You come across all sorts of people in life but there are some with whom you actually meet; you cherish the memories of the wonderful days spent in their company. If you have a knack of writing, you try to recapture those days and moments. Prof. Amjad Ali Shakir has shared with the readers a few such shards.
Masnad contains a number of sketches on literati like Muzaffar Ali Syed, Sharif Kunjahi, Dr Waheed Qureshi, K.K. Aziz, Ali Arshad Mir and a few others. Amjad Ali Shakir is no new entrant to this genre as he has to his credit another book of sketches that was published a few years back. A brilliant conversationalist, a left-leaning intellectual, an educationist, Shakir has been challenging the official history of the country through his other political books that are not as widely discussed as they should have been.
Urdu autobiographies and memoirs are what he loves to read. Thus he has a vast collection of almost all Urdu memoirs and autobiographies and he takes to task the writer if he distorted the facts or committed any other folly.
In Masnad, he writes a detailed and absorbing sketch of noted critic Muzaffar Ali Syed who was considered to be one of the most learned men of his times. The author found him not only a well-read man but also a flexible listener when it came to other people’s point of view.
Amjad Ali Shakir was a habitué of Pak Tea House where he met Syed sahib many times. At times he felt that Syed sahib patiently listened to blabbering of a cretin with utmost attention. He also remembers the day when he went to a book shop with Syed sahib as he wanted to purchase books on Persian literature. Syed sahib had just recovered from illness and the first thing he did after recovery was to visit the bookshop!
Compared to the lively and full of life portrait of Muzaffar Ali Syed, the sketch on Sharif Kunjahi is insipid. Perhaps, the author wasn’t that close to Sharif Kunjahi. He tries to paint a pithy and poignant portrait of Prof. Sohail Ahmad Khan. Amjad Ali Shakir found him a learned but reserved man who always kept to himself.
His friend Prof. Khalid Humayun took him to K.K. Aziz whom he admired a lot. Thus he saw K.K. Aziz closely and learnt many things about the scholar. The author claims that Aziz was completely dejected by the the way history was consigned to dustbin in Pakistan.
“Are you satisfied with your books,” he questioned K.K. Aziz. “I need to revise a few of my books as I intend to write differently now. I have realised that in the present circumstances historiography is a useless activity. That’s why I have started devoting time to literary books,” replied K.K. Aziz painfully.
In a detailed sketch, he does full justice to the Punjabi bohemian poet Ali Arshad Mir. Mir turns out to be a quite an easy-going and affable character who loves to live life on his own terms. Amjad Ali Shakir’s powerful sketch is informative as well as funny. He digs deep into the life of Nazeer Siddiqi and finds it ridden with complexes. He seems to have enjoyed writing this. There are many other sketches of known and lesser known literary men as well as a few of his colleagues. The sketch on Zia Aftab turns out to be hilarious as the writer removes layers from his personality.
In all there are seventeen sketches in the book and it’s not possible to share details of all. At times, one feels that Amjad Ali Shakir should not have included all these writings into this book as some of the writings don’t fall in the category of sketches. Shakir’s endearing prose is indeed an added advantage.