Amjad Islam Amjad is a poet and playwright
What are you reading these days? This last one month I have travelling a lot so my habit of reading every night has been disturbed. But I am reading Bano Qudsia’s autobiography, Rah-i-Rawan. As I am familiar with a lot of references in the book it is wonderful to relive them.
Plus, these days I have to read a lot of non-fiction for my columns. For instance, at the moment I am reading Shahid Hasan Siddiqui’s Pakistan aur Amerika: Dehshatgardi, Siasat aur Muashiat. It’s an eye-opener.
What is the one book/author you feel everyone must read? Everyone has a different inclination so it is hard to recommend something for everyone. Because I have been associated with literature all my life, I would recommend that. But I can’t say that it is for everyone. Especially our young people, who are not being taught literature in schools. We are maybe turning them into international citizens but not national ones. You are a national citizen when you are familiar with the literature, the folk traditions, music, cuisine and so on, of a place.
What are you planning to reread? I am a poet and my first love is poetry. I mostly read the classics and that’s what I recommend to others as well. Mir, Ghalib and Iqbal are our three big poets and whenever I get the time I read their works.
In fiction too, post 1940s a lot of good works were written in Urdu. Krishan Chander, Saadat Hasan Manto, Intizar Husain, Ismat Chughtai, Qurratulain Hyder… it was a galaxy. So I prefer reading these writers. Then after them came writers such as Mansha Yaad, who was an outstanding short story writer.
What is your favourite childhood book or story? Two writers planted the love of Urdu in my heart — Ibn Safi and Shafiqur Rehman. Because of them I got into the habit of reading. And though I might have outgrown them, there is a lot of respect in my heart for them for starting me on this path.