Hunger turns a poet into a street cleaner

Hunger turns a poet into a street cleaner

Maqbool is famous for his verses, children listen his songs while waiting for school bus

SHOPIAN: From the sweeper community of Memender village, three kilometers from the town, comes an infamous poet, Maqbool Sheikh. At 40, he earns his livelihood by cleaning streets for the municipal committee.
People know Maqbool by his nickname, Magge, the shayir (poet), who not only cleans the streets but entertains people who he recites his poetry to. In his verses they hear about his sufferings, his job of sweeping the household waste from the streets, struggles of every household and of society’s higher classes. He tells the tales of hoe the elite enjoyed their lives while the poor faced criticism despite putting hard, long hours of work.
Magge shayir can turn any idea into a verse. Passersby throw clues at him and he produces couplets. Aijaz Ahmad Mir, a town resident says that he has tested Maqbool several times by putting forth diverse situations and Maqbool has always come up a poem. “Whether it is a normal day or some important occasion, Maqbool has never failed in conveying his messages through poetry,” he said. Muzamil, another resident said that he has watched Maqbool from a very younger age. “He entertains us always. Sometimes his poetry is sad, which touches my soul.”
Maqbool has seven children – a son and six daughters. He says god bestowed him with “three couplets of daughters”. He calls them “blessings from Allah”.
But talking to Maqbool is not easy. You have to pay all your attention, as his apeaks to you in couplets. “I don’t know anything about the rules of poetry, but it comes from my soul. I have not learned anything from anywhere, nor did I ever go to school,” he said.
Maqbool’s daughters and wife work in a private school as peons. Two others are married. None of his children had even studied beyond the primary level. Maqbool says his poverty was the reason his children never got a better education.
“I participated in several poetry programs at district level. People were impressed with my poetry, but when it became a hurdle, I left it.” Listening to Maqbool’s poetry, the then deputy commissioner had asked the local poets to give him some books to allow him progress, says one of Maqbool’s friends. But Maqbool was not lettered, he said.
“What I am saying is a natural thing. In 2010, the executive officer of our department asked the recognized poets either give me a permanent job or let me do my own work. Since they said there is no way to get me a job as poet, I left the association and continued as a sweeper,” says Maqbool. “I could have done better in poetry, but who would had fulfilled the needs of my family?”


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