Pakistan's literary world recently suffered a loss it would find hard to overcome with the passing of Zaka Ur Rehman, a distinguished short story writer and former Adab-e-Latif editor, just over a week ago.
Rehman's untimely demise, who had shifted from Karachi to Lahore, came as a shock for his contemporaries, as much for its suddenness as for the immense sense of loss the news brought with it.
Remembering his life and works at a gathering recently held in his honour, one his contemporaries, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, himself a renowned novelist and author, had urged all writers, critics and scholars to make an effort to explore Rehman’s work, citing his unique writing style for short stories as one of his fortes.
Four collections of Rehman’s Urdu short stories were published in his life - Zameen Aur Mein, Dard Aaye Ga Dabe Paayon, Khwab-e-Sangeen and Zaat Ke Andar. Later on, three of his collections were compiled into a single book.
He had also written two novelettes and also had a plan to publish a complete novel which, according to a friend of his, was about to be published as the compilation process had been completed.
During the time when Rehman was in Karachi, he served as a patron and guiding force for young writers and poets, holding regular meetings and discussions with those he knew would be the future of the field.
While serving as the editor of the magazine, he always followed his own concept of merit in approving and publishing the content, which was based on creativity and innovation. He also had the advantage of working with a chief editor, Siddiqa Begum, who entrusted him with complete authority to publish the works of his choice.
Once in a meeting with this scribe, Rehman had said that he was writing a novel that he felt would break all the old-fashioned standards of Urdu novel-writing. During the meeting, he also showed some of the portions of his novel, which were impressive.
The meeting was arranged by the then Adab-e-Latif assistant editor Ahmed Latif, who is also a writer, poet and journalist, and this meeting proved to be a memorable one as Zaka Ur Rehman spoke at length on the issues of communication in literature, creativity, content and formats.
He also told that the content was important and protest against negativity in life was important as well, but if the writer had failed to express the agony fully and powerfully, it could be everything but not a creative piece.
Rehman was amongst the writers who believed in freedom of expression and it was the part of his creativity as he thought it to be a part and parcel of creativity. In other words, freedom is inevitable for a writer and nobody should compromise on it.
His short stories are a reflection of his art and artistic view towards life and creativity. In his stories, his characters go to the dark places and ugly places to try to find the actual truth. His characters (monologues) are so excited and contented due to their brilliant understandings towards life and make it clear that they need no hurry. They are not very impatient to demonstrate themselves in this world in a hurry but they believe in eternity and one day they would be identified and recognised due to their truth.
A sense of deprivation and anguish is all around in his characters, who seem to be unhappy and depressed due to the social and political injustice and exploitation of mankind. With such strong narratives, the merit of his stories was also equally due to Rehman's creative and artistic flair.
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