Shamim Hanafi

Shamim Hanafi
the man,the vision

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Michael Angelo

A poem written by the poet , Salauddin Parvez is dedicated to my son Osman when he was two years reflects the bond between my son Osman and my father,Shamim Hanfi.Osman calls him Baba..

(Ek nazm kahaani Shamim Hanfi ke nawase ko dekh kar)

Baba ek lekhak hain
Burdbaar aur mateen
Unke buland maathe par shiv ke maathe ki chaandni
Mehekti rehti hai
Unke shabdon mein
Anginat  yugon ke gyan gagan
Ghan ghan gaajte rehte hain
Us meethi ghan ghan ko sun kar raaj hans
Jaana chaahte hain,jo maansarovar
Kanwal kaliyon ko le kar ur parte hain achaanak
Aasmaan ki taraf

Baba ka ek nawaasa hai,naam hai Osman
Pyaar se sab use Michael Angelo kehte hain
Us ki umr hai kewal do saal
Nayan naqsh mein us ke sansaar bhar ke chitrkaron ke
Sunder bachchon ke chitr baatein karte hue
Saaf sunai dete hain
Michael angelo ka ek shauq hai,ajeeb,bohot ajeeb
Woh duniya bhar ki saari cheezein
Kamre ki khirkiyon se bahar phenk dena chahta hai
Michael Angelo ki naani,isi wajah se
Hamesha,kamron ki saari khirkiyan band rakhti hain
Phir bhi woh jaane kis pal
Koi na koi cheez zaroor khirki se baahar phenk deta hai
Uski is phenka-phenki mein
Baba ke do nazar ke chashme,teen chappalen,
Paanch kitaben,naani ke saat purse,
Ma ke gyaarah hair pins,aur khud uske
Ek sau ek khilone shaamil hain
Un khilonon mein ek remote se control hone waala
Air india ka jahaaz bhi haiaur ek
Battery se chalne wali, japaan ki Suzuki gaari bhi...
Haan ek baat to bataana bhool hi gaya
Idhar kayii dinon se Michael Angelo bolna seekh raha hai
Ab woh koi cheez phenkta hai to ek
Lammmmbi si “”zoom” bharta hai
Aur ek shabd”Ooper” keh ke
Apni sharaarat se sab ko aagaah bhi
Kar deta hai

Woh oope kyun kehta hai!
Maano uske liye prithvi aakaash hai
Aur ghubbaron aur patangon ki tarah
Har cheez us aakaash mein
Urte hue dekhna chaahta hai

Ek din jab maina ki jhari lagi hui thi
Raat ke baarah baje ka samay tha
Michael Angelo ki Ma,Nani,sab so gaye the
Baba bas sone hi waale the apni study mein
Unhon ne kitaab aankhon se hataa ke
Seene pe bichhai thi
Chashma bhi aankhon se utaar ke
Takiye ke neeche rakh diya tha
Ki unhen...
Aahat si hui...deka Michael Angelo
Dabe dabe qadmon mein unki study mein daakhil hoke
Bilkul unke paas aake tehr gaya hai
(study ki khirki khuli hui thi)

Michael Angelo ne kai baar Baba ko hilaya
Jaag to nahin rahe woh...lekin Baba to
Use dekhte hi sone ki acting karne lege the
Michael Angelo ko jab poori tarha ho gaya itmenaan
Woh so rahe hain...usne apni nanhi munni baahon mein
Baba ke bade se wajood ko
Is tarha uthane ki koshish ki jaise woh unhein
Khirki se baahar phenk dena chaahta hai...
Aur phir waaqai usne Baba ko ek lammmmbi se ‘zoom’ bhar ke
Khirki ke neeche phenk hi diya aur zor se taali baja ke
Khud ko aagah kiya ‘ooper’

Baba ekdam jaise ghbra gaye
Deewan se uthe jaldi jaldi
Harbaraate hue rack se torch uthai
Sutt sutt slipper pehne
Darwaaza khol ke,bohot si seerhiyan utar ke
Jab khirki ke neeche pahunche,
Apne aap ko dhoondne...wahaan koi nahin thha!
(paani ab bhi ghan gha baras raha thha)

Baba bohot der tak yunhi haath mein torch roshan kiye
Gumsum khirki ke neeche khare hue bearish mein bheegte rahe
Bohot der ke baad jab aasman par
Bijli ki ek kamaan tooti aur uska ek ansh
Unki aankhon mein bhi chubha to woh gumsumi se
Bedaar hue...palte ghar ki jaanib...
Bohot si seerhiyan charh ke
Paani mein sharabor thhake thhake,
Bukhaar mein thhore se tape tape
Chheenkte hue jab apni study mein

