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Of writers and rebels

A recent book of profiles of men of letters by Irfan Javed carries a distinct flavour of fiction

Of writers and rebels

Darwazay is a collection of sketches drawn with pen by Irfan Javed, an energetic and serious man of diverse literary talents. With an acclaimed short story collection to his credit, he has also edited short stories for Asif Farrukhi and Muhammad Ilyas along with writing scholarly pieces on their fiction.

A voracious reader, Javed is entrenched in Urdu literature while keeping abreast of what is happening on the Western literary front. He started hobnobbing with renowned people from the world of art and literature, and cherished their pleasurable and enlightening company.

In his sketches, he has narrated moments he spent with towering figures like Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Ahmad Faraz, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Abdullah Hussain, Ahmad Bashir, Abdul Hameed, Tassaduq Sohail, Ata ul Haq Qasmi and Shakeel Adilzada. Most of these pieces are long and detailed, in which the author slowly peels off the multilayered personas of the litterateurs and artistes. Naseer Kavi, Javed Chaudhry and Muhammad Asim Butt are also artistes whom the author has introduced to the readers.

Distinguished critic and scholar Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s remarks that these are not merely sketches but in fact also carry a distinct flavour of fiction.

Javed starts with a detailed piece on Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, the doyen of the Urdu literature whose prestigious magazine Funoon helped many budding writers chisel their skills. In Qasmi, we find a dedicated man whose doors were open for all writers and poets from dawn to dusk. Irfan deftly captures the atmosphere of Qasmi’s life and times.

The next sketch is of Abdullah Hussein and since Hussein liked to speak his mind without mincing words, one can be sure that it’s a long piece. Hussein holds a mediocre opinion of Manto; he believed Manto wrote most of his stories to run his kitchen and hence compromised on art. According to him, Manto wrote a few exceptional stories but the remaining stories were just ordinary. On the other hand, Hussein has unbounded praise and admiration for Ghulam Abbas and thinks he should be rated much higher than Manto in terms of craft.

Another scintillating piece is on Mustansar Hussain Tarar in which the esteemed writer seems to be at his best while narrating episodes from his wandering days.

Abdullah Hussein holds a mediocre opinion of Manto; he believed Manto wrote most of his stories to run his kitchen and hence compromised on art.

Irfan Javed quotes from famous novels and authors all along the book, which makes each piece alluring to read.


Another piece is on Naseer Kavi, a poet from Jhelum who used to run a paan kiosk outside his house for bread and butter. He wrote poetry in Urdu and Punjabi and was a rebel in the tradition of Habib Jalib. He was a vehement critic of the exploitation of the poor masses. It was the same Kavi whose words “Har ghar se Bhutto niklay ga, Tum kitnay Bhutto maro gay” became an anthem for Pakistan People’s Party workers. His is a tale of a common man who fought against poverty and usurpers by writing fiery verses till his last days. Kavi didn’t waver an inch from his stand of fighting for a classless society. Javed has paid the due encomium to this true son of the soil who died in poverty and utter neglect.

Rebel Ahmad Bashir has also been sketched in detail by Javed, especially since that is not an easy task. It appears that Javed managed the job by being patient and letting Bashir speak his heart out.

In these pages, we also meet the solitary and forlorn-looking Muhammad Asim Butt, the foremost fiction writer of present times. This piece on Butt attempts to probe the life and letters of the writer.

Coming from a well-read author, the book is a collection of traces of brilliance. His prose, although too embellished at times, is readable and alluring. Personally, I found the pieces on Mustansar Hussain Tarar and Tassaduq Sohail most appealing because they were absorbing and frank. Tassadaq Sohail’s bohemian lifestyle was a subject that an ordinary writer could not have handled as adroitly as Javed did.

Author: Irfan Javed
Publisher: Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore
Pages: 256
Price: Rs1200

Altaf Hussain Asad

altaf asad
The author is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad.

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