Life Profile

Syed Zamir Jafri was born on 1st January, 1916 in Chak Abdul Khaliq, a village near Dina, District Jhelum. He was a legend poet who with his unique poetic diction and ideas ruled urdu literature for over 60 years. He was a learned person and trend setter using all his abilities with firm commitment which paved the way for humorous poetry in tandem with serious poetry. A true patriot who very effectively made his pen a source of preaching message of peace and love for the man kind. His writings are a valuable asset of urdu literature. A poet of excellence who made his mark in the field of urdu literature with his wit and humour. He has about 78 published books of poetry and prose representing a varied range of creative works.
Syed Zamir Jafri was a renowned humourist, columnist, broadcaster and telecaster who was well known nationally and internationally. Besides urdu, the national language of Pakistan, he wrote in Punjabi and English. In addition to original works, he also translated into urdu verse “Malay Folk Lore (Pantuns) of Malaysia, few poems from Nazar-ul-Islam and translations from the monumental Punjabi classic the “saif-ul-malook”. As a humourist, he had his stamp of his own, making him the most sought after poet in poetry recitals (Mushiara) within the country and abroad. As a Co-Editor, he is responsible for the production of the “Urdu Punch” considered to be the most sophisticated and esteemed journal of urdu Humour. After graduation from Islamia College, Lahore, he started as a journalist in Lahore but soon after joined the Indian Army War Propaganda Directorate when the Second World War started. At the Headquarters in Delhi, it had writers and intellectuals like M.D.Taseer, Majid Malik and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
 Syed Zamir Jafri was posted to the Far East. Maulana Chiragh Hassan Hasrat and N.M. Rashed were already there. He continued to serve in the Education Corps of Pakistan Army and participated in 1948 Kashmir libration and 1965 Indo-Pak war. He served in Inter services Public Relation Directorate. He retired from the Army as a Major in 1965 and thereafter was appointed the first Director Public Relations of Capital Development Authority; a body formed to look after the development of Pakistan’s newly announced capital at Islamabad. He remained on this post for over fifteen years and had a unique honour of naming the roads and residential/commercial sectors of the new Capital. Thereafter, he served on contract assignments as Deputy Director General of Pakistan National Centre in the Ministry of Information, as Advisor to the Chief Commissioner Afghan Refugees and lastly as Chief Editor in Academy of Letters.
Syed Zamir Jafri was a serious as well as a humourist poet but he emerged as the most respected and acclaimed humourist: so was he known as a prose writer and a coloumnist. He had a knack of combining serious, even grim facts with humour. He seldom used irony or burlesque or horse laughter: he was most of time at the level of pure humour, apparently non-serious, and some time nonsensical as defined in literary criticism. His poetic process can be seen at its best in his most popular collection “Ma Fiz Zamir”. This anthology presents Syed Zamir Jafri as a cultured, sophisticated humourist. He watches the reality around him amusedly. He deals with cruel, bitter and uncivilized situations and unreasonably aggressive persons. But he renders them in a manner that he emerges as a pure humourist. No where does he betray himself as a satirist or a cruel comical making fun of them. He thus controls his subjective response to maintain the level he keeps.
Syed Zamir Jafri paints an environment from an objective point of view, also betraying his subjective response to it. It therefore can not be entirely photographic. He is inspired by his passion for reform but his ironical and satirical treatment is not very loud; it is comparatively quiet. Thus the victims themselves feel compelled to appreciate his artistry. He exposed the feudals, capitalists, bureaucrats and all such exploitative elite. This illustrates the poetic journey he traversed from 1947 to 1971. During all these periods, he had become a very popular poet who was invited to Mushairas in Pakistan as well outside it to india, countries of Europe, Middle East and North America. He was awarded Tamgh-e-Quaid-e-Azam in 1967 and Pride of Performance in 1985 in recognition of his services in the field of Urdu literature. He enjoyed the status of a poet laureate. Despite all this, he lived a simple life at lower middle class level though very comfortable. Also surprisingly he did not own a house or a car of his own although he had important and influential assignments prior to his retirement.
    Syed Zamir Jafri also wrote serious poetry. His collection entitled, Kalyan, comprises ghazals, and short poems. They deal with the experiences of love and personal relations, besides the social and class relationships. Most of them depict the rural scene and the village habitat, not romanticising the drab reality, though some of these pieces are purely romantic and show how much he could appreciate the beauty of women and nature. He waxes eloquence in the description of female charm and is extremely sensitive to their subtle responses. His greatest contribution in serious poetry consists of national songs (Taranas) he wrote at different national occasions, celebrating civil and military achievements. He was thus looked upon as a national poet who was patriotic and loyal to the country, more prominently than were other poets. He declined to accept Akbar Allahabadi Award announced by India in 1990 as a protest for the blatant killings of Kashmiris in IHK. He also assisted Hafeez Jullundhri in the composition of the National Anthem when both of them were serving in Karachi. He also wrote some prose books but most of all, the prized one were his Diaries which he wrote from his student days till his demise. He would record the events of the day before he went to sleep or early next morning before he went to his office. He thus followed old poetic models, with almost perfect command over the urdu language. He had developed a catholic taste for poetry of various kinds and different poetic rhythms in whatever forms.
    Syed Zamir Jafri who is considered one of the greatest humourous poets in urdu poetry died on 12 May, 1999 at Long Island USA leaving behind his unmatched work for lovers of urdu literature. The news of his death spread like wild fire and carried intense print and electronic media coverage. Hundreds of condolence letters were addressed to his family mourning his death and appreciating his work with profound affection and love. The President and the Prime Minister also sent their condolences verbally and in writing to the grieved family. I.I.K Gujral Indian Prime Minister while condoling in his letter said “Syed Zamir Jafri was one of the visionaries who knew that literature and poetry built bridges of friendship between two countries, he will indeed be missed by large circle of his personal friends and in the literary circles of India and Pakistan. His contribution to the culture and intellectual life of the sub continent was very ennobling”. His services in strengthening art on aesthetic level, the Pakistani temperament in the great tradition of urdu language will always be remembered. Syed Zamir Jafri was able to make other people laugh because he felt the pangs of a common man. As tragedy and comedy are two aspects of the same reality, and in him one found the most appropriate blend of the two.
    Syed Zamir Jafri Foundation was formed soon after his death to preserve and promote his literary work. In these twelve years the foundation has organized numerous literary workshops and references primarily on or close to his death anniversary days. His unpublished diaries were printed and his book “Karia Jan” containing serious poetry was reprinted. All these books were gifted to leading libraries of the sub continent. Audio and Video CDs containing his Ghazals, rendered by leading vocalists were also produced. A web page “www.syedzamirjafri.com” was created to facilitate his research work. So far six students have completed their M.Phil and two are in the process of their PhD thesis on his literary pursuits.