KARACHI, Dec 18: Shaukat Siddiqui, one of the greatest writers of Urdu fiction in the modern era, died at his residence of cardiac arrest on Monday. He was 83. “He had a protracted heart problem. His condition deteriorated this evening and he died of cardiac arrest on the way to a private hospital at 5.30pm,” Zafar Siddiqui, the writer’s eldest son, told Dawn.
He is survived by two sons and three daughters.
According to the family, the funeral would be held at Ali Masjid, Khayaban-i-Hafiz, Phase-VI, DHA, after Zuhar prayers.
Shaukat Siddiqui, who was born in Lucknow in 1923, was also an accomplished journalist. His forte was the portrayal of the life of a section of Karachi’s underworld. According to critics, no other Karachi writer has studied the life of ‘wretched of the earth’ so candidly.
Shaukat Siddiqui’s first collection of short stories was `Teesra Admi’ (1952). The collection earned him fame across the Sub-continent and placed him in the ranks of literary giants like Quratul Ain Haider and Joginder Paul. Subsequently, other collections of short stories, `Andhere Dur Andhere’, (1955), `Raton Ka Shahar’ (1956) and `Keemyagar’ (1984), followed.
But his magnum opus is `Khuda Ki Basti’. Leading newspapers rated the epic as one of the bestsellers of the 1960s. Khuda Ki Basti needs no introduction for the true readership of classic Urdu literature. The work brings out abject poverty and its attending consequences with aplomb.
Khuda Ki Basti, which went through 50 editions, has been dramatised time and again and translated into 26 languages. The story of Sultana, a young woman, and her hapless brother Annu survive calamity after calamity, including the medically facilitated murder of their mother by her second husband. The vulnerability of a family without its head is shown as it falls apart with the children exploited in every way by characters who are always lurking around the corner.
Critics say the late Siddiqui describes the events and characters with minute detail in this novel without defending them or apologising for them. His wonderful understanding of the underworld makes him a spokesman for the working class.
Other novels of Shaukat Siddiqui are `Kamingah’ (1956), `Jangloos’ (1988) and `Char Deewari’ (1990).
“Char Deewari” depicts Shaukat Siddiqui’s nostalgia for his childhood days in Lucknow. At an event in Doha, where Shaukat Siddiqui was honoured for his huge literary contributions to Urdu literature four years ago, he had been asked whether he had been to Lucknow since his migration from that city, he emphatically answered in the negative, saying he couldn’t have written `Char Deewari’ had he visited the present-day Lucknow.
“I do not want to say goodbye to the Lucknow of my childhood days, and hence the novel. Lucknow, I know, has changed its peculiarities over the years, and it is not the same Lucknow which I knew and which still dominates my memories.”
TRIBUTES: Intizar Hussain, another leading Urdu fiction writer, columnist and contemporary, was shocked to learn about his death.
“He was the greatest in present-day Urdu fiction; he was immensely popular; he wrote about people for the people and was among the few writers who reached out to the common man,” Mr Hussain told Dawn.
He said Siddiqui’s death marked the second blow to Urdu literature this year – the earlier being the death of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi.
Playwright and journalist Munnoo Bhai said Shaukat Siddiqui was an illustrious name in Urdu short story, novel and drama and his novel, Khuda Ki Basti, is immortal and would remain an attraction for TV producers for a long time to come.
Munnoo Bhai said Siddiqui was a great name in journalism as well, recalling that during his stint as editor of the Musawat he introduced various trends that became the norm afterwards.