Remembering and Revisiting the Lane of the Beloved

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Rauf Parekh

About three decades ago a series of interviews took Urdu’s literary world by storm. These interviews, done for an Urdu daily, put some tricky and loaded questions to some of the renowned Urdu writers and poets of the day. And, as expected, some of the candid answers caused controversies that resulted in misunderstandings, rejoinders and clarifications. Literary icons such as Jameeluddin Aali, Muhammad Tufail and Colonel Muhammad Khan and some others had to issue statements to clarify the things they had mentioned in their interviews. It shot the young interviewer, in his early 20s at that time, to such a fame that many could only dream of. In 1984, he won Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists award for the best Urdu columns.

When these interviews appeared in the book form under the title ‘Ye soorat gar kuchh khwabon ke’, the book sold like hot cakes and a second edition had to be published in a short time. Another edition was published from India. Even today, the book is often referred to and quoted in some critical and academic papers as authentic while quoting some writers’ point of view. Since some important aspects of our literature and literary movements had come under discussion in these interviews, they became part of our literary history. Today, no survey of history of Urdu interviews can truly be called complete without mentioning the book. The young journalist who took and wrote these interviews quit the newspaper later, though kept on writing short stories, features and columns and pursuing higher education. He today heads Karachi University’s mass communication department and is known as Professor Dr Tahir Masood.

But today, while feeling proud he at the same time seems a bit unsatisfied, rather a bit repentant, about some portions of some of the interviews. This somewhat subdued stance is evident from Tahir Masood’s new book ‘Koo-e-dilbaraan’, (The street of loved ones) a collection of pen-sketches and obituaries. The book affectionately recalls some of the personalities that the author has met and, this may not be a coincidence. Most of these personalities are no more in this world. Perhaps remembering the departed dear ones caused this sombre effect. For example, he recalls the interview with Colonel Muhammad Khan, the humorist who became famous almost overnight with the publication of his first book ‘Bajang Aamad’, and feels what he had published was perhaps “a rush of young blood”, albeit nothing reported was inaccurate or fabricated. The reason for his pensive mood is that he recalls that the interview had created bad blood between Colonel Sahib and a female humorist, though quite unintentionally. Perhaps it is easier to see things in perspective when your hairs grow grey, that is, if any are left.

But what strikes the reader is Tahir’s affectionate attitude towards almost every one he writes about. Some of the sketches are really moving, for example, his father’s and grandfather’s sketches. Humanity, civility and softness are the traits that attract Tahir Masood most, as is evident from the sketches of Maulana Abdur Rasheed Naumani and Prof Karrar Hussain.

It is often said that for writing a successful pen-sketch one must know the personality personally. These sketches prove the adage true as Tahir Masood has written about the people either he had worked with or seen them closely. Capturing the essence of a personality in a few sentences is another art that Tahir Sahib has exercised in these pieces successfully. Some of the sketches shed new light on some well-known personalities, such as Jang’s founder Mir Khaleelur Rahman, Dawn’s former editor Ahmed Ali Khan and MQM chief Altaf Hussain. Here in these pieces he is quite candid and does not try to hide what he thinks, though at times it may sound a bit coarse. There are 45 pieces in the book and they discuss people from variegated backgrounds, for example, poets, authors, journalists, politicians, actors, religious scholars, academics and some not-so-well-known persons. Some other personalities discussed in the book include Prof Zakariya Sajid, Abdus Sattar Edhi, Jamal Panipati, Siraj-e-Muneer, Mushfiq Khwaja, Muhammad Salahuddin, Masood Ahmed Barkati, Kuldip Nayyar and Muhammad Khan Junejo.

Tahir writes a simple, plain yet elegant and flowing prose. Contrary to our some famous columnists and sketch-writers his choice of words does not betray pompousness or pretentiousness.

Interestingly, these pieces let leak a lot of autobiographical details about Tahir Masood himself. Tahir Masood was born in Rajshahi, in the then East Pakistan, on January 7, 1957. Though life was not a bed of roses there, it was fairly happy when compared to what the young Tahir had to face while his family was trying to readjust with the new realities in Karachi, having migrated in the aftermath of 1971 mayhem. As writing was in his blood, he soon began contributing to different magazines and newspapers and worked for different publications and ultimately joined a newspaper’s literary page. Here he earned name and fame and quit. Having obtained a master’s degree in journalism, soon he was offered a teaching job at Karachi University’s journalism department, later renamed as mass communication department. He later did his PhD in the history of Urdu journalism and his research work earned him a professorship.

The book, just published by Islamabad’s Dost Publications, might earn him yet another coveted position: an Urdu pen-sketch writer of prominence.

Rauf Parekh, “Remembering and revisiting the lane of the beloved,” in Dawn, May 5, 2014. Accessed on March 1, 2015, at:

The item above written by Rauf Parekh and published in Dawn on May 5, 2014, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on March 1, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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