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Majeed Amjad
--: Biography of Majeed Amjad :--


Majeed Amjad was one of the greatest of modern Urdu poets of the Indian subcontinent. In the popular culture he is not as well known or widely read as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Noon Meem Rashid, Nasir Kazmi or Meeraji but amongst the cognoscenti and many critics he is widely regarded as a philosophical poet of great depth and sensitivity. His refined poetic mind was not widely recognized in his lifetime as he lived a life of bureaucratic obscurity in a small West Punjabi town. Also, he was not in the forefront of any political literary movements (such as the leftist "Progressive Writers Movement") that actively promoted even mediocre poets from within their own ranks.

Majeed Amjad was born on June 29th, 1914 in Jhang, a small town in the Pakistani province of Punjab. He was born into a fairly poor but respectable family. However, he was only two years old when his parents separated and his mother moved back into her parents' house with the young boy. Early on, Majeed Amjad was taught by his maternal grandfather. Then for a few years he studied Arabic and Persian at a local mosque before enrolling in first grade in a government school. He passed his Matriculation exam in first division from Islamia High School, Jhang. Two years later he completed his Intermediate exam, also in first division from Government College, Jhang. Since at the time there were no educational institutions of higher learning in Jhang he moved to Lahore and eventually received his Bachelor's degree in 1934 from Islamia College Railway Road in Lahore.

These were the days of the Great Depression and economic opportunities were limited even for highly educated people. Majeed Amjad returned to Jhang and joined a weekly newspaper named "Arooj". He remained an editor of the newspaper until 1939. Both his prose and poetry were regularly published in the weekly. At the advent of the Second World War, a poem of his against the British Empire was printed on the front page of Arooj and he was forced to leave the newspaper. After that he found a job as a clerk in the Jhang District Board. In 1944, the government set up a civil supplies department to ration food and clothing. He passed an entrance exam and joined this department and stayed on with the Food Department until his retirement in 1972 at the age of 58, when he was residing in Montgomery (now Sahiwal). He lived in many small and large towns all over Punjab during his employment with the Food Department including Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), Gojra, Muzaffargarh, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Montgomery. He was married to one of his cousins in 1939. His wife was an elementary school teacher but their personalities were not compatible. His marriage was a total disaster. He passed the last twenty eight years in Sahiwal while his wife stayed in Jhang. Majeed Amjad breathed his last on May 11, 1974. They had no children.

The first collection of his poetry, "Shab-e-Rafta", was published in 1958 for which he wrote a beautiful preface in verse. This was published by "Naya Idara" in Lahore. This was the only collection published in his lifetime even though Majeed Amjad had written fairly extensively all his life. After his death, the manuscripts of his unpublished poetry were preserved by Mr. Javaid Qureshi who was then the Deputy Commissioner of Sahiwal. In 1976, Mr. Qureshi with the help of some other people, published a second collection of his poetry titled "Shab-e-Rafta Ke Baad". It was not until 1989 that the Urdu critic Dr. Khawaja Muhammad Zakariya edited and published a complete collection of his works called "Kuliyat-e-Majeed Amjad".

Majeed Amjad was fluent in English and Persian and had deep familiarity with Arabic and Hindi. He had read widely and was well exposed to western literature as well as learning in the sciences (particularly astronomy) and social sciences. These catholic tastes were evident in his poetry. He translated several modern American poets that he had read in an American poetry anthology.

Majeed Amjad had an incredibly original and distinctive poetic voice. The variety of themes and innovative forms in his poetry are startling and one is hard pressed to find other modern Urdu poets with such a range and depth. 

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