KARACHI, Oct 9 Critics and men of letters highlighted the finer points of Dr Sher Shah Syed's literary writings and his personal and professional life at the launch of a new collection of his short stories titled 'Dil ne kaha nahin' at the PMA House on Saturday evening. The programme was presided over by Anwar Ahsan Siddiqui.

Writer and columnist Zahida Hina, who was the first speaker of the evening, started off by painting the picture of contemporary times in which division on the basis of colour, caste, creed and gender discrimination had caused a tumult in society. She said all such disparities were reflected in literary creations. She pointed out that Dil Ne Kaha Nahin was Dr Syed's ninth collection and in terms of his writings he's not just a Pakistani citizen but an international citizen. She argued Dr Syed had written stories on Karachi and all those communities (Jews, Christians, Parsis, Hindus etc), who were once an integral part of the city, with bravery.

Zahida Hina referred to one story from the book, Jazba-i-Shahadat (about a suicide bomber) and indicated the backwardness and illiterate state of mind of a group of people who didn't even want to use the word 'Khuda' instead of Allah. She said one story Kitna Bara Jhoot depicted the kind of savagery and barbarity that had crept into society. She said through his writings Dr Syed had also shaken the conscience of the Muslim Ummah.

Zahida Hina claimed the reason Dr Syed had taken the title of the book from one of pop singer Michael Jackson's poems was that it delineated the fact that the singer was against war, ill treatment of women, and against class disparities.

Hasan Manzar was the next speaker. He primarily spoke on Dr Syed's medical profession and how nicely he had conducted himself as a doctor. He said Dr Syed was a good surgeon who lent an attentive ear to his women patients, particularly to those who came with complicated gynaecological problems that in our society were not often discussed. He said Dr Syed not only treated his patients but empathised with them.

After that Dr Sher Shah Syed read a story Jazba-i-Shahadat from the book. He said he was supposed to read another tale but Dr Asif Farrukhi thought that in the light of the attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi's shrine, it would be apt to read Jazba-i-Shahadat. The audience listened to the tale with rapt attention.

The last speaker of the evening was writer and columnist Anwar Ahsan Siddiqui. He said Dr Syed had quoted Michael Jackson because the latter was concerned about the social unevenness that existed in the world. Similarly Pakistani society was also suffering from different kinds of problems. He said in a profession in which all that the doctors were after was making money Dr Syed had a heart of gold as he was doing justice to his profession. He said by treating his patients with compassion and care, the writer managed to create powerful stories. Despite being a busy doctor, how does he find time for literary pursuits, he asked?

Mr Siddiqui said Dr Syed's art could fall into the category of resistance literature. He said the writer had great social awareness and his stories were full of protest and resistance against oppression and discrimination. He asserted Dr Syed's narrative had the right kind of impact because he didn't use unnecessary symbolism or complex images to convey his message. Apart from being socially aware, Dr Syed was familiar with the political goings-on. He added his writings were about contemporary happenings, which is why the narrative of his stories was straight as an arrow so that it could reach a wider audience. However, he complained, the first person singular style of storytelling sometimes confused the reader, that is, whether the author was present in all of his stories.

Mr Siddiqui said women were one of the major subjects of Dr Syed's writings and he had tackled issues related to women in an effective way.

In the end publisher of the book Dr Asif Farrukhi thanked the participants of the programme.

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