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Dr Enver Sajjad remembered

June 30, 2019

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Akbar Islam speaks at the event.—White Star
Akbar Islam speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: Friends and colleagues went down memory lane to share the important features of the life and work of writer Dr Enver Sajjad, who passed away on June 6, at a condolence reference held in his honour at the Arts Council on Friday evening.

Music composer and director of programmes of the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) Arshad Mahmud said we should thank Dr Sajjad for whatever he’s done. Speaking about his personality traits, he said the late writer was a “no nonsense man”. He wouldn’t take much time to cut people down to size. He [Mahmud] and his friends would be reluctant to talk to him but since they loved him, they would shun the reluctance and engage with him in discussions.

Mr Mahmud said when Zia Mohyeddin told Mahmud about the idea for an academy [Napa], Dr Sajjad was the first person that they got in touch with to come and teach there. Dr Sajjad’s contribution to the academy was immense, especially in coming up with the syllabus.

‘Sub chor hain, raja chor, riaya chor, sub chor’

Mr Mahmud also narrated a couple of incidents illustrating Dr Sajjad’s outspoken nature. For example, when Mahmud got the Pride of Performance Award in 2005, he remarked that he should’ve got it when he was composing music for television plays, not when he had stopped working.

Actor Akbar Islam, who teaches at Napa, said he had a student-teacher relationship with Dr Sajjad. Dr Sajjad had more than what’s required of a teacher. He would always ask his students to read and encourage them to ask questions. He would often say to them [students] that they wouldn’t be able to learn unless they asked questions.

Former TV producer Iqbal Latif recalled the time when he assisted director Yawar Hayat in a play penned by Dr Sajjad. It was a difficult time because there was dictatorship in the country, so putting one’s message across was difficult. But Dr Sajjad wrote a line in the play, which was uttered 27 times, that encapsulated the entire scenario. It was: “Sub chor hain, raja chor, riaya chor, sub chor” [Everyone’s a crook, the king, his subjects, everyone.]

Javed Hasan said Dr Sajjad was a multifaceted person: he was a doctor, writer, painter, dancer, women’s rights and social activist. He wrote memorable works of fiction such as Khushion Ka Bagh and Neeli Notebook. He first met him in 2007 when the author had shifted to Karachi from Lahore. He also introduced Hasan to writers such as Franz Kafka. In fact, he was the one who gave him a copy of Kafka’s novel Metamorphosis.

Mr Hasan, talking about Dr Sajjad’s last days, said a video of him on social media in which he looked emaciated went viral before his death. He tried to get in touch with him but he couldn’t. Some days later, he passed away.

Artist Shahid Rassam said Dr Sajjad was a good painter as well. He was a critic of his own work.

Writer Asad Mohammad Khan said looking at Dr Sajjad’s personal life and his work one was reminded of a line from an Urdu verse:

Huq maghfirat karey ajab aazaad mard tha

Kulsoom Aftab, Ahmed Shah, Noman Khan and Dr Sajjad’s wife (over the phone) also spoke. Jamal Mujeeb anchored the programme.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2019