In her latest book, Bano Qudsia attempts to capture the essence of
Bashaoor Pakistan (ex ibitians.com) presents another latest and great Urdu book for free. Download Rahe Rawaan by legendary Pakistani writer Bano Qudsia.
The Enigma Behind the Man
By Sarwat Ali (The News)
After a selection from the writings of Ashfaq Ahmed, titled ‘Baba Sahaba’, Bano Qudsia has now written on the lifetime spent with her husband Ashfaq Ahmed and called it ‘Rah e Rawan’.
In her life, Qudsia has placed Ahmed on a very high pedestal and does not shy away from attributing with him hidden qualities often associated with sages. Being fully aware of it, she does not even claim to understand the man she lived with for more than five decades, bearing many children in the process. So, an attempt at writing the biography of Ashfaq Ahmed took her beyond that ‘one person’— and she started to write about his ancestry, the family including his grandfather, father, uncles, brothers, sisters and their children so as to fully understand the enigma that was Ashfaq Ahmed.
Ashfaq Ahmed was a Momand Pathan whose family migrated to the subcontinent from Afghanistan and then settled in what is now Indian Punjab at a place called Makesar. They had to migrate again at the time of partition to the new country called Pakistan. Qudsia attributes much of the enigma and the multi-layered, complex personality of Ashfaq Ahmed to the various forms of migrations that they had to undertake.
The most difficult time for her, and also the most significant, was when she married Ashfaq Ahmed. She was a Jat, he was a Pathan, and in both families, the tradition of marrying outside the clan was non-existent. Possibly, all hell must have broken loose when she expressed her will to marry a college-fellow. She was resilient enough to not be cowered down by opposition from both the families — and the two apparently got married in defiance. In the days immediately after independence, marrying someone of one’s own choice was still a very rare occurrence and must have raised both eyebrows and hackles.
However, Qudsia’s steadfastness paid off. It proved to be a very good match. Even after his death, she continues to be intrigued by his behaviour, his choices and his demeanour, while attempting to understand him through his family and the circumstances that they all went through in the last hundred years or so.
In worldly terms too both were very successful. Both were very well-regarded writers and Ashfaq Ahmed was something of a cult figure. They also moved upwards socially. From humble surroundings they rose to a level which is considered an example of success in this society. In terms of posting and position and in terms of living style, they did show a remarkable upward mobility unlike many other writers and poets who only lose what they already have.
In the book, besides her own writings, Qudsia has added and collected a whole lot of writings of Ashfaq Ahmed and many of the contemporaries who were connected to them both on the various travails and the vicissitudes that both went through and how they were perceived and regarded by others.
This collection of material and biographical details can be most useful in placing the writings of Ashfaq Ahmed against a perspective. The 600 odd pages are written in a rambling style. Even the writings of Ashfaq Ahmed, edited and published posthumously by her, lacked a well-ordered design. Baba Sahaba was not written with any meticulous pattern in mind, and appeared to meander through the various phases and experiences of his life. An autobiography of sorts written in the first-person was penned in the “hikayat” tradition, and there was hardly anyone who could match the genius of the Ashfaq Ahmed in this genre.
Gradually, with the passage of time, the very particular plot and character and its mutual development was abandoned for the allegorical style where symbols as subtext were supposed to offer a grid of meaning, otherwise lost to a lay reader. The magic of the style was enough to lure the reader into hundreds of pages, but then as one began to sit back, detach oneself and think about the content, the drift was not difficult to guess — because Ashfaq Ahmed was much exposed to the media, rather overexposed. What he said and believed was common knowledge among the literates of this society.
Nevertheless, as one probed deeper, it became clear that he was leading the reader to some area of experience that could not be shared or commonly experienced. The private space of the writer and that of the reader did not necessarily coincide.
As long as Ashfaq Ahmed developed his inimitable style and took the reader up the garden path of love, forgiveness and tolerance of diversity as he did in his earlier work like ‘Gadarya’ it was a palpable experience, its tangibility recognizable. But when he delved deeper into the esoteric and arcane area of mystical communion, the readers failed to go along with him, gradually falling by the wayside.
Bano Qudsia’s prose at times really shines and captivates the moment, the fragility of relationships, the shade of envy and the fickleness of human emotion. There have been few writers who have laid bare the subjectivity of women, especially in a society where all avenue of independent expression are sealed off in the name of propriety, honour and tradition. The repressed woman’s sexual innuendoes and cryptic suggestiveness have being captured by her faithfully. It is only when she places these on a bigger canvas that artistic problems begin to arise. It is not a book that is very well-designed or planned — rather rambles through giving plenty of information, some more useful than the other.
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