colours of humour. All these qualities make him a unique name in the modern day Pukhto poetry. Although, he has written on many subjects but the criticism of bright-day socio-economic injustices is very dominant in his poetry.

His poetry carries every colour a Pukhtun expects from his mother tongue. Regarding the self-pride, he says, "if death is certain, then why should it not be for self-pride, so that you are remembered for ever." If he talks of his national helplessness, he says, "Oh, the insane people! How do you know about your pains and pleasures. Do not turn on the candles, darkness is a better hiding place for the helpless." He uses every way he can to entertain Pukhtuns. According to Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, "if a curtain is dropped between Akmal and the audience and Akmal narrates my poetry in my voice from behind the veil, everyone will believe that this is Hamza. He can very skilfully speak in the voice of his several contemporary poets like Khyber Afridi, Ayub Sabir, Samandar Khan Samandar and many others".

Keeping in view the eternal smile on his face, his straight-forward criticism of the lords of the day and the number of books he had published in his mother tongue, everyone will guess him a very rich and self-sufficient man but unfortunately it is not the case. Born in 1947, in village Shamozai of Katlang (Mardan) in the house of Syal Khan Baba, young Mohammad Akmal Khan used to earn his bread by bringing woods from the mountains and selling it in the local market. Years ago, due to a disease, his legs refused to climb the mountains and earn him bread. So, the poor and proud Akmal, who used to serve his mother tongue (when he was healthy) by writing poetry, started selling Pushto books. This great poet is not only writing and presenting his lovely poetry in his unique pukhtun voice but is also carrying with him a considerable number of Pushto books from Hujra to Hujra in all over the Pukhtun's land to make them available to everyone interested and thus earn his bread.

Unfortunately, he is always the last man to leave the venue of poetry concerts and re-load the books on his back to carry them back home as Pukhtuns are not used to read books in general and Pushto books in special. And this reminds me Dr Sher Zaman Taizi's couplet, "Every hostile power came to its end but could not harm Pushto and this proves the miraculous nature of Pushto." And to me, these miracles are in the form of insane lovers of Pushto like Akmal Lewanay who could not live a comfortable life among his fellow beings but could earn a unique name in the history of Pushto literature, "A unique insane of my homeland."

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Akmal Lewanay, Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)