IN Urdu, we have a large number of female autobiographers. Most of them seem to be very happy with their lives. In their early years they lived with their kind-hearted and loving parents. Their marriages too were a pleasant experience. They all seem to have led a happy life in general. But here is a female autobiography with a difference. Sheen Farrukh has brought out her autobiography under the title Jeenay ka Jurm, published by Sang-e-Meel. The very title of the book betrays her frustration. In fact, this autobiography can better be read as a tragic story of a liberated woman. Farrukh’s woes begin when she realises the need to rid herself of the shackles that family ties bring in their wake. Once that is done, she is free to make decisions about her life on her own accord. Farrukh has depicted her early years with a lot of enthusiasm. She nostalgically remembers many small details of rural life and recalls people and places as she had experienced them. She appears to be reliving those happy times. The whole period is painted vividly by her. Speaking about her father, she writes how much he believed in women’s education. Soon after his marriage, he saw to it that his wife, who had only studied up till the primary level, was further educated. Her further education helped her establish herself as a teacher. He also cared a lot for his daughter’s education and sent her to Lahore for higher education. It was during these years that Farrukh, while enjoying life in the company of her friends, developed her sense of liberation. She also fell in love with a young man and gladly accepted his proposal of marriage. And here lies the rub. The honeymoon was soon over and Farrukh felt deprived of her sense of freedom. The joy of married life gave way to a sense of estrangement, resulting in the break-up of the marriage. Farrukh then found herself thrown in a hostile, male-dominated world. There was no question of Farrukh going back to her parental home. So she searched for a suitable job which would allow her to lead an independent life. After much struggle she succeeded in getting a job at Akhbar-i-Khawateen. Those were the years when Urdu journalism was in for a revolutionary change. It was hitherto a male-dominated profession, but it seemed ready to welcome women within its fold. In Lahore, the newly emerged daily, Mashriq, under the management of Inayatullah, an adventurer in the field of Urdu journalism, conceived the idea of a column containing advice for women readers. This column was warmly welcomed by many readers and soon Mashriq had on its staff a team of female reporters and columnists. Encouraged by the success of this adventure the ambitious management of Mashriq conceived the idea of a women’s weekly which would act as a forceful female voice in the male-dominated world of Pakistan. The Karachi edition of Mashriq had failed to make headway, but Akhbar-i-Khawateen was a great success in the city. Now Farrukh was seen as a journalist in the true sense. She also had an advantage over her female colleagues as she dared to move more freely in the male-dominated society. A lot of other women worked from the office of Akhbar-i-Khawateen. As is evident from what she has recorded about her journalistic activities during this period, Farrukh fully availed this opportunity, finding it perfectly in accordance with her temperament. But how unfortunate that this period too did not last long. Ziaul Haq’s martial law was a bad omen for journalism in general and for the press in particular. Those were bad days for Mashriq and its allied weekly. Farrukh tells us about those days as she lingered on with the paper till the day of its closure. Once again, she struggled to find a place for herself. Once again, it was a long-drawn, hard struggle. But she refused to feel defeated. The autobiography ends on the following words, “I have not given up.”

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