That one story

October 19, 2014

In conversation with fiction writer Mahmood Ahmad Qazi

That one story

We had met many times at different places and were able to exchange a few pleasantries. A detailed meeting was something I had been looking for. I ha read a few of Mahmood Ahmad Qazi’s short stories as well as his translations of Latin American Literature into Urdu. His latest book Tilla Jogian Jadeed, comprises his longer fictional pieces.

Based in Gujranwala, Mahmood Ahmad Qazi is a brilliant fiction writer, translator and a leftist activist. He doesn’t care about self-promotion and does what he is best at: writing stories and readings books that are scattered in every room of his abode.

"I started reading books while I was in school and ‘Ana’ Library helped us a lot. I was in class nine when I read Thanda Gosht by Manto and it influenced me a lot. I could not detect any obscenity in the story at that time too as it was a masterpiece. I had an urge to write and thus my first short story was published in a magazine Qindeel whose editor was Sher Muhammad Akhtar," he says in a conversation at his home in Gujranwala.

Later, his stories appeared in magazines like Savera, Funoon, Auraq etc. He says that his relations with the editors were never ideal as he never compromised or tried to appease to get published. "A fiction writer should try to be a sheer fiction writer only as style is secondary thing and it evolves naturally."

"Readability is the hallmark of good fiction." He praises all novels of Mustansar Hussain Tarar but is particularly enamoured with Bahao. There are a few other novels which he mentions fondly. Rajinder Bedi’s Aik Chadar Meli See, and Ikramullah’s Gurg-e-Shab impressed him a lot. "We didn’t give Anis Nagi his due which is very sad. Deewar Kay Peechay by Nagi is a wonderful novel which should have been widely read and discussed."

Mahmood Ahmad Qazi has three short story books and a novelette to his credit so far. He has also written a short stories book in Punjabi. He was also an active member of Mazdoor Kisan Party and is witness to many episodes of the left movement in Pakistan. He says he still considers himself a leftist but does not spare the errors committed by the leftist leaders. "Despite being an active leftist, Marx never appealed to me in totality. I think his theory of alienation and surplus value will remain relevant; the rest is redundant. Our leftist leaders read Marx, Lenin and other literature but they never cared to read the society. This caused their downfall," Qazi says.

He says he is still trying to write that one story which will satisfy him, "If I succeed in writing that story I’ll retire and say adieu to my creative sojourn." So it is his restlessness that prods him into picking up the pen. He has had an eventful life as he attended every sort of gathering during his lifetime. He has learnt more from life as compared to books.

"I have read more people instead of books and that’s why I feel my fiction is more well-entrenched in my culture and locale. Literary sittings like Halqa Arbab-e-Zauq can’t train you in the realm of literature," he says. The reason he offers is that everyone has a vested interest and thus is unable to objectively judge your literary piece.

He has just finished a cultural history of Gujranwala in which he has recounted what the city was like in the days gone by. The book is being published shortly. He plans to bring out another collection of his short stories too. "I also feel that I should write my memoirs that are related to leftist activities. Let’s see if I will be able to do this," he says.

Almost touching seventy, he loves to pass most of his time in reading books and listening to classical music of which he has a big collection also. "I have never cared for critics and especially those PhD critics. I am just rehearsing to write a single story which has eluded me so far."

That one story