KARACHI: A book titled Conversations with My Father – Forty Years on a Daughter Responds by Moneeza Hashmi was launched at the Arts Council of Pakistan on Friday evening. Ms Hashmi is the daughter of distinguished poet, the late Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The book contains letters that she’s written to him.

Journalist Ghazi Salahuddin was the first speaker to talk about the salient features of the publication. He talked about as to how to categorise the book. Is it a biography, he asked, or is it about letters but not in the sense when a letter gets a response.

“I think to a certain extent it’s a coffee table book because it’s beautiful and has pictures. You can open it anytime anywhere, and you will get connected to something. On the other hand, I would classify it as a memoir. It explores an important relationship: the father-daughter relationship,” he said.

At the end of his speech, he asked the author whether the book has enabled her to go through a catharsis.

Faiz’s daughter Moneeza Hashmi says writing her book took a load off her chest

Music composer Arshad Mahmud said he was first acquainted with the Faiz family when he was 20 years of age. He wondered why the poet was so nice to him that he could enter his house without knocking on the door. “It’s a unique book. You need a great deal of love and passion in your heart to write such a book.”

He echoed the sentiments of the writer that he couldn’t spend as much time with the poet as he wanted or should have.

The author, Ms Hashmi, in her speech agreed with Mr Salahuddin. “Yes, it is a catharsis.”

She told the audience that when she thought of writing the book she discussed it with her younger son. He gave her the idea to write about the now. “Telling him about your life now, how have you grown and developed, what pain and challenges you’ve faced and so on. Then I decided to make it into a kind of memoir, a biography, a dialogue.”

She also termed the book “lifting of a load off her chest”.

When asked about the things that she could have asked her father about, Ms Hashmi replied that she would have asked him about Kashmir. She added she wanted to see the place where her father got married to her mother.

Mahtab Rashdi said she hasn’t come out of the spell that the book has cast on her. “Only daughters can understand how a daughter converses with her father.”

She remarked the one thing that comes out from the book is how empty your heart feels when your father is not around.

The elder of the two daughters of Faiz, Salima Hashmi, said turning the pages of the book sent her down memory lane. She remembered that up until the age of five, her mother would speak with her in Urdu. The reason was that the parents had decided that their children would remain rooted to their soil. So when her (English) maternal grandparents visited them she wouldn’t understand their language.

The early period of the family was spent in Kashmir after which they came to Lahore, and during that period she was able to learn the English language. That was the time that the children got to know that their mother belonged to somewhere else. But their mother had left all of that behind. For Ms Salima Hashmi the book has a chain of memories and how they relate to her memories is hard to describe.

Poet Zehra Nigah said when the author set out to write Conversations with my Father, she met her on a few occasions. She advised her not to exaggerate (mubaligha araai kahin na ho) in her writing. Ms Hashmi took the advice.

Ms Nigah pointed out that letter writing is a genre unto itself in Urdu literature. “The most prominent feature of the letters in the book is that the person she’s writing these letters to does not exist in the world anymore.”

Fawad Khan read a couple of letters and a poem in between the speeches at the event, which was moderated by Sumaira Khalil.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2022

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