Keeping with the tradition of ‘Yaad-e-Raftagan’, a session that is always held at the International Urdu Conference to pay tribute to prominent artistes who died in recent months, this year’s session remembered five literary personalities — Rasheed Amjad, Masood Ashar, Naseer Turabi, Jazib Qureshi and Musharraf Alam Zauqi — all of whom bade adieu to this world in 2021.
Short story writer and critic Rasheed Amjad, who passed way in March this year, was paid tribute by another fiction writer, Amjad Tufail, who had known Amjad personally since 1989.
Tufail said the late writer was born in Indian-held Kashmir and had to migrate with his parents to Rawalpindi in 1948. He was an academic by profession and attained professorship. Earlier, the moderator, Rizwan Zaidi, had mentioned that Amjad had earned a doctorate on the poetry of Meeraji.
Recalling the amicable personality of Amjad, Tufail said he was a loving person and all his friends could feel his immense love for them. The speaker said the late author had a tendency for trying new things and embracing innovations.
He said when Amjad started his literary career, he wrote traditional short stories but soon shifted his style to symbolism and penned various short stories under the movement of symbolism (Alamati Tehreek).
He also said the character of Murshid is in several stories penned by Amjad and it depicts our collective conscience. The speaker mentioned ‘Gamlay Mein Uga Hua Sheher’ and ‘Rait Par Girift’ as some of Amjad’s important short stories.
Two years ago, journalist and fiction writer Masood Ashar was a speaker at the Yaad-e-Raftgan session of the conference, where he spoke on Dr Enver Sajjad.
On Saturday, his contributions to Urdu journalism and literature, and his role as a mentor to many juniors was fondly remembered by literary personality Asghar Nadeem Syed, who claimed to be one of such persons who were mentored by Ashar.
Syed said not many people knew Ashar’s contributions to journalism. He informed the audience that after migrating from Rampur, Ashar tried odd jobs and then became a journalist. He eventually joined Imroz, a prominent progressive newspaper.
When progressive leaders decided to launch Imroz in Multan to spread ideas of the Progressive Movement in southern Punjab, Ashar was offered the role of resident editor, which he accepted.
He lived in Multan till 1978, when he was banished from the city by the administration after he published a gory picture following law enforcers’ shooting at workers on strike.
Syed said Ashar was not a prolific writer and his short stories were often inspired by political developments. He recalled that in the 1960s, he wrote a short story on the situation of East Pakistan as he had foreseen what tragedy was going to unfold there.
Poet Shahida Hasan, who has been on a visit to Karachi from Canada, remembered poet Naseer Turabi. She said she first saw Turabi at the house of Perveen Shakir where many literary personalities would come.
She said that when she was studying at the University of Karachi, Turabi was one of the most sought-after poets at mushairas. She said Turabi would often come to literary events with his friend Obaidullah Aleem, and both of them were extremely popular at mushairas.
The late poet was very much concerned about the linguistic acumen of new writers and poets, said Shahida. She added that Turabi wanted new writers to be proficient in the language before they tried to produce any literary work. She mentioned ‘Aks-e-Faryadi’ and ‘Laraib’ as some collections of his poetry.
The speaker said that when she heard the news of Turabi’s demise, she spontaneously recited one of his verses: “Nikal Ke Nargha-e-Shar Se Teri Panah Ki Samt / Main Aa Raha Hoon Mera Intizar Kar Maula”. Jazib Qureshi
Speaking on poet and critic Jazib Qureshi, poet Salman Siddiqui said he, along with Sahar Ansari and Manzar Ayubi, was responsible for keeping the literary atmosphere of Karachi alive.
The speaker said that when Qureshi started composing verses, he was initially ridiculed for his novel symbols and expression, but later he gained due praise for his poetic talents.
Siddiqui said Qureshi was a self-made man, who once had to work at a kiln where he was responsible to feed coal into the furnace.
He added that Qureshi had 22 books to his credit, of which eight were compilations of his poetic works. He also wrote criticism and specially focused on living writers in his critical works, explained the speaker.
At the end of his speech, Siddiqui recited some verses by Qureshi, such as “Gardishon Ne Mujhe Eejad Kia / Hunar-e-Koozagari Chaak Mein Hai” and “Mein Jo Likhoon To Chehragi Paye / Harf Ke Apne Khadd-o-Khaal Kahan”.
Musharraf Alam Zauqi
Perhaps Iqbal Khursheed deserved the most time at the session, as he had to speak on Indian novelist Musharraf Alam Zauqi, whose works are relatively unknown in Pakistan, but as Khursheed’s turn came, the moderator said he could only speak for five minutes because they had to end the session.
Making the most of his time, the speaker told the audience that although any creative artiste’s death was a tragedy, Zauqi’s death had more of a tragic element because he died when he was at the peak of his literary career and one of his novelettes was under publication.
Khursheed said Zauqi’s name was as important in the contemporary Urdu novel as the names of Asad Muhammad Khan and Mustansar Hussain Tarar.
Shedding light on the canvas of Zauqi’s novels, he said that among other subjects, the late novelist also discussed in his works how the digital age was transforming human beings and societies. His works also deal with the issue of Muslim identity in India after the Gujarat massacre.
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