Dramatic readings of "Nazzara Darmayan Hai" at T2F.–Photo by White Star

KARACHI: Reading a piece of fiction in front of a discerning audience is never an easy undertaking. For the reader has to be cognizant not just of the textual subtleties but also be wary of linguistic nuances.

Qurutulain Hyder is a legendary Urdu fiction writer. The dramatic reading of her short story ‘Nazzara Darmayan Hai’ by Zambeel Dramatic Readings at T2F on Saturday evening was a well-received effort. Prior to the reading, writer and critic Asif Farrukhi provided the audience with a brief background of Qurutulain Hyder and her writings.

He said the writer left an indelible mark on the world of Urdu fiction in the latter half of the 20th century. She was a symbol of cultural refinement who set very high literary standards. He claimed Hyder had enriched and expanded the scope of Urdu fiction with her powerful and effective narrative.

Farrukhi told the audience that Hyder’s writings could be likened to aag [fire] or a vast ocean. He said fire was a constant metaphor in her creative endeavours, which is why her novel ‘Aag Ka Darya’ [River of Fire] was her most notable work.

He narrated a few anecdotes delineating Ms Hyder’s personality. When once he [Farrukhi] penned a riposte to a critic’s piece who had criticised her work, she called him up and said he should not have done so and it should have been left unanswered. She taunted him saying that he had done something which made him fall into the Triple M category [Muslim, middleclass, male].

Farrukhi said Ms Hyder’s short stories were trend-setters. Reading them amazed the reader and ‘Nazzara Darmayan Hai’ was one such story which she wrote when she stayed in Bombay for a short period.

After that the three artists of the Zambeel Dramatic Readings presented the story.

It opens with the description of a housemaid Tara Bai [who couldn’t see when she was young]. It is basically the tale of a young man, Khurshid Alam, who while in Paris falls for a Parsi girl, Peroja Dastoor. He plays the violin nonprofessionally. When he returns to India he gets entangled in an unavoidable situation and becomes affianced to Almas Begum, the daughter of a businessman. He remains perturbed in the heart of his hearts for he likes Peroja.

Peroja, who has beautiful eyes and can play the piano, is oblivious to the scenario and is still waiting for Khurshid so that they can spend the rest of their lives together. Almas Begum bumps into her at a gathering and discovers that Khurshid and Peroja were romantically involved in Paris. She, like a possessive woman, makes Peroja aware of the situation in a roundabout way and keeps her away from Khurshid.

This turns the young Parsi girl into a despondent person. She falls ill and passes away. In the end, in a dramatic twist, Khurshid and Almas find out that before dying Peroja had donated her eyes, and a doctor friend of the family through the cornea transplant process used them for Tara Bai so that she could see the world.

The three artists [Mahvash Faruqi, Asma Mundrawala and Saife Hasan] did a fine job. The only thing that they faltered in, besides a couple of fumbles, was the Urdu accent of the Parsi girl. They made her sound like a westerner.

The event was organised to mark the completion of one year of Zambeel Dramatic Reading.

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