By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: It was a cerebral experience listening to Dr Aslam Farrukhi describing and giving a life sketch of Urdu literature’s renowned writer Mohammad Husain Azad in fluid prose.
The occasion was the launch of a book of selected writings of Azad, Nigaristan-i-Azad, compiled by Dr Aslam Farrukhi, at the Arts Council Karachi on Thursday evening. Writer Intizar Husain presided over the event. Well-known Indian scholar and critic Shamsur Rahman Farooqi was the chief guest.
Dr Fatima Hasan was the first speaker. She said Dr Farrukhi’s prose had the same charm and flow as Azad’s. The marked feature of Dr Farrukhi’s writing was his command over the Urdu language and his love for humanity. It was befitting that in the year marking the 100th death anniversary of Mohammad Hussain Azad, a book as high in standard as Nigaristan-i-Azad was being celebrated.
Writer Masood Asher praised Dr Farrukhi’s narrative and said he had written sketches of not only known personalities but also of people who were not famous and yet deserved literary attention. While discussing Azad, Masood Asher emphasised the need for undertaking research work on Azad who was known to be a British agent – a fact that may have had a significant impact on his psychological well-being. He mentioned James Joyce and said the author of the acclaimed novel Ulysses was a schizophrenic and his medical condition might have played a role in his creative endeavours.
Poetess Fahmida Riaz said Dr Farrukhi, along with Intizar Husain and Shamsur Rahman Farooqi, belonged to a rare breed of writers and their writings should be made part of different courses so that students could learn from them. She said Dr Farrukhi had paid tribute to Azad with love and care, particularly it was very moving the way he had described the last days of Azad’s life.
Touching upon Azad’s controversial status, Ms Riaz said when the British snatched power from the hands of Muslims, the latter became bitter and began cherishing their past glory. This gave way to an attitude of discrediting whatever new came their way. It was this kind of attitude that made people unjustly criticise their well-wishers like Sir Syed (who was too labelled an agent) and Altaf Husain Hali. Azad also became a victim of propaganda. Today we were faced with a similar kind of a problem, where we had to choose between marching forward and going backwards, she said. The poetess claimed that Azad was perhaps responsible for introducing the subject of anthropology into the subcontinent.
Dr Farrukhi began his speech by saying that he was a student of literature and an admirer of Mohammad Hussain Azad. He said from the moment he read Azad he couldn’t help getting impressed with him. Then he read out a very touching and eloquent piece in which the reader was to meet Mohammad Hussain Azad. It carried a brief account of the writer’s life, the personal ordeals he had to undergo, his tryst with Ustad Zauq as his mentor and then the later stage when he seemed to lose his mental balance. The piece was very well received by the discerning audience.
Shamsur Rahman Farooqi said he had come to acknowledge Dr Farrukhi’s writing and creative prowess. He said that when you love someone you sometimes tend to exaggerate. He said Azad’s book Aab-i-Hayat cast a spell on later generations, which had its positive as well as negative effects. He wanted people to look to new ways and shun some cultural conventions and traditions, which was debatable. Aab-i-Hayat had mistakes and it’s up to researchers and scholars to identify them, he said. However, he acknowledged, Azad was perhaps the greatest prose writer of the subcontinent.
Writer Intizar Husain said Shamsur Rahman Farooqi had touched off some interesting and debatable points, which should be left for some other time. He said once famous critic Askari had mentioned to him that Azad’s style was close to James Joyce’s technique, which he initially couldn’t understand, but after reading one of Azad’s books Askari’s comments echoed in his mind. He praised Dr Farrukhi for collecting some of the very fine pieces of Azad’s writings like a capsule, some of which he hadn’t read before.