Michael Angelo,
Unka chashma lagaye
Bilkul unhin ki tarha
Kitaab apne seene par phailaye
Unke deewan par
Nihayat itmenaan ke saath so raha hai

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Historical Experience of Indian Muslims

Post-1950 Urdu Novel
Some Reflections on the Historical Experience of Indian Muslims


I am thankful to the Committee on Asian Studies, University of Chicago and the Organizing Committee of the Norman Cutler Conference on South Asian Literature for inviting me to speak here, in the presence of such a distinguished gathering. While looking at the lives of Indian Urban Muslims’ middle class after Independence, we are faced with a very strange experience. This experience comes to us with a sense of surprise, also with some depression. It appears as if the 1947 partition of India also partitioned their very existence, their life. Their time and their space, both suffered a division on account of the partition. Their day to day living, their thought patterns, their priorities ­— nothing remained the same because of this unexpected and yet not so unexpected turn of events in the collective history of the subcontinent. ‘’All changed and changed utterly”. A terrible beauty was born in literature. Partition literature and the aesthetics of violence added a new dimension to the post-1947 literary tradition in Urdu.
Before 1947, the urban Muslim middle class in India had a distinct identity of its own. Muslims had their own ethos. Their pursuits, their institutions, even their pastimes were different and easily distinguishable from those of the rest of their countrymen. Then, all of a sudden, this identity started diminishing. Gradually it almost lost its face. Reasons of this ‘before and after’ spectacle are not confined to only external factors. The change has also come from within. This situation has its roots in the Muslim middle-class psyche. It is also related to an ever-growing sense of a devaluing moral base under a tremendous pressure of historical forces.
This whole process can be examined and analyzed in the light of those concrete, defined and verifiable fictional sources which, through the ages, have been related to a composite past and not so composite a percent. But, for this purpose, we shall also have to look, apart from our recorded history, towards a creative tradition which was set up by the post-independence Urdu fiction. It does have a parallel, of course, in Hindi fiction.
The subject, I have chosen to speak on today, has some special relevance for me in more than one ways. Of late, I have been mentally engaged in the socio-cultural life in India and Pakistan, events of historical significance taking place in both the countries, and their impact on the whole creative process of our society. Urdu poetry and fiction, produced during the decades, have a unique significance for those of us who feel that the true meaning of literature goes beyond its linguistic frame and aesthetics. What has guided me most in this effort is the reading and interpretation of fiction written in both the countries. Fiction has played a leading role in focusing upon the issues emanating from the political upheavals of this age. It has succeeded in capturing the spirit of our time and space. It has also even gone beyond this transcending all its limitations. D. H. Lawrence had rightly remarked that nothing except life is important and life can be viewed upon only through living entities and that the greatest manifestation of life is man himself. In the same vein, he had also emphasized that a scientist, a philosopher and a poet may have an understanding of various components of human nature, but somehow, they fall short of laying their hands on human existence in its totality. Hence, a novelists’ vision takes him to an organic, indivisible whole. Although, books are not life in themselves, a novel is a living chapter of life and it can endow human existence with a vibration that is stronger than any other intellectual or scientific vibration.
In the background of this brief prelude, a glance at the contemporary scenario of Urdu novel in India is not very rewarding to me. The most disheartening aspect of this observation is that Qurratulain Hyder happens to be our last notable Urdu novelist. After her departure, the whole gamut of this genre seems to have gone awry. It has lost even its usual charm. Looking at contemporary Indian Urdu novel, excluding Qurratulain Hyder, would amount to incessantly accepting and going through works of mediocrity. A sort of fake writing has been playing havoc with Urdu novel in India.
Harsh words! But, exceptions, if any, are negligible and only marginal. Just a count of the Urdu novels being published in India is not disappointing. Yet, most of the lot are pieces of unnoticeable inferior writing. However in Pakistan the state of Urdu novel is not that miserable. Right from Intizar Husain, Abdullah Hussain and Khadija Mastoor to Hasan Manzar and Enver Sajjad, a generation of writers has emerged with considerable potential. On the other hand, in India, this tradition dwindled, after the departure of senior contemporaries of Qurratulain Hyder such as Ismat Chughtai, Krishan Chander and Hayatullah Ansari. The number of the novels that deserve recognition is rather limited. Some of them are shabgazeeda by Qazi Abdul Sattar (1966), Alam Panah by Rafia Manzoorul Amin (1987), Aiwan-e-Ghazal by Jeelani Bano (1987), Chirag-e-Tab-e-Daman by Iqbal Mateen (1977), Nadeed by