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A loss for literature

September 16, 2012

LITERATURE in Pakistan is a lot poorer after the death of Hajra Masroor. However, the veteran short-story writer has left an impressive body of work that will continue to influence future generations of Urdu writers. Born into a Lucknow family with literary tastes, Hajra Masroor was a versatile writer who worked in various media. She began publishing her short stories before Partition, with her first story published when she was only 16. Together with her equally gifted sister, writer Khadija Mastoor, she also recorded stories for All India Radio before Partition. To their credit, both sisters rose quite quickly on the subcontinent’s literary horizon, which at the time also featured major women writers such as Qurratulain Hyder and Ismat Chughtai. Hajra Masroor also worked for a time with the women’s wing of the Muslim League. After migrating to Pakistan, Hajra Masroor co-edited the literary journal Nuqoosh with Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi. However, the publication would court trouble from the authorities of the time due to its progressive leanings. Demonstrating her versatility, the writer also wrote the story and dialogue of a film Aakhri Station, which was shot in East Pakistan.

Critics described Hajra Masroor’s writing style as ‘simple yet effective’, while her use of symbols in her stories was also appreciated. Acquaintances recall she had a rational line of thought and was concerned about how society could be improved. Keeping with her progressive ethos, the writer also highlighted the oppression of women — especially in the rural areas — in her work. There was also an element of subtle satire in her writings. She won a number of awards, including recognition from the Majlis Taraqqi-i-Adab as well as from the Anjuman Farogh-i-Urdu Adab. Sadly, the writer was not able to pen her memoirs despite expressing a wish to do so.