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Parveen Sultana Saba recites her poetry.—White Star
Parveen Sultana Saba recites her poetry.—White Star

KARACHI: Scholars shed light on the salient features of a book titled Rozgar-i-Safeer written by former ambassador, writer and poet Karamatullah Ghori at an event held at Urdu Bagh by the Anjuman Tarqqi-i-Urdu on Saturday afternoon in honour of the author and his poet wife, Parveen Sultana Saba, who are visiting Pakistan from Canada.

Presiding over the programme, Prof Dr Jaffer Ahmed said the book is a diplomat’s journey of remembrances. Though its publication is timely, the event arranged to discuss it wasn’t because it’s a hefty book (1,000 pages) and needs time to read and absorb.

Dr Ahmed said there are three clear strands in Rozgar-i-Safeer. The first is to do with the author’s personal life, the second with his trajectory as a diplomat and the third is about the various countries he was posted in which enriched his experiences.

Dr Ahmed said the death of Mr Ghori’s first wife made him suffer the writer’s block for a while but gradually he came back to his writing self. An interesting aspect of the book is that it details the Karachi (where he grew up) of the 1960s when the city used to be the centre of culture. Another important thing that the writer has highlighted is his passion for the civil service. Going through it, the reader gets a sense of the fact that foreign service is not entirely different from other departments of the state. However, merit is paid heed to in that department.

‘Diplomacy is a difficult profession because one has to fight one’s conscience every step of the way’

Mr Ghori said he’s been writing [columns] for Dawn since 1964. At the time he used to get Rs80 per piece. One day he went up to editor of the newspaper Altaf Husain and complained that the amount he’s getting was low. To which he asked about his age. Ghori replied he was 22. Mr Husain retorted that there were people in the newsroom who’d been working for the paper for 22 years and they hadn’t had the chance to write for the leader page, so Ghori should consider himself fortunate that he was one of the leader writers.

Mr Ghori said his father wanted him to join the civil service. His response to his father was that he would do that on two conditions: one, he’d marry of his own will, and two, he’d only sit for foreign service exams. And that happened.

Mr Ghori said diplomacy is a difficult profession because one has to fight one’s conscience every step of the way. A couple of things are needed to be a diplomat –– patience and strong legs. Describing the latter, he said one has to stand for hours at diplomatic receptions.

Parveen Sultana Saba recited poetry from her book Mauj-i-Saba. Her poem ‘Salgirah ka tuhfa’ was particularly well received.

Poet and researcher Aqeel Abbas Jafri lauded the contents of Mr Ghori’s book. He said it underlines his journey from Delhi (where the author was born) to Karachi, especially the Karachi of the 1960s. He, however, pointed out one mistake in the book. He argued that while talking about the poet Ibn-i-Insha, Ghori has mentioned that he was posted in London by Gen Ziaul Haq, whereas the fact was that it was Z. A. Bhutto he who had sent him there. Mr Ghori, in his speech, acknowledged Mr Jafri’s assertion.

Dr Fatema Hassan said the book has sketches of people and it was also an autobiography. She hoped that it would be more popular than the writer’s earlier effort Bar-i-Shanasai.

Tanveer Abro said the book could also be titled ‘the diary of a successful man’.

Secretary of the Anjuman Zaheda Hina welcomed the guests.

Yasmeen Farooqui hosted the programme.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2019