Joginder Paul (1983), Makaan by Paigham Afaqi (1989), Farar by Zafar Payami (1986), Teen Batti ke Rama by Ali Imam Naqvi (1991), Bahut Der Kardi by Aleem Masroor (1972), Do Gaz Zameen by Abdus Samad (1988), Kisi Din by Iqbal Majeed (1998), and Namak by Iqbal Majeed (1999). Their levels of creativity are varied, so is their appeal. Some of the novels deal with the socio-cultural life of urban Muslims and their predicament after independence. Shadow of Qurratulain Hyder’s Aag ka Dariya looms large on all such novels. Despite her being exceptionally unique in several respects from her style to her meta-historical approach to reality, her colonial hangover and her romantic sense of the past, her influence on the younger writers of her age, has all along been phenomenal. Whosoever dwelt on the past, borrowed something from her sensibilities- from Abdullah Hussain’s Udas Naslen to the whole lot of historical and semi-historical fiction dealing with the collective experiences of Indian Muslims, her mark is evident almost everywhere. And it has its reasons.
Instead of drawing upon the tradition set by Prem Chand, Qurratulain Hyder had laid the foundation of a new tradition in Urdu. Her style and modes of expression, her concerns and her total view of life opened up a number of possibilities for a kind of neo-writing in Urdu fiction. She was unconventional, modern and urbane. She was neither a classicist nor a progressive in her appeal. Also, she was the first to draw equally from the eastern and the western tradition of fiction. She created a whole new world of documented and experimental story-writing through her first collection of short stories Sitaron se Aage (1947) and her first novel Meray bhi Sanamkhane (1949).
Qurratulain Hyder’s obsession with history, culture and Arts had a marked influence on her writing. She absorbed this influence on a very complex plane. Event and the force of the imagination run side by side in her fiction. Explaining her attitude, she herself has confessed that the study of archeology, philosophy and social sciences has enormously enriched her experience as a writer. Thus there was established a new bond between the historical dimension on the one hand and the literary dimension of narrative on the other. In her novels, it is the discourse that determines the story. Therefore, it is not easy to separate history from the working of imagination. In an article (presented in a seminar on narrative, Sahitya Academi, Delhi, 1990) that dealt with the development of her literary career, she wrote:
“So much has gone into the evolution of the Indian personality and hence the complex situation which obtains today! I tried to analyze it in my third novel, The River of Fire (1959). It spanned twenty five centuries and entailed a great deal of research. The narrative style of each epoch came naturally with the contents of each chapter.”
Through these details, I am just focusing upon the post-1950 Urdu novel’s immediate literary background and also want you to revisit Qurattulain Hyder’s impact in formulating some of the prevailing ideas and attitudes vis-à-vis contemporary Indian society and more so among Indian urban Muslim middle classes.
Here again, this it has to be remembered that the pace of novel-writing in India during this period, not only in Urdu but also in Hindi has been quite noticeable. Hindu and Muslim middle classes occupy a central position in the choice of themes. The Partition and the pre-independence composite cultural ethos taken as a metaphor, have all along been popular with many Hindi and Urdu novelists of this period. Qurattulain Hyder’s  River of Fire stands singular as a source of constant inspiration for quite a few of these novelists. Right from Kamleshwar and Rahi Masoom Raza to Nasira Sharma, Asghar Wajahat and their contemporaries, this “fire” continues to burn. Most of them seem to be obsessed with and overtaken by 1947, communalism, disintegration of a common past and other such socio-cultural problems. To my utter bewilderment, the southern Indian languages present an entirely different picture. In north Indian languages (i.e. Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi) partition and its aftermath have become an incessantly repeated theme in a few writers. They go on and on writing about it. Their sensibilities are captivated by it to the extent that it has acquired the position of the most visible mark of their identity as a writer. It is through this historical experience that the past enters into their present and occupies a central position.
Incidentally, this was also the age that shaped the features of a newly emerging middle-class in the subcontinent. It was different from the landed aristocracy of a bygone era and had no feudal bases. Hence, its reflection on the creative plane is also different. There is a greater attention on urban social issues which have a particular importance and relevance in the national context. Political overtones of these writings (for example in Badiuzzaman’s Ek Choohay ki Maut (Hindi) and Nadar Log of Abdullah Hussain (in Urdu).
