The Seraiki short story writer, poet and dramatist Mussarat Kalanchvi is the first writer to publish Seraiki short stories. She was born in Bahawalpur on 10 November 1956. Her plays in Seraiki have been regularly telecast by Pakistan Television and Radio Pakistan. She has participated in many national and international conferences on literature and won several awards.
In 2007 she was awarded Fatima Jinnah medal by the government of Punjab. In 2006 she received National Book Foundation award. Prior to this she won national literary prize from Academy of Letters Pakistan in 2003 and PTV National Award in 2002. She also received graduate award for Best TV Drama Writer in 2002. The News on Sunday talked to her about her contributions to Seraiki literature and things that motivated her in life. Following are the excerpts of the interview
The News on Sunday: You come from an affluent background but your writings focus on deprivation, miseries of people and injustice.
Mussarat Kalanchvi: Yes, you are right. My childhood was quite comfortable as I was born in a middle-class family. My wishes were fulfilled within no time. As the youngest child, I grew up on tales of kings, queens, princes and princesses. In spite of this I was interested in knowing about the life of ordinary people who were in majority and surrounded us. I could not disassociate myself from them and felt their pain. It was this feeling that compelled me to write. You will be surprised to know that I did not read literature at master’s level. I have done my masters in Islamic history from Islamia University Bahawalpur.
TNS: When did you start writing?
MK: My father was an educationist, researcher and a literary person. He had set up a library in our house. He would bring children magazines and I would read them keenly. I once wrote down a folk tale which I had heard from my mother and sent it to Daily Imroz. The newspaper published it and I received encouraging response from different people including my father. I also participated in story-writing competitions and won several times. This was a turning point in my life and I started focusing on creative writing.
TNS: Which literary personalities inspired you the most?
MK: I would say Krishan Chandar, Saadat Hassan Manto, Ashfaq Ahmed, Bano Qudsia, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Ismat Chughtai have been my favourite writers. I have read them extensively. Though I initially wrote stories in Urdu my father convinced me to write in my mother tongue Seraiki.
TNS: Most of your dramas and short stories are in Seraiki. Do you think you have lost a huge audience by not writing in Urdu and English?
MK: No doubt the readers of Seraiki literature are in smaller number but I would say people can best express themselves in their mother tongue. I simply expressed myself in mother tongue. Actually Seraiki language is richer than Urdu, English, Punjabi and other languages. There are many Seraiki words which do not have a substitute in other languages. I cannot understand why the government of Punjab is not paying attention to mother languages.
Once I visited Zhob in Balochistan. There, I read an advertisement for job which stated that candidates who spoke Seraiki would be given preference because inhabitants of Zhob were Seraikis. Khairpur Radio has a primetime slot for Seraiki programmes although Seraiki population there is not that big. In Balochistan, Seraiki language has been declared a compulsory subject in schools. The question is why Seraikis are deprived in Punjab despite having more population than Punjabis.
TNS: You have written dramas for both radio and television? Which is a more difficult medium?
MK: I would say writing drama for radio is more challenging than writing for television. Unlike the drama written for television and theatre, since you don’t have visuals. You have to convey everything through script and dialogues. I have experimented a lot with radio. In fact I am a pioneer in this field as I got involved with Radio Pakistan when it was inaugurated in 1975. Paikian di Naukran, the first drama aired by Radio Pakistan was written by me. Besides, producer Nasrullah Khan Nasir assigned me the task to write a drama in Seraiki — Siani Sawani for women. There were several other plays which I wrote for radio.
TNS: Themes of your writings are mostly women and their helplessness. Were there any personal experiences that led you to choose these themes?
MK: Women are a heavenly gift of god. They must be treated equally. Personal experience is not necessary to realise this. I think keen observation and strong imagination can help you write effectively on any subject that you choose.
TNS: You are a liberal storywriter and normally liberals do not write religious books. What inspired you to write a book on Seerat-un-Nabi?
MK: I had a spiritual upbringing and my family’s roots go back to Hazrat Bibi Fatima. That is how I wrote two books — one is Makki Madni (Seerat) and second is “Hazoor Ka Bachpan aur Larakpan” (Childhood and youth of Mohammad pbuh). I am a teacher of Islamic history. My book on Seerat was published in 2003 and Academy of Letters rewarded it with the best Seraiki book of 2003.
TNS: As a professor of Islamic history what would you say about Mahmood Ghaznavi who attacked the Indian subcontinent 17 times and the Mughal King Aurangzeb?
MK: I think our history needs to be re-written and definition of a hero has to be revised. How can invaders be our heroes? Mahmood Ghaznavi was not a saviour rather he was an intruder. He looted and massacred people and carried the booty with him to his country.
Aurangzeb Alamgir put his old father in prison and blinded his brother for power. How is he a hero? How can Aurangzeb be a good ruler who made caps from date leaves for livelihood? How can ordinary people be prosperous in such a scenario? I have the same opinion which historian Dr Mubarak Ali has. The fake heroes must be exposed.