LAHORE: Rafaqat Hayat says he had written short stories before embarking upon writing a novel and did many experiments in symbolism there. He said after reading Marquez, he decided to go against using the technique of symbolism in his fiction and opted for realism which he did not in his first novel, Mirwah Ki Ratein, as well as his new novel Rolaak.

He said all writing techniques like symbolism and allegorical writing originated from realism and added that some writers had tried to bring about symbolism in Urdu fiction but that did not work.

He was replying to the question of Osama Siddique about realism in his new novel with a conventional plot having beginning, middle and end on the launch of Rolaak on the last day of the Lahore Literary Festival at Alhamra.

Hayat said his novel, Rolaak, had a love story but it had its issues.

Siddique asked about descriptive prose as there were descriptions of multiple cities in his novel. To this, Hayat replied that he had given his manuscript to the late Asif Farrukhi and he had suggested changes to it and more description in his novel. “When I wrote the second draft, I had the suggestion of Asif Sahib in mind. I lived in Thatta myself and did Matric from there. Same age has been included in this novel along with my experiences of Thatta.”

Hayat termed Thatta a strange and magical city in which he lived because it was ancient and had many old decaying buildings in every Mohallah. It had ancient houses of mud and wood and carried a certain magic, he declared.

Osama Siddique said Hayat’s novel had readability and asked the novelist how he had brought in readability. Hayat said while writing a long novel like Rolaak, he wanted to bring in the flow in its story and he did that by keeping its chapters engaging and avoiding repetition to do away with monotony.

To a question, Hayat said that sex played a big role in the making or distorting the personality of any human being but sadly it’s not talked about much in our culture while it’s a taboo at homes. He said the topic deserved some serious discussion but even in literature the subject was almost discarded after Manto.

Osama Siddique and Rafaqat Hayat remembered Saqlain Shaukat, the editor of the novel, who passed away recently.

POETRY AND NEW GENERATION:

Urdu Poets Afzal Ahmed Syed, Tanvir Anjum and Fatima Mehru discussed the contemporary poetry in detail in a session moderated by Ambreen Salahuddin.

Tanvir Anjum differentiated between modern poetry that followed a literary movement and contemporary poetry that’s taken as modern poetry in Pakistan. She raised the question whether classical forms of poetry would be included in the “new poetry” but it would have to be seen how old and classical forms were being followed in contemporary poetry. She said prose poem was a new form of poetry and it had capacity for more exploration.

“Modernism is more about sensibility and it has to be seen whether the poetry in question had modern sensibility. Poetry being written now is contemporary poetry but it does not contain modern or postmodern sensibility.”

Ambreen said that there were fears that Urdu language might be distorted too much and constrained to be only a spoken language as the new generation was not connected to it. To this, Anjum raised a question about standardisation of language, saying spoken language could not be controlled.

“Changes to language are a natural process and with the passage of time new words keep being added to the language, which we consider a distortion.”

Afzal Ahmed Syed had a positive view of the relationship of the new generation with language and poetry. He said in the past, people were proud of not knowing Urdu language but it’s the opposite case now. He added that at the Habib University where he taught Urdu, they had launched a course on Ghalib and his Persian poetry and there was a tremendous response from students who enrolled in the course. He said his university was using poets like Jaun Elia to lure the younger generation to poetry and train them in the genre.

He said at his university, Urdu was a compulsory language and students were taught modern as well as classical poets.

Fatima Mehru said it was positive that new voices were appearing especially through social media platforms and new experiences were being done in poetry. Regarding themes of poetry, she said loneliness was a common theme in contemporary poetry besides the poet’s own relationship with their surroundings and they were making ‘social comments’.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2024

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