But, before focusing upon a few representative Urdu novels in India, it would be worthwhile to underline a point or two here. Most of the fiction written so far in North India, particularly in the heartland or Urdu-Hindi belt since independence is markedly different from the Urdu fiction produced in the south. Cultural affinities and social conflicts, common between Hindus and Muslims, have occupied a prominent place in the south Indian Urdu fiction, while northern India focuses more on regional and sectarian issues. Another significant characteristic in this regard is that Muslim writers of south Indian languages think differently. They have very little in common with their north Indian contemporaries. Their concern with the Hindu-Muslim politics or Indo-Pak differences is minimal. They donot seem to have any identity-crisis as a group. They have no sectarian agenda, no separatist view of existential experiences. The Muslim middle class writers in the south Indian languages (such as Vaikom Muhammad Basheer in Malayalam or Sahna in Tamil) as well as Muslims writing in Hindi, Marathi or Gujarati have shown a deep involvement with native experiences with an abiding interest in the earthiness of day-to-day living. They have no special interest in politics. India living in villages is as much different from India living in cities or towns as the socio-cultural ethos of South India is different from that of North India. Trends of nativism followed on a very active plane in the literatures of different India languages (particularly Gujarati, Marathi, Kashmiri, Punjabi and Bengali) did influence some Urdu writers but on a very limited scale. Here we must not forget that the basic character and temperament of Urdu novel from the late nineteenth century has been urban or ‘qasbati’ i.e. semi-urban and feudal. It was Prem Chand who started dealing with an entirely different and unusual ethos, that of rural and backward India. He championed the cause of the downtrodden, of those who lived away from cities and led an altogether different life. In Prem Chand’s novels visualization of urban life or portrayal of urban characters is not very strong. His sensibility finds its full expression only in the description of the ordinary, of insignificant characters, whenever he tries to tackle characters set in an urban sophisticated ethos or represents city life, his sensibility fails to keep pace with the narrative and his imagination withers. Some writers (like Hayatullah Ansari, Suhail Azeemabadi, Ali Abbas Hussaini, Akhtar Orainavi and Anwar Azeem) tried to emulate him by following in his footsteps but none could succeed and none after Prem Chand could touch the heights he had achieved, not to speak of discovering a new dimension. Alongwith Qazi Abdul Sattar  and some rather unknown or uncelebrated authors such as Waris Rasheed Kidwai (Shab-e-Rafta) depicted ‘Qasbati’ (or semi-urban) muslim life in a subtle manner but this tradition could not flourish in India.
In Pakistan, the situation is somewhat different. It is primarily due to the fact that some kind of feudal set up is still working there. Quite a few among the novelists in that country are equally rooted in a rural and an urban ethos. Ghulam-us-Saqlain Naqvi’s widely acclaimed novel Mera Gaon (1981) is a convincing example.
In the context of today’s Indian wirting, the social crisis facing this country is the crisis of its urban middle classes. Their role and responsibility has been quite distinct in the entire saga of its dwindling values and crumbling national ideals. The death of Gandhian dreams and Nehruvian utopia founded with the establishment of an independent nation was, to a great extent, the result of the intellectual concerns of the Indian urban middle class. In Pakistan, Abdullah Hussain’s novel Bagh; Muntansar Hussain Tarar’s Rakh, Bano Qudsia’s Raja Giddh, Anees Naqi’s Deewar ke Peechhay focuses on a central theme concerning the betrayal and defeat of certain collective aims. In India most of the writers emerging after Qurattulain Hyder took this crisis as a recurring subject, but as pointed out earlier, its outcome has not been rewarding. It is, generally sub-standard and insignificant. A few novels that could invite serious attention and could be called engaging portray the life of Muslims against the background of a declining political culture or their overall social and intellectual backwardness. Pavan K. Verma in his book “The Great Indian Middle Class” (Penguin 1998) has made a point when he says that the freedom movement had provided this country with a strong moral and intellectual front. This front had nothing to do with the excess of the British imperialism or any sort of anti-colonialism. It was strengthened by our popular cultural traditions and moral values as well as our ‘spiritual’ concerns and priorities. However, an overpowering greed for earthy comforts, an uncontrollable desire for worldly successes and for the rat-race put deeper concerns and moral considerations on the back burner. Taking to politics as a career became a way of life for a sizable section of the urban middle class. On a visit to India in 1996 Noam Chomsky had observed that “there is no end to the desire of the middle class to lead a good life. The lifestyle of the Indian elite is amazing. I have never seen such opulence even in America.”
Unfortunately, this tendency has assumed the form of a social programming and most of  the middle class people follow it without a blink. Uncritical acceptance and compromises or ‘sab chalta hai’ the key phrase puts it so tellingly. Public life in both India and Pakistan is totally subservient to it. This issue has figured more vehemently in Pakistani novels. Before proceeding further, I want to refer here to a statement by Qurratulain Hyder on how the creative reflection of this issue has surfaced in Urdu novel. She says :
