Between Clay and Dust: Dastan-e-Musharraf Ali Farooqi
By Sher Khan
LAHORE: Acclaimed author and translator Musharraf Ali Farooqi has been touring across Pakistan, promoting his new novel, Between Clay and Dust, an intertwined story about a wrestler, Ustad Ramzi, and a courtesan Gohar Jan, both in the twilight of their lives.
In a tete-a-tete with The Express Tribune, Farooqi — who made a splash in 2007 with his English translation of Dastan-e-Amir Hamza (The Adventures of Amir Hamza) — reveals how he came to write his recently released novel, his future plans and more.
When asked what inspired him to write about a wrestler and whether he had actually watched any matches, Farooqi says; “I never got a chance to watch one. I always thought I would go and see it but it never happened.” It took him around 10 years to construct the story, which revolves around an akhara (a wrestling arena). “So I had to research this, and I acknowledged that in the book. However, research can take you only thus far which means and so whatever happens thereafter is all imagination.”
Farooqi’s career has been less than conventional; first briefly attending NED University of Engineering and Technology and then working as a journalist for The News International where he met his wife, Michelle. Shortly after their marriage in 1994, the couple migrated to Canada. However, they returned to Karachi in 2009 because of the passing of Farooqi’s father.
The writer is a multi-tasker, who divides his time between translations of Urdu texts and writing novels and books for children. Explaining his trajectory into the world of writing, he says, “I wanted to be a writer for children; my biggest ambition was to have a picture book. But I think a writing career never really comes out of any plans; it comes about from a deep exchange with books.”
Although he just done with Between Clay and Dust, the author has already started work on more projects. His book Rabbit Rap, a graphic fable about a group of disaster prone, self-destructive rabbits who invite endless troubles because of their reckless ways, will be released in July this year. The book will include illustrations by his wife, who is an illustrator, cartoonist and book-designer by profession.
Apart from that, he is also currently working on a novel called A Heroine of Our Time, which revolves around a group of people from different backgrounds who have a common passion — books. He hopes to finish the Heroine of Our Time this year and possibly release it as early as next year.
The third project that he is working on simultaneously will be an expansion of The Goat Spy Letters, a political satire column that he wrote for The Express Tribune. “The letters were part of a bigger narrative and now that bigger narrative is coming,” explains Farooqi.
However, this plethora of fiction writing has also delayed his magnum opus translation of Tilism-e Hoshruba, a planned eight-year project which will consist of 24 volumes.
Passion and perfection seem to dominate Farooqi’s demeanour and as a result, he is not scared of being critical and questioning the literary trends and ideas. “These things should never worry a writer because a writer should be able to create his own environment and culture,” he says conclusively.