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LITERARY NOTES: Rasheed Amjad’s memoirs reveal political, literary secrets

LITERARY NOTES: Rasheed Amjad’s memoirs reveal political, literary secrets

Aashiqi sabr talab aur tamanna betaab

Dil ka kya rang karoon khoon-i-jigar hote tak

This couplet of Ghalib may roughly be translated as (though it is impossible to translate the rhetorical aspects as it has metaphors and idioms simply untranslatable or rendered ridiculous if translated verbatim):

“Love demands patience but desire wants immediate gratification

What am I to do with my heart until I reach the limits of patience?”

Rasheed Amjad’s newly published and aptly titled memoirs Aashiqi Sabr Talab, a sequel to his Tamanna Betaab, portrays the same dilemma: life has impatient, fretful desires and we usually lack the patience that is a must for attaining certain goals or finding true love.

As Amjad himself has noted in his preface to the book, Aashiqi Sabr Talab is not an autobiography written in a formal way. It is a blend of memoirs, reflections, analyses and the author’s point of view on different issues. It reflects not only Amjad’s life but also the times he has lived in.

The book gives an account of his early life in Srinagar where he was born on March 5, 1940. Then it moves on to the family’s migration to Pakistan, Amjad’s life and education in Rawalpindi, his jobs, as well as some political history and political events that took place in Pakistan’s early days. But, more importantly, the book tells how Amjad’s literary career began, developed and how he attained certain goals with his patience and constant hard work.

In addition to writers’ and intellectuals’ political affiliations, the book allows you a peep into the inner personalities of writers, poets and intellectuals, their eccentricities and inflated egos. A good portion of the book discusses the contemporary writers, their ideological belongings, attitudes, differences and literary careers. Many of such accounts read like interesting pen-sketches.

At times one feels that Amjad has mastered the art of letting you know something in a sentence or two in an unpretentious way, without letting you feel that what he has said is something very important, even secret. The reader finds many personalities and many secrets, political, literary or otherwise, revealed but in a sentence. But Amjad is a master storyteller too, so does not let you know directly what he says and one has to create and understand the background of that one single sentence that might require a whole new story. Those who know something about the background or have the ability to construct the background with a few cues dropped can truly appreciate and enjoy the whole story that is often untold. Many such ‘secrets’ are scattered on the pages of this book. But one has to be careful because this may cause some idols to fall and broken into pieces. Amjad does not mince his words, but at the same time he is very tactful and after dropping a hint just stops of saying things that might otherwise be taken as unpleasant.

Published by Lahore’s Saanjh Publications, the semi-autobiographical work shows how Rasheed Amjad with his hard work, patience, study and sincerity has earned what Ghalib calls “tamanna”, or desire. But in his preface Amjad says that he lacks the patience that is required to attain the desired goals. It is a kind of understatement, given in his usual down-to-earth style. He has earned kudos for his books, teaching, editing and fiction. He is respected as a critic, fiction writer and intellectual. But he deserves what he has earned with great patience to find his true love: literature and teaching.

As admitted by the author, the book may sound repetitive at times because he had to reconstruct some events and personalities that he had described in the earlier book Tamanna Betaab, first published in 2001. One feels it is justified as the incomplete description would have rendered such portions of the present work scanty. Since Tamanna Betaab covered the events that took place before 2001, Amjad picked the thread from where he had left, but it was inevitable to repeat a few things in order that the account is connected.

Aside from a few controversial or debatable aspects and a few portions where the writer has delved into some issues and has made it sound like an essay or commentary, the book is an absorbing read. It reveals some very important aspects of lives of many contemporary writers and politicians. The best thing is that it helps one understand the contemporary literary scene and background of many a literary and political events that took place a long ago, and to top it off, it reflects the society and times we are living in.

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Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2016

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