MUHAMMAD MANSHA YAAD….Shakhasiyat aur Fun by Aslam Sirajuddin; pp 346; Price Rs350 (hb); Publishers Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad.

The book under review is part of a series, Pakistani Adab Kay Ma’amaar, launched by the Academy of Letters. Here Pakistani Adab means the literature in Urdu and other languages spoken in Pakistan. The literature of writers of these languages is older than the history of Pakistan where Rig Ved has so far not been recognised as the production of Pakistani areas. So is the case with Bhartari Hari and the first versifier of the story of Heer-Ranjah Damodar of Jhang. Another example is that though the Academy has published a special issue in the memory of the late Amrita Preetam (born in Pakistan and migrated to India after Partition) she may not be taken as the architect of Pakistani Punjabi literature.

Another aspect of this series is that many important writers (belonging to Rawalpindi) like Jamil Malik, Ahmad Zafar, Afzal Parvaiz, Abdul Aziz Pitrat and Baqi Siddiqi could not attract the favour of the Islamabad-based Academy. I personally know that on the initiative of the Academy, a book on Jamil Malik was assigned to one of the writers of Rawalpindi which was compiled but the Academy backed out and the book was privately published.

Muhammad Mansha Yaad is fortunate that a good book on his life and literary achievements has been published this year by the Academy. In the book, the most comprehensive article has been contributed by short-story writer Aslam Sirajuddin from Mansha’s neighbouring district Gujranwala. Mansha was born in Sheikhupura, once part of Gujranwala district. Aslam has used this geographical link and before writing his article he visited the places where Mansha was born and educated and met his family.

With 10 books of fiction to his credit, Mansha was born in 1937 in Thattha Nishtran, a village close to Farooqabad, earlier known as Sachha Soda, somehow associated with Baba Nanak. He did his matriculation from Hafizabad and got a diploma in engineering from Rasul College. He joined the government service in 1958, did his graduation in 1965 and masters in Urdu and Punjabi in 1967 and 1972. His first collection of short stories in Urdu, Band Mutthi Mein Jugnoo, was published in 1975 and the first collection of Punjabi stories in 1987.

He developed his interest in fiction at the very tender age. His mother used to narrate Punjabi folk songs, tales and popular versified stories to young Mansha who almost became addict to narration of stories and even asked guests to tell him any story. Such upbringing turned an engineer into a short story writer who emerged as a good quality writer in the subcontinent. According to Mansha his first story was published in a children’s magazine when he was the student of the seventh class.

In the early sixties, Islamabad was a desolate place but when its rehabilitation started, Mansha tried to establish a literary society there. He was a regular visitor to Halqa-i-Arbab-Zauq’s weekly meetings in Rawalpindi. He wanted a Halqa in Islamabad and he raised it, making it a throbbing circle with the cooperation of writers like Mumtaz Mufti etc. Many prominent writers, critics and contemporary fiction writers have evaluated his creative writings in top Urdu magazines of the subcontinent and the extracts of those articles have been included in the book (this section is spread over 70 pages). The best tribute to Mansha was paid by the late Amrita Preetam who not only included his stories in her prestigious magazine Naagmani but also translated and transcribed in Gurmukhi script. Her comments have also been included in the section.

Though Mansha has contributed only one collection of short stories to Punjabi but his novel ‘Tanwan Tanwan Tara’ is a milestone in Punjabi fiction. Mir Tanha Yousufi and Nazeer Kahut have contributed thick novels to Punjabi. Mansha believes that in the Punjab, early education should be imparted in the mother tongue of the children. The book also includes an interview with Mansha and a poem by Anwar Masud which ends on the following verse.

The novel referred to is the only novel Mansha has published so far.

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SUNEHA … magazine of Punjabi Adabi Sangat; editors Aashiq Raheel, Snawar Chadharr and Nabeel Shad; pp 64; price Rs25; published from 6 Khyber Park, Main Outfall Road, Sant Nagar, Lahore This is a special issue on Punjabi poet Hayat Pasruri, an active member of the Majlis-i-Ahrar. This anti-British religious organisation was close to the Congress. Hayat was also attached with the Congress and in 1947 he was vice president of the District Sialkot Committee. Some of his poems were published in pamphlets. Born in 1917, he was employed in an army clothing factory of Wah, from where he was dismissed for reciting an anti-government poem in a public meeting. Later on, he was arrested and imprisoned many times. In one of his poems, he ridiculed both the Muslim League and Pakistan on the occasion of distribution of one-yard cloth piece, a gift from Japan, distributed to each Pakistani man. Only He said:

(With that length neither League nor Muslim can be covered). It is a good attempt to remember a freedom fighter poet. —STM