“In our country a great era of literature started amidst unconducive circumstances and sometimes it came into existence due to those very circumstances. It has never happened that a war broke out or a national crisis started and the entire nation swung to one side.
How was the whole modern literature created after 1945 (in the west)? Were the circumstances unfavorable to them all?
For unknown reasons we could not bring to Urdu the greatness it deserved.
In our land neither drama could find its roots nor theatre was developed or any worthwhile tradition of novel was established.
  In short, Urdu still yearns for the force and expanse it should have achieved.
Bedi, Krishan Chander, Ismat, Ghulam Abbas, Manto, Hayatullah Ansari were not sent from heaven nor did they get divine blessings. But, they were sincere and devoted artists. What is being written (today) is just for the sake of writing or that sort of a bond could not be established which makes the writer an interpreter of the universe and nature.”
(Extract from a talk (December 1959), Dastan-e Ahd-e Gul, Karachi, 2002).
 This statement was made fifty years ago. Over the past five-six decades the situation has further deteriorated. It is for this reason that selecting a few novels relevant to today’s subject of discussion is not an easy task. The total number of post-1950 Urdu novels in India is fairly large. I have selected only three novels which can be dealt with in some detail.
The first of this series is Farar (published in 1986) written by the late Zafar Payami (1932-1989). By profession, Zafar Payami was a journalist and ran a news agency. His brief introduction to the book, entitled as Rah-e-Farar which is based on his family background as well as his own life and career reaveals that Diwan Birendra Nath ‘Zafar Payami’ was born in the Diwan family of the erstwhile Kapurthala state in eastern Punjab. Having obtained a Master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Allahabad, Zafar Payami took to journalism. As a correspondent of several newspapers and journals, he had to travel a lot. He visited a number of countries and developed some special interest in the affairs of the middle eastern region. This interest was not merely professional. His emotional attachment with Muslims and their socio-cultural life was a natural product of his own past and his surroundings in the Punjab where Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs stayed together and shared a lot in their ways of living. In December 1971 and January 1972, Zafar Payami had spent a considerable period of time in Dhaka, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The cultural life in Lahore had left a deep and lasting influence on him as well as his family. That is why the story of ‘Farar’ is also his own story.
The central theme of this novel is based on the tragedy of those migrants who underwent the trauma of searching a new homeland during a short span of their lives for two times, once in 1947 and then again in 1971. Their first experience was the outcome of a partitioned India, when they had to leave their homeland and then settled down in East Pakistan. The second experience was another search for home after the birth of Bangladesh. But then no country was willing to accept them as its citizen, neither India and Pakistan nor Bangladesh. They had no home and no land. The character of Syed Iftikhar Husain alias Tari in Farar presents an apt portrayal of these people. His whole experience revolves around the inheritance of loss. He carries with him a common cultural legacy, an abstraction. His family belonged to the city of Allahabad  in Uttar Pradesh, India. During his student days at the Allahabad University he had dreams of a freedom that could dramatically change the destiny of all Indians alike. The moment of freedom does come. But it comes with frightening shadows and with a message of the end of a common past, a shared history. Tari and his Hindu friend Aftab Chand Choudhary come across the shock of their life and feel cheated by history. Now Tari lands in Karachi. He is appointed as manager of a company in Dhaka, the capital city of the then east Pakistan. After a short while east Pakistan witnesses civil strife and the ‘Mukti Bahini’ overpowers the Pakistan army. Now the social scenario starts changing rapidly. Tari has to flee once again. He takes shelter in Kathmandu, Nepal. Here too he is an outsider, an alien. Problems of citizenship and nationality do not allow him to take a sigh of relief. The character of Tari typifies an incessant inner conflict representing those who migrated to Pakistan. A permanent feeling of homelessness pricks them all the time. They spend their entire life wandering from one country to another. Standing in contrast to him is Sahar Hashmi, Tari’s daughter who represents another generation born and brought up in an independent country and who prefers staying at one place to being driven from one place to another. She reflects the major chunk of Indian Muslims at a rational and realistic level. She refuses to repeat her father’s experience. She sticks to her base. The emergence of Bangladesh not only negates the two-nation theory, it also reinforces the notion that a well-defined, composite past is always stronger then an undefined present. Bonds of history and collective living are more lasting than the logic of religious and ideological identity. Some of Zafar Payami’s contemporaries in Pakistan also have taken up this theme. But they (like Altaf Fatima and Tariq Mehmood) could not get along with visualizing a new geographical unit and becoming another country. Such romanticism fails to bear the burden of reality for long. Intizar Husain, of course is an exception. His novels Basti and Tazkirah set in a complex socio-cultural context, have also covered this theme and he seems to have succeeded in bringing them to the level of national allegories.
