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A Fitting Homage Reviewed By Humair Ishtiaq
FOR those who ply their trade in public, be they writers, sportsmen, artists or anything else, it is not easy to have a legendary pedigree behind them. The people and the critics alike tend to put them under scrutiny all the time, comparing even their initial, hesitant steps with the major strides already catalogued by their parents in their prime. Rather than being of any help, the bloodline often represents the excess baggage such individuals have to carry willingly or otherwise. Anyone among these poor souls with the intention to be considered on their own merit has to be twice as good, if not more.
Quratulain Hyder was, indeed, one such spirit. She had to be twice as good, and twice as good she was. The fact that for a better part of her life she was taken by the world as an individual, and not as the daughter of Sajjad Hyder Yaldram and Nazar Sajjad, bears ample testimony to the originality of her intellect, to the power of her pen and to the skill of her craft. Though she made waves with her initial writings as well, it was with Aag Ka Darya, her magnum opus, that she shed that baggage once and for all. When she crossed over to eternity last year, there was hardly a mention of who her parents were. Few have been able to shed that baggage so completely.
Quratulain Hyder’s use of ‘stream of consciousness’ as a preferred technique comes from her study of global literature where it was first used by Frenchman Edouard Dujardin and later, more famously, by the likes of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.
The publication under review marks the first anniversary of her death and is a creditable tribute to the memory of that remarkable writer. Including more than 50 write-ups from the literati on both sides of the geographical divide, a handful of short stories that are not part of her published repertoire, and a few pieces of personal correspondence, the latest issue of the literary magazine Roshna’ee has taken a wholesome view of a great life both as a person and as a professional.
In doing so, the publication has brought to fore certain aspects of her life that are not well known to her readers. Take, for instance, the case of her interest in music, painting, photography and even journalism which were generally no-go areas for Muslim women during her youth.
Encouraged by her family, she not only took lessons in such disciplines, but also practised them whenever she felt like doing so. Apart from her sense of history and the wide scope of her reading, it was probably this instinct of dabbling in a variety of things that helped her get into the minds of her characters that keep popping in and out of her multi-layered, multi-generational novels.
Her use of ‘stream of consciousness’ as a preferred technique also comes from her study of global literature where it was first used by Frenchman Édouard Dujardin and later, more famously, by the likes of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. A number of writers in the current volume of Roshna’ee have shed light on how well she could manage to employ a format that was almost alien to Urdu literature, until she experimented with it.
Roshna’ee: Quratulain Hyder Number Edited by Ahmad Zainuddin Zain Publications, Karachi 560pp. Rs100