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Sketches in creativity

A selection of essays by Shanul haq Haqqee give a brief and objective account of the literary personalities of his era

Sketches in creativity

Shanul Haq Haqqee spent his entire life among the literary personalities of the Indian subcontinent. Something that should not come as a surprise, as he himself was associated with one of the most arduous yet prestigious projects regarding the language that he loved the most: Urdu. Compiling a dictionary is no child’s play and Haqqee’s expertise in lexicography was of such a stature that even his worst detractors had come to appreciate it.

This was something Haqqee had partly inherited from his father who, too, was involved in the compilation of dictionary, working in close association with Maulana Abdul Haq. Maulana had worked all his life for the lexicographic clarity of the Urdu language in particular and literature in general— focusing on the compilation of the Urdu dictionary— while his organisation, the Anjuman-i Taraqqi-i Urdu had almost become synonymous with his name. Something that clearly depicted Maulana’s involvement and dedication to the work that he was doing.

From the sketches that Haqqee had written, it seems evident that his family also had extended and blood relations with some of the leading poets, writers and researchers of the Urdu language. He mentions the links that existed during the time he was writing the essays; which, despite having established his credentials as coming from a good family, must also have raised problems for him, since objectivity is likely to suffer in such matters.Sarwat Ali 1

Creative persons like poets, writers, painters and musicians tend to develop grouses among themselves, only because they are apparently more sensitive about matters which may appear to be minor or worthy of being brushed aside to the non-creative person. However, it is not too unusual for a poet to bad mouth other poets or to get the feeling of being victimised or persecuted. There may or may not be an objective cause for such a reaction but it is widely known to happen more often than not.

The best thing about Shanul Haq Haqqee, however, is the objectivity with which he has penned the sketches. He avoids being sensational and scandalous and keeps himself away from the ‘kiss and tell’ trend, prevalent at that time. It was quite possible for him to blow things out of proportions— belonging to the same community — but he religiously avoided doing so. Hence proving that he was not a part of the contemporary mindset that relished in pulling another person down, emphasising on the first person narrative to prove the veracity of the account. Therefore what he has written, perhaps, has more value than the more sensational stuff written with eyes on the sales and returns.

It is generally assumed that research or criticism kills creativity in a person. It has often happened that an overtly critical attitude snuffs the spark of creativity and leaves poets or fiction writers as mere critics or conscientious objectors. It seems that the same happened to Nadaan Dehlavi, Haqqee’s father. He was a good poet to begin with and his output too was quite adequate, but with the passage of time his output became a trickle of what it had been and then gradually dried altogether. He concentrated more and more on criticism and his work on the language that he had opted for. The researcher and lexicographer in him gained, but at the expense of the poet that he was.

Shanul Haq Haqqee has also written about certain women writers who were not that were well-known, since they wrote under a male pseudonym. Back in those times, there was a taboo attached to women attempting to express themselves and that too, before an audience comprising na-mehrams. But in the nineteenth and twentieth century they started to express themselves, hiding behind a male name; some were also encouraged to do so by the members of their immediate family. One such person was Zahida Khatoon, who was encouraged by her father to express herself but with a male pseudonym; it was later revealed that she was actually a woman. Qaisery Begum was another such woman. This attitude prevailed all over the world, including Europe. It was much later that women came into their
own to write under their own names— a trend that also encouraged women to express themselves in the subcontinent but much later.

The personalities Haqqee wrote about include Ze Khe Sheen (Zahida Khatoon), Nadaan Dehlavi, Khwaja Hasan Nizami, Agha Shaer Dehlavi, Maulvi Abdul Haq, Maulana Niaaz, Tilok Chand Mehroom, Mumtaz Hasan, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Qaisery Begum, Pir Hassam-ud-Din Rashidi,
Josh Malihabai, Rais Amrohvi, Farman Fatehpuri, Aziz Mirza, Zafar Alam, Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi, Sahar Ansari and Jan Nisar Akhtar.

Book: Nigar khana (Selection of Shanul Haq Haqqee’s literary essays)
Author: Shanul Haq Haqqee
Publisher: Oxford
Pages: 268
Price: Rs 450/-

Sarwat Ali

The author is a culture critic based in Lahore

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