Realization of the state of homelessness develops in Tari a fear psychosis. On the contrary the generation that follows him, that of his own daughter, manages to overpower and subdue this fear. In Farar Zafar Payami has reflected upon the social experience and the emotional dilemma of Indian Muslims who crossed over to Pakistan and then again to Bangladesh. Farar is not just a story. It can also be taken as a social commentary and a statement.
Tari’s daughter Sahar Hashmi thus speaks to Advocate Kanwal Narain:
“No citizen of this country (India) can be pushed out from here. I was nowhere behind the formation of Pakistan. Forget about those who left this land. But, those who belong to it cannot leave it. Now Sita cannot be exiled again.
Pakistan was formed by the people of your generation and that of my father. And all of them were not involved in its process. Just a handful of them. I was not behind the creation of Pakistan. I do not know where Pakistan is, nor do I know what Muslim League was. Who was Jinnah and why and how Pakistan was created.
There is no complexity in the plot. Characters keep pace with time. No major crisis or conflict comes to the fore. The history of this subcontinent from 1947 to 1971 supports the storyline as a background. The same applies to its characters. Most of them are ‘types’ rather than individuals. Dialogues are excessive and conversation of the characters cuts into the force of the narrative. However, the social attitudes and values depicted by the author occupy a prominent position and abiding relevance in the context of our recent history. These values and attitudes also have a strong moral and intellectual base.
Another novel Do Gaz Zameen (1988) by Abdul Samad (born 1952) gives him a place among the Urdu writers who have emerged after independence.
Thematically this novel too falls in line with Farar. It is also based on a single layered story. There is no ambiguity of ideas, no complexity in its plot. Abdul Samad’s grip on the issues he has raised in the novel is total. He understands all that he wants to say. What makes Do Gaz Zameen distinct from Farar or other such novels is the enormity of its plot, its flow as a narrative and its dexterous characterization.
Also, in view of its timeframe, Do Gaz Zameen has obvious similarities with Farar. Abdul Samad has competently grasped the vicissitudes of varying experiences since partition to the formation of Bangladesh.
Do Gaz Zameen is the story of a feudal, old fashioned family. It starts with the description of a traditional Muslim household. Altaf Husain is its head. He has four sons and four daughters. Like most of the upper middle class Muslims he has an unfailing interest in politics. He is an active member of the Khilafat movement. The ongoing conflict between the Muslim League and the Congress was a much talked about subject during those days. His own family also gets divided into two factions. Altaf Husain’s younger son Asghar Husain is a staunch supporter of the Muslim League while his elder son-in-law Akhtar Husain is an active Congressman. The demand for partition finally succeeds. Two sovereign countries simultaneously come into existence. Then events on a national level take an ugly turn. Communal riots break out and engulf the whole nation. Theoretically, Akhtar Husain and Akbar Husain take rival positions. The latter migrates to Pakistan. This part of Do Gaz Zameen reminds me of an earlier short novel Aangan by Khadija Mastoor who had migrated to Pakistan from India.
Akhtar Husain prefers to stay on. He remains loyal to the Congress. He wins an election too. But the changing political culture turns Akhtar Husain into an outsider. He proves to be a failure in politics. His honesty and integrity of character eventually mar his career as a politician. He cannot even manage to get a job for his son. But, somehow or the other he maintains his idealism. Fed up with insecurity and unemployment, his son crosses the border and moves over to East Pakistan. There too his hardships do not recede. In an alien and unfamiliar set up he is faced with more problems.
Ultimately, after the birth of Bangladesh, Hamid undergoes the harrowing experience of another migration. Now he turns to West Pakistan. But the emotional and social gap between Pakistan and Bangladesh has widened so much that even the education he received in Bangladesh becomes irrelevant in Pakistan. He is totally desperate and helpless. All his dreams are shattered. He feels that now he cannot get even two yards of land, neither in India and Pakistan, nor in Bangladesh. He feels that he has no future, nor does he have a present. Whatever still remains with him is just his past, an abstraction and a metaphor. He leaves Pakistan to settle down in Saudi Arabia. Akhtar Husain’s tragedy is the tragedy of a common legacy. The tragedy of Hamid is the tragedy of homelessness, an entirely existential experience. Abdul Samad has been a student of political science. After obtaining his Master’s degree he became a teacher. The subject of his research for Ph.D. degree was “Political Socialization of Muslims”. Beside the novel under review Do Gaz Zameen, two of his other novels – Khwabon ka Sawera (1996) and Mahasagar (1991) were written in the backdrop of Indian Muslims’ social life after independence and their emotional experiences. The basic inspiration behind Do Gaz Zameen is that the birth of Bangladesh has completely eroded the stamp of the past and has shaken the confidence of Bihari Indian Muslims in the future. It has uprooted many assumptions and the search for a new homeland to settle down and survive has become meaningless. Khwabon ka Sawera is a saga of such Indians who were born after 1947 and for whom Pakistan was not even a dream.
