Finer points of fiction discussed on second day of Urdu Conference

Published December 2, 2023
Youngsters gather around Arfa Sayeda Zehra at a post-lunch session on Friday.
—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Youngsters gather around Arfa Sayeda Zehra at a post-lunch session on Friday. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: One of the important pre-lunch sessions on the second day of the 16th International Urdu Conference, organised by the Arts Council of Pakistan, was on the works of some of the reputed Urdu novelists. It was presided over by Mirza Athar Baig.

Syed Kashif Raza spoke about Khalid Akhtar. He said Akhtar wrote novels, short stories and travelogues but novel writing became his claim to fame. The fiction written before him was marked by realism whereas he introduced the comic element in his writings. He enabled the reader to know that serious subjects could also be dealt with in a lighter vein.

Akhtar Raza Saleemi chose to speak on Bano Qudsia. He said if a writer is able to create one immortal character, s/he will live forever. And Bano Qudsia created a number of memorable and immortal characters. Her novel Raja Gidh built a bridge between popular and serious fiction.

Dr Ziaul Hasan’s topic was Abdullah Hussain. He said prior to Hussain’s publishing of his novel Udas Naslein there were Aag Ka Darya by Quratulain Hyder and Khuda Ki Basti by Shaukat Siddiqui. But it was Hussain who was responsible for bringing the previous era of fiction writing step into a new one. He also wrote short stories and used to complain that his shorter stories didn’t get enough attention. His novels Udas Naslein and Qaid are a severe criticism of the feudal system.

Writers, poets remember literary stalwarts who gave shape to Karachi’s cultural identity after independence

M Hameed Shahid shed light on the literary achievements of Shamsur Rehman Farooqui. He said before reading Farooqui’s fiction he was an admirer of his criticism. After reading his novel Kai Chaand Thay Sar-i-Aasman he is of the view that Urdu literature’s history won’t be complete without the mention of that book.

Najiba Arif’s subject was Quratulain Hyder. Addressing a large number of schoolchildren that had come to the first session of the moot, she said like them she was 13 or 14 years old when she read Hyder’s Merey Bhi Sanam Khanay. At the time she used to wear a burqa and wasn’t allowed to interact with her male cousins. Reading the book revealed a new world to her. “This is what a novel does: it introduces the reader to a new world and at the same time makes him dream.”

Mahmood Shaam read a paper on Shaukat Siddiqui’s novel Khuda Ki Basti. He very intelligently placed the characters of the story in the contemporary setting.

Mirza Athar Baig summing up the discussion raised the question about the title of the session. He said sessions should have a sense of direction. For example, he argued, the evolution of form and content in novels could be touched upon as a topic.

Voices of Karachi

An eagerly awaited session was ‘Kya Shehr Tha Kya Loag Thay’ about Karachi’s literary and cultural landscape formed by the writers and poets who inhabited post-partition Karachi.

Zehra Nigah, Pirzada Qasim, Shakil Adilzada, Anwar Shaoor and Anwar Sen Roy were the speakers.

Dr Pirzada Qasim said Karachi is a unique city. Whoever lives here gets absorbed in its essence. He fondly mentioned the literary stalwarts who, after independence, gave shape to the city’s cultural facet. Names of individuals such as Dr Salimuz Zaman Siddiqui, Rais Amrohvi and Mehsher Badayuni, etc, came up in the conversation.

He gave a nice piece of advice to the moot’s organisers that a book based on the session be published.

Post-lunch, a conversation with education expert Arfa Sayeda Zehra, too, drew a big crowd, especially the younger lot.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

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