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Wednesday July 06, 2022

40 years on, Muneeza Hashmi writes back to her father

May 28, 2022

The jam-packed Haseena Moin Hall at the Arts Council of Pakistan echoed on Friday evening with memories and lessons of wisdom from the life of the most beloved poet of Pakistan, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, as his youngest daughter Muneeza Hashmi launched a book on her father, titled ‘Conversations With My Father: Forty Years On, A Daughter Responds’.

A former general manager of the Pakistan Television, Muneeza said that as she got the idea to have her father’s letters to her published, her son remarked that it would be something boring and she should rather publish those original letters after writing responses to them.

She said her original responses to Faiz’s letters had most probably been destroyed as her father travelled a lot and might not be able to keep them preserved. She added that her son’s suggestion struck the chord with her and she decided to reply to her late father’s letters again to express how she felt and what outlook on life she had developed 40 years after his death.

Author and veteran journalist Ghazi Salahauddin, in his speech, discussed the problem of the book’s genre. He said it was difficult to answer on which shelf of a library the book should be kept. He, however, added that one thing was sure that it was not a piece of fiction.

Salahuddin said the book could also not be included in the genre of letters as the intended recipient of Muneeza’s letters was physically not present in the world and so the work was imaginative. He said the book was to some extent a coffee table book because it had been printed with lots of colours and pictures and to some extent it was a memoir.

The author said she had written the letters to her father in English as she thought her Urdu was not that good. She added that Faiz was also under the impression that her Urdu was weak, due to which he always wrote to her in Urdu but she replied back to him in English.

The other speakers at the event, who included the author’s elder sister Saleema Hashmi, poet Zehra Nigah, music composer Arshad Mehmud and television personality Mehtab Akbar Rashdi, spoke on streaks of sadness spread all over the book, which they said were a result of Muneeza’s regret of not spending as much time with her father as she should have, because when she was a child, her father was incarcerated for several years and when she had grown up, he was a celebrity poet and activist who was owned by the public at large and hence he did not get much time to fully dedicate it to his daughters.

Mehmud’s eyes welled up as he fondly remembered Faiz and said now he lamented utilising every moment elsewhere that he could have spent in the legendary poet’s company.

Mehtab called the book spellbinding, saying that she had been enthralled by the love of Muneeza for her father who actually went to foreign lands to trace the life of Faiz. She said the author went to Srinagar to find and see the building where her parents had tied the knot. Similarly, she made the best use of her British passport, which she had got due to her mother Alice Faiz, to go to Palestine and experience the troubled state about which Faiz deeply cared.

Saleema, who is four years older than Muneeza, recalled the first time police reached their house to arrest their father. She said that her younger sister was too young to understand the situation and her mother had to convince her that her father was not a thief, a murderer or any other sort of criminal. However, after several years when Muneeza again experienced the same situation with police coming to their house to arrest Faiz, she thoroughly enjoyed Alice calling names to the police.

The audience was much delighted to hear Zehra, who wrote the preface to the book, recall memories of Faiz with whom she spent a lot of time in the United Kingdom. The audience burst into laughter when she recalled how couples requested Faiz to solemnise their marriages and he did not turn down those requests.

The speakers also paid rich tribute to Alice, saying that it was she who brought up her daughters alone when her husband was jailed.

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