KARACHI, March 11: Diverse views were expressed on the life and works of legendary Urdu fiction writer Ismat Chughtai at an event held to discuss the publication of the second edition of the book titled ‘Ismat Apa’ by Shakila Rafique at the Arts Council Karachi on Monday evening.

Prof Sahar Ansari, who presided over the event, appreciated the fact that some of the omissions which came to his notice in the first edition of Ismat Apa had been taken care of in the new version. He said these days in the nonfiction category three genres – autobiographies, travelogues and interviews – were very popular because in the three genres facts were described in a style used in fiction writing.

Shedding light on the book, Prof Ansari said it was an interview of Ismat Chughtai by Shakila Rafique, a short story writer. If such an endeavour was to succeed, it was important for both the interviewer and the interviewee to have a certain level of compatibility (mutabiqat). In that regard he gave the example of a TV interview of actor Dilip Kumar in which the interviewer asked him such inane questions as where he was born, what colour he preferred etc.

He said Ismat Chughtai was a forthright woman. She spoke her mind, which was why when someone once asked her to tell the young generation about the progressive writers, she replied that till how long she would hold the younger lot’s fingers and lead them. Praising the book he pointed out that Shakila Rafique had presented Ismat Chughtai the way she was and had discovered those aspects of her life which were not readily visible.

Poetess Azra Abbas, the chief guest, said there was a time when she did not think of Shakila much. But when she read Ismat Apa her views about the writer changed. She said like Ismat, Shakila had felt what she had written.

Shakila Rafique thanked the speakers and guests. She also read out an excerpt from the book.

Writer Sarwar Jawaid commended the narrative employed in the book and mentioned that despite not being a journalist the writer had conducted the interview in a very plausible manner.

Rahat Saeed said Shakila had highlighted every aspect of Ismat Chughtai’s life in a powerful interview. He conjectured that he recently saw a play based on the life of Saadat Hasan Manto performed by Sheema Kermani’s theatre group which must have been taken from the book Ismat Apa in which Manto had also been discussed.

Ambreen Haseeb Amber hosted the programme. She read out a very insightful paper on the subject. She said though the interview spanned only one evening, the atmosphere that it created by virtue of interesting questions and answers successfully grabbed the readers’ attention. The author had used the technique of fiction writing in her narrative. Going through the book felt as if all the pieces of a puzzle had come together and a clearer picture of Ismat Chughtai had emerged. She added that Shakila, like Ismat Chughtai, was a brave writer, which was the reason she had come up with a quality book.

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