Similarly, the central problem in Mahasagar is communal strife and its burden on the socio-economic life of Muslims in independent India.
These three novels taken together constitute a grand narrative based on the travails and experiences of the Muslim middle class. Abdul Samad has seen through the minutest details of their day-to-day life and their cultural ethos. He is more descriptive then Zafar Payami. It may be mentioned here that a major part of the merits of both Farar and Do Gaz Zameen owes greatly to their respective subject and central theme. Abdul Samad never gets emotive, has complete control over his gut responses and hence, has been able to maintain the quiet rhythm of his narrative. He is neither journalistic, nor sweeping. He tells the story with a cool melancholy, gently and smoothly. He never lets the narrative lose its balance. He has canvassed the collective destiny of Indian Muslims without ever indulging in self pity or sensationalism. In this respect Do Gaz Zameen remains a landmark among the post-1950 Urdu novels.
Both Farar and Do Gaz Zameen describe the past, the present and the future of the Muslim middle class in an insightful manner. Abdul Samad and Zafar Payami both have gone deep into the details of the changing scenarios of Muslim life in India after independence.  Both have succeeded in depicting the damages caused by the fundamentalist attitudes in vogue among the Muslims and their growing interest in the past. Both uphold a secularistic point of view enriched by democratic values and rational thinking. Both have promoted a secular agenda and have not yielded to the pressures of separatism and obscurantism.
However, on literary and aesthetic parameters Iqbal Majeed’s (b.1934) short novel Kisi Din stands out the tallest when compared to Farar and Do Gaz Zameen . As a writer Iqbal Majeed is definitely better equipped, more experienced and aware to a greater degree of the narrative’s technical and aesthetic requirements. Kisi Din is the most gripping of post-1950 Urdu novels dealing with the urban Muslim middle class experience in contemporary India. It’s a very compact, organized and readable novel. The plot, characterization, dialogues as well as the discourse – every aspect of this novel has been treated with care and competence. Its brevity and compactness has given to it a miniature-like quality. Iqbal Majeed uses words like colours. Hence, the story can also be seen when it is being read. The most fascinating aspect of this novel is its description of violence in our society. Violence has many shades and surfaces. Iqbal Majeed takes all forms of violence into account with equal precision and feasibility. The role of money and sex in modern India’s political culture, the interference of criminals in social and political issues, the complete absence of a moral base from life , all this has been very skillfully woven into the narrative. The writer has made the novel powerful without creating any artificial dramatic effects. Shaukat Jahan and Pratap Shukla are its leading characters. Each makes the other a tool for his/her own evolution. Thus one character unfolds the other. Iqbal Majeed has desisted from imposing a conscious moral stand on the story. Apparently he does not take sides and watches every event with equal poise. His existential approach to all sorts of human experiences and his objectivity have succeeded in capturing the very spirit of the age.
Because of the author’s honest approach to the subject, Kisi Din has come to us as an exceptionally convincing document of the world we live in. the inevitable bond between literature and morality is brought out on a deeper plane. What distinguishes this story the most is its detachment from the trance of a haunting past and the colonial hangover. Iqbal Majeed has focused on every facet of social, political, emotional and intellectual crisis that face contemporary India. The author has viewed his world whole-heartedly without any reformist zeal, with the sincerity of a creative person. The human drama of degeneration, downfall and injustice, as it is being enacted around him, has come to him as naturally as leaves to a tree. Each and every character seems in himself/herself to be a free and independent individual. And thus every character finds a place in our consciousness. The intensity and warmth of his reflexes as a writer makes us feel as if the printed page has acquired a life of its own. The portrayal of fanatic Muslims and fanatic Hindus is alive and convincing to an equal degree. The environment of the entire novel is replete with the same tension and dreadfulness which is experienced in our day-to-day life. One of his critics has rightly observed:
