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JANUARY 2002 Contents
Asian Art -
at Every Alien Door'
Page 1 of 3
- Evolution & trends
Professor Gilani Kamran
At the time of partition in 1947 Pakistan shared the literary culture of the Indian sub-continent which had a history and a long line of distinguished literary reputation. Iqbal and the Progressive Writers appeared in its immediate perspective, and this phenomenon of writing related Pakistan to its literary past. But unfortunately, fratricidal riots on the eve of independence gave birth to a widely different and ominous situation where the decline and fall of human nature made many values and things questionable, and a literature based on communal tension, on mass massacres, arson, and on the refugee camps, emerged under the stress of a large scale migration of people from one dominion to the other. It was a highly distressing state of affairs, and along with it, a new brand of fiction appeared, which is generally known as the Tales of the Riots, and describes the holocaust of the Partition. As a matter of fact, Pakistan had come into being in the travail of this sad experience.
The Era of Short Story
The writers who wrote the stories about the riots were rather too close to the areas of the woeful incidents, and had mostly observed the happenings as eyewitnesses. M Aslam (Raks-e-Iblis: The Devil’s Dance) and Rasheed Akhtar Nadvi (The Fifteenth of August) and Qudratullah Shahab (Ya Khuda: Oh God) represent the pathos of human suffering in their tales. They give the scenes of ruthless killings, and the life in refugee camps where men, women and children are exposed to uncertainties and hardships of every kind. Of the writers of his time only Saadat Hassan Manto (1912-1955) could have a detached view of the genocide on both sides of the border. He was able to turn pain-giving events into great literature. He remained impartial, took no sides, and wrote with detachment and passion about the atrocities committed in a state of utter madness. As a matter of fact, the crisis of human nature and the decline in moral conduct and behaviour during those early years of independence form the structure of Saadat Hassan Manto’s stories about the Partition.
The first ten years after Independence were a period of hectic human activity and of movement of people in Pakistan. The refugees from East Punjab, and immigrants from various provinces of the subcontinent were faced with the problems of rehabilitation and of adjustment with a new environment in Pakistan. There was also the problem of settlement, which gave rise to psychological and sociological questions, attitudes and complexes, and shaped an amorphous human situation in the country. Realism was the most effective instrument to capture the new mode of life. Hameed Akhtar’s short stories (La-makaan), Qurratulain Haider’s Housing Society, Ibraheem Jalees’ social reportage (Chor Bazaar, The Underworld) and Shaukat Siddiqui’s Khuda ki basti (The Blessed Dwelling Place) provide an insight into the making of a new social reality in the country. What was however interesting was the quality of character-study, which the larger issues and problems had added to simple characterisation. The fiction of the period describes the inner contradictions of men and women, and the polarisation among people when their interests clash with one another. The short story of this period can be treated as a micro-cosmic image of how the new nation-state of Pakistan was formed and consolidated in the strain and stress of unwieldy circumstances. Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi’s short stories portray the effect of the social change on the population in small towns and villages. The fiction of the period was largely progressive in its tone and spirit, and though the Progressive Writers’ Association had ceased to function by 1951, the habit of writing in its tradition had continued during the period.
Intizar Husain’s Chand Grehan (The Lunar Eclipse) was published in 1953, and was followed by another short story Dinn (The Day) published in 1956. He wrote short stories in a widely different framework. – the experience of migration to Pakistan. He expounded the concept of Hijrat, and looked upon the experience of migration within an extended perspective of individual and collective memories. The old home in Agra and Oudh is remembered not in a fit of nostalgia but as an invigorating source of inspiration in the new environment where the immigrant intends to build his new home. Nevertheless, Intizar Husain’s fictional imagination gradually portrays the effect of social factors on the moral life of men in a sequence of short stories and witnesses the decline of human nature in the surroundings of material temptation. His short stories titled Akhri Aadmi (The Last Man), and Zard Kutta (The Discoloured Dog) published in 1967, give an anxious and sorrowful commentary on the material condition of man in the formative years of the new country. Intizar Husain’s Aagay Samundar hai (Beytond lies the Sea) published in 1995 portrayed the situation of the Urdu speaking people in an environment which was given to violence, insecurity, and lack of hope. Intizar Husain has evoked the Urdu speaking people’s memory-based past, and has impelled them to face the biggest question of their existence: "Where to be?"
Mumtaz Mufti (d.1996) is remembered for his short stories based on psychological realism. But it is, in fact, his image of the Muslim girl, which makes his fiction relevant to the view of life in Pakistan. The womenfolk in his fictional world do not grow old; they remain and stay as girls in their impressionistic age-group. His short stories begin with the purdah-observing young girl who is educated on conventional lines, and is modest and shy. She is perceived along the traditional Asghari model, and when in love, hardly expresses it in so many words. In Mumtaz Mufti’s panoramic world, this young Muslim purdah-clad girl gradually changes, not only educationally and socially, but also within the family. Her behaviour also undergoes transformation, and in contrast to the earlier Aapa or the elder sister image, the reserved, suffering and non-communicative girl, she becomes frank, open, assertive and self-confident. Modern education. too, shapes and forms her, and she participates in conversation on philosophy, aesthetics and on the more controversial issues of the male-dominated society and male chauvinism. The girls in Mumtaz Mufti’s last stories are emancipated non-purdah girls, and they appear to imperceptibly pass into allegorical figures. In this role they become visionaries and crave for the truth to seek fulfilment in their partially dissatisfied existence.
In 1988, Mahmud Wajid’s collection of short stories, Mausam ka Masiha (The Redeemer of Weather) described the plight of the Biharis in an indifferent and insensitive world.
Athar Tahir’s collection of short stories in English was published in 1990. Rukhsana Ahmed’s collection of short stories appeared in 1992. Her short story The Nightmare describes the nostalgia and anguish of a Pakistani young woman in Britain where she has faced acute problems of adapting to an alien culture. It is a pathetic tale of dislocation, and projects the problem of exposure to foreign cultures in the life of Pakistani women.
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