A Young Poet’s Pilgrimage in the City of Poets

Maryam MarketI met the young poet on a social media site.  Over the past few months we’ve become friends – more than friends I guess.  She addresses me in Urdu, her native language, as big brother.  I address her in Spanish as my little sister.  Odd to me, having such a relationship with someone on almost the exact opposite side of the world…Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets.  I asked my little sister, the poet Maryam Shabhaz, if she would visit the shrine of Allama Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan and another native of Sialkot, to give readers an idea of the importance of poets in her country.  She sent me these photos of her pilgrimage.

Maryam started with a photo of the bazaar, not an unusual place to start in a city with a history similar to Sialkot.  Alexander the great made Sialkot the eastern-most outpost of his empire.  Persians, Afghans, Sikhs, Turks, Mughal emperors, Brits, and Hindu Indians all took their turns trying to rule the Punjab, where Sialkot is located.  Cities that have often found themselves in the way of history tend to be market-oriented.  I’m going to let the national Poet of Pakistan, Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Iqbal take over for a while with an excerpt from his poem Age of Infancy –


Maryam Market IThe earth and sky were unknown worlds to me,

Only the expanse of a mother’s bosom was a world to me;

Every movement was a symbol of life’s pleasure to me,

My own speech was like a meaningless word to me.

During infancy’s pain if somebody made me cry,

The noise of the door chain would comfort me.

Oh! How I stared at the moon for long hours,

Staring at its silent journey among broken clouds;

I would ask repeatedly about its mountains and plains,

Maryam Market IIAnd how surprised would I be at that prudent lie.

My eye was devoted to seeing, my lip was prone to speak,

My heart was no less than inquisitiveness personified.



Maryam, it seems, stopped off in the market…did a little shopping around.  Here she photographed a dealer of essential oils, Ittar in Arabic…herbal scents distilled for perfume and home use.



Maryam Museum XThe next photo she sent me was of the exterior of Dr. Sahib Iqbal’s former home.  I think I’ll let an excerpt of Maryam’s poem The Departed Soul speak for the reverence Pakistanis have for a national hero, one so revered he has a national holiday named in his honor.

Giddily, stand at the light curve,

Wait to embrace the departed soul.

The trifle human remains

Are left of the life carefully mold,

After him, days keep unveiling to unroll

Not any tasks hold gild;

At last, men realize, memories aren’t sacred holes.



Maryam Museum XXVMr. Riaz, the caretaker of Allama Iqbal’s shrine, told Maryam that photographs were not allowed in deference to the memory the poet, scholar, and politician that had such an impact on Pakistani independence.  She told him about the project she was working on, and he agreed the photos were for a noble cause, giving her the unheard of permission to take photos.  The first photo inside the former home and current shrine to Dr. Sahib Iqbal is of Maryam signing the guest register.  Between 50 and 75 Pakastanis a day visit the shrine, with the number rising to 300 or so when a college or school arranges a visit.  The visitors who had signed the register before Maryam were from Rawalpindi, and Mr. Riaz pointed out a former Foreign Minister of Pakistan who had signed the register not long ago,misspelling Islamabad, the capital city in which he had exercised his official duties.  I guess politicians are the same everywhere.

The final entry to this introduction to Allama Muhhamad Iqbal, and to this introduction to Maryam Shahbas and her poetry, will contain photos taken in the former home and current shrine to Dr. Sahib Iqbal, and will be accompanied by one of his most famous naats, or religious praise poems.

Maryam Shahbaz’s poetry can be viewed on WordPress under the name Maryamshahbazmian.

14 thoughts on “A Young Poet’s Pilgrimage in the City of Poets

  1. johncoyote says:

    You are very lucky to be able to travel. The world is a amazing place. I like the photos and description of your journey.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Thanks for reading and the comment. If I keep moving, hold my judgments until I know something other than prejudice, and listen more than I speak, it all seems to work out. Coyoter Power !

  2. mrs fringe says:

    Lovely, in every way 🙂

  3. My friend! You have such a gift when it comes to being able to take complex news and ideas and cut right to the bone with it, picking the words that give me chills when I read them. Your writing is an art that I never get tired of reading, from book reviews to the a walk on the beach to telling stories of friends and family half a world away. Cheers, my friend, cheers!

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Again I have risen above myself somehow. I always feel like my feet are stuck in concrete when praised for doing something so basic and natural to me it seems childish, almost. Thanks. Have to go fight with the wife now and kick the local dog.

  4. Reblogged this on maryamshahbazmian and commented:
    Another one in the series 🙂

  5. The excerpt you have selected is really a revered one. And the ittar, they are such precious things, considered more precious than perfumes for particullar occasions and people. I find them amazingly serene too:)
    And most importantly, the politicians here are a whole another class, seriously. You have to be here to witness that 🙂
    As always, this is a great read and I enjoyed the excerpt of Iqbal, the most 🙂

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Thanks, again. You know I’m going to use that thought about ittar…comparing the essence of poetry and its effect on some people with the essence of ittar and the its effect on some people.

      • That would be another post to look forward and such an amazing thing to choose. Always took it as something auspicious as a child as everyone around me carried it in smallest bottles and used them for Eid or any other special occasion. Never thought about the reasons why until you said so.
        Looking forward to it 🙂
        Luego 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s