“Iqbal Majeed has, after all, found the medium he needed to express the agony and turmoil of an entire era and the tragedy of a whole community which withstood the harrowing experience of a metamorphosis. He has made an addition to the riches of a literature whose history is spread over centuries and which at the same time is so brief that it can be expressed in a few words.”
                                                                                    - Varis Alvi
 In an article (Mera Takhleeqi Safar) Iqbal Majeed write:
“The brace of fiction is very vast. How can its generosity be appreciated and one’s own temptations and preferences suppressed for its sake?
During half a century of my creative voyage, I have made a humble attempt to understand this very problem because a writer can never be cent per cent neutral, otherwise it would be very difficult for him to produce literature. The reason is that literature helps those who break the status quo.”
This personal essay also carries the following:
“I have definitely sought to suggest that a literary creation should search for that beauty and force of life which could find a place in the modern cultural values and maintain the valuable sequence which is the foremost necessity of civilization and society.”
A long short-story by Iqbal Majeed titled Jangal Kat rahe Hain (1986) was published about eleven years before the publication of Kisi Din (1997). This story also deals with the general condition of the Muslims left in India after 1947. Soon after Kisi Din, he published another novel Namak in 1999. The question that bother Iqbal Majeed’s sensibility revolve around some ugly truths facing our lives and times. How did politics turn into a profession for making easy money in a country which never tires of boasting about its values? Why did an alliance between religion and politics destroy our socio-cultural ethos so brutally? To what an extent have these issues distorted the fabric of human relations in our collective life? And what travails have our shared traditions suffered from? Various glimpses of this situation are scattered around in Jangal Kat Rahe Hain, Kisi Din and Namak.
In the works of Qurattulain Hyder and Intizar Husain (right from Aag ka Darya to Aage samandar Hai we come across a permanent sense of loss. A spectre of sadness moves alongwith the narrative. This melancholy make us feel its presence in Farar and Do Gaz Zameen also. In Iqbal Majeed’s Kisi Din a certain melancholic tone has assumed a satirical and at times a ferocious shade. As compared to Farar and Do Gaz Zameen, Kisi Din’s expression is rugged and down to earth. It has a definite thingness. It may be obviously attributed to Iqbal Majeed’s characteristic attitude of not confining himself to ‘thoughts and ideas’ alone. He is as keenly interested in humans as in objects and he is as masterful in their description as in the description of ideas and ideals. His process of creativity is not merely intellectual. Rather, his felt experiences dominate his ideas. Kisi Din presents a vibrant life whose manifestations are deeper, quicker and sharper than they are in Farar and Do Gaz Zameen.
Now that I have arrived at the concluding note of my presentation, I do want to invite your attention to some important issues which have so far remained untouched. Inspite of the fact that most of the post-1950 Urdu novels in India have merely added to the numbers, there have been certain exceptions as well. They deserve our serious considerations. Ilyas Ahmad Gaddi’s novel Fire Area (1994) , some other novels like Bahut Der Kar Di (1972) by Aleem Masroor, Chiragh-e-Tab-e-Daman (1976) by Iqbal Mateen, Teen Batti ke Rama (1991) by Ali Imam Naqvi, Makan (1981) by Paigham Afaqi and the most talked about and remarkable example of historical and cultural novel Kai Chand The Sar-e-Asman (2006) written by the noted scholar and critic Shamsur Rehman Farooqi must be seen as distinctive creative achievements. Their themes and subjects are varied and do not fall in line with today’s deliberations.
But in the context of historical experience of the urban Muslim middle class one cannot deny the fact that in Hindi or in some of the regional Indian languages the overall picture is not as dim as it is in Urdu. Was it because of a lack of interest in our actual concerns that most of the Urdu writers achieved so little on this count? This question needs to be answered. However it should be borne in mind that short story rather than the novel has been the dominant form of fiction in Urdu for the last seventy five years or so and the subject under discussion has found a fuller and more rewarding expression in the short stories right from the 1940s.
However, no good novel can be written without an insight into existential experience and a certain creative vigor. A definite social perspective also helps in fulfilling the demands of this form. The pre-partition Urdu novel was based on the perception of a shared cultural experience at a deeper level and its creative interpretation. It makes one sad to reflect that the post-partition Urdu novel could not maintain this tradition. Our novelists did learn a lot from their common cultural heritage under the socio-political conditions that obtained in free India but the Indian society could hardly learn anything from the valuable tradition of Urdu novel. A considerable output of the post-1950 Urdu novel stands covered under the shadows of this unfortunate breakdown of communication.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Celebrating Manto...