“A GOOD old man, sir; he will be talking, as they say, ‘when the age is in, the wit is out’,” wrote Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing. It shows that the prejudice against the old age is not new and the world has long been biased in favour of youth. Some psychological and sociological studies have revealed that in many societies, especially in the western world, aged persons are a stigmatised group. But there are certain fields where old age is not a stigma and where the mantra is the famous saying ‘the older you get, the better you get’ (the new version of the saying goes: the older you get the better you get — unless you are a banana). Literature is one such field and the more senior the authors become, the more fame and respect they receive.
Some of the living nonagenarian and octogenarian authors of Urdu from Pakistan are listed here. Some of them are still writing. May they live longer and keep enriching our lives.
Muhammad Ahmed Subzwari, age 101
Born in Bhopal on Jan 16, 1913 Muhammad Ahmed Subzwari’s writing career began at the age of 18 and he is still writing. It means a writing career spanning over 80 years, which is a record for Urdu. In addition to a large number of articles and columns, he has penned over 30 books in Urdu and English. He still regularly contributes to the daily Jang and monthly Qaumi Zaban.
Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, age 92
One of the great humourists of Urdu, Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi was born on Aug 4, 1923 in Tonk, Rajasthan. His fifth book Sham-e-Shear-e-Yaraan appeared in 2014.
Aslam Farrukhi, age 92
Researcher, critic, sketch-writer, poet and broadcaster, Aslam Farrukhi was born on Oct 23, 1923 in Lucknow. Known for his beautiful Urdu prose and pen-sketches, Mr Farrukhi still writes and has been doing so for the past 65 years.
Javed Iqbal, age 91
Born on Oct 5, 1924 in Sialkot, Allama Iqbal’s son, and the former senior judge of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, is a writer in his own right and has penned 11 books in Urdu and English.
Jameeluddin Aali, age 90
Poet, columnist and travelogue writer, Jameeluddin Aali was born on Jan 20, 1925 in Delhi. He wrote his weekly column for the daily Jang for about 50 years, which is a record in the history of Urdu journalism.
Intizar Hussain, age 90
In an interview to Dawn a few years ago, novelist, short story writer and columnist Intizar Hussain said his date of birth was mired in controversy and though he was pretty sure about the date and month (Dec 21), the year was either 1922 or 1923 or 1925. Born in Dibai, Buland Shahr, UP, Intizar sahib is known and loved for evoking nostalgic memories and vivid images with the help of legends, allegories and fables. Intizar Hussain was shortlisted for the 5th Man Booker International Prize. He writes a weekly literary column for Dawn’s Books & Authors magazine.
Mashkoor Hussain Yaad, age 90
Born on Sept 10, 1925 in Hisar district (East Punjab), Mashkoor Hussain Yaad has penned over 30 books. Most of his books fall in the category of humour but the book that earned him much fame was Azadi ke Chiragh, a saddening account of the gory events that took place in East Punjab in the wake of independence in 1947.
Mukhtar Masood, age 89
While the place and date of birth of the former civil servant and stylish prose writer Mukhtar Masood remains a closely guarded secret, it is guesstimated that he was born in Aligarh in 1926. His works Aawaz-e-Dost, Safar Naseeb and Lauh-e-Ayyaam are acclaimed for their beautiful Urdu prose and a deep sense of patriotism.
Himayat Ali Shaer, age 89
Poet, lyricist, dramatist, educationist, translator and critic Himayat Ali Shaer was born on July 14, 1926 in Aurangabad (Deccan). He has written in Sindhi as well as in Urdu.
Altaf Fatima, age 88
Novelist and translator Altaf Fatima was born on June 10, 1927 in Lucknow. She translated Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird into Urdu under the title Naghme ka Qatl, which is often mentioned, but her other translations and novels, too, are held in high esteem in the literary circles.
Nisar Aziz Butt, age 88
Born in 1927 in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Nisar Aziz Butt is among Urdu’s most acclaimed women novelists. In addition to her novels, her autobiography Gae Dinon ka Suraagh, too, was received well in literary circles.
Adeeb Suhail, age 88
Critic, researcher, poet and journalist Adeeb Suhail was born in Munger, Bihar, India, on June 18, 1927. He edited Qaumi Zaban, a literary magazine, for about 20 years. He has to his credit three collections of poetry.
Anwer Sadeed, age 87
Born on Dec 4, 1928 in Miani, a small town near Sargodha, Anwer Sadeed is a researcher, critic, columnist and poet. He has to his credit over 60 books. He still contributes to literary magazines.
Rasa Chughtai, age 87
Respected for his deep knowledge of prosody and rhetoric, poet Rasa Chughtai was born Mirza Mohtashim Ali Baig in 1928 in Sawaimadhopur, Rajasthan, India. He has published five collections of poetry.
Begum Akhter Riazuddin, age 87
Born Akhter Jahan on Oct 15, 1928, in Calcutta (now Kolkata), she caught the fancy of readers with her first travel account Saat Samandar Paar. She is often referred to as the first female travelogue writer of Urdu. Her second travelogue Dhanak Par Qadam won the Adamjee Prize for Literature in 1970.
Bano Qudsia, age 87
Born on Nov 28, 1928 in Ferozepur, (Indian Punjab), Bano Qudsia, often affectionately called ‘Bano Aapa’, is one of the leading female Pakistani novelists and short story writers. Her novel Raja Gidh is considered a modern Urdu classic.
Jameel Jalibi, age 86
The author of Tareekh-e-Adab-e-Urdu, a monumental research work on the history of Urdu literature, Jameel Jalibi, was born on June 12, 1929 in Aligarh. Mr Jalibi is among Urdu’s most prominent research scholars and has held many coveted positions such as vice chancellor of Karachi University, chairman of the National Language Authority and president of the Urdu Dictionary Board.
Fatima Surayya Bajia, age 85
Affectionately called Bajia, Fatima Surayya, a dramatist and social worker, was born in Hyderabad Deccan in 1930. Some of the serials she wrote for PTV were immensely popular back in PTV’s heyday.