An evening to remember

It has been quite some time since I last attended a function of sorts at the Pakistan Academy Of Letters, so when I received this sms of invitation from Khurram Khiraam Siddiqui, the PAL editor of English I had to go there for one doesn’t always come across a person of the stature of Zulfikar Ghose, the US based poet, novelist and essayist, whom the gathering was arranged for.

I was fortunate to arrive earlier at the Editor’s office, meet the honorable Ghose sahib and exchange some pleasantries with him. Thats where I got my hands literally on a copy of the biannual anthology of the Pakistani writers, ‘The Pakistani Literature’ where translations from a variety of Pakistani languages as well as original English works of the prominent Pakistani literati are published. I flipped through pages and was pleasantly surprised to see the publication of four of my translated poems from Pushto. I conveyd my gratitude to Mr. Khiraam who enhanced my delight by showing me a heavier anthology which included pieces of translations as well as a selection of the original Pakistani English literature from 1947 to 2010, that again included a translation of mine. I requested for the contributor’s copies which the Editor generously handed me with compliments.

The function itself was a wonderful experience. Ghose sahib recited poems from his latest collection called ’50 Poems’ published by the Oxford University Press. In between the recitals of his inspiring poetry Ghose sahib delighted us with interesting anecdotes pertaining mostly to his experiences in life. There was a question-answer session in the end which again was full of information as we came to know how writers born in the third world are assigned labels in the West and how it limits the scope of a writer.

The modertator Khurram Khiraam Siddiqui (left) with Zulfikar Ghose (right)

It was an evening to remember and one would like to be a part of such enlightening gatherings more often.

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Faiz

تنہائی میں کیا کیا نہ تجھے یاد کیا ہے

کیا کیا نہ دل زار نے ڈھونڈھی ہیں پناہیں

آنکھوں سے لگایا ہے کبھی دست صبا کو

ڈالی ہیں کبھی گردن مہتاب میں بانہیں

An excerpt From Arundati Roy’s ‘The God Of Small Things’

I haven’t finished it yet. I’m in the midst of the novel and I’m totally awestruck by the sheer class of Arundati’s writing style; the structure of her sentences, the diction, the punctuation and the similies– Ah! the magnets!.

I couldn’t resist to share with you an excerpt where the writer details the procedure of the electric incineration of Ammu; the mother of Rahel, 7 and Estha, 11. Look at the melancholy oozing out of the paras.

The steel door of the incinerator went up and the muted hum of eternal fire became a red roaring. The heat lunged out at them like a famished beast. The Rahel’s Ammu was fed to it. Her hair, her skin, her smile. Her voice. The way she used Kipling to love her children before putting them to bed: We be of one blood, ye and I.Her good night kiss. The way she held her faces steady with one hand (squashed-cheeked, fish-mouthed) while she parted and combed their hair with the other. The way she held knickers out for Rahel to climb into. Left leg, right leg. All this was fed to the beast, and it was satisfied.

She was their Ammu and their Baba and she had loved them Double.

The door of the furnace clanged shut. There were no tears. The crematorium ‘In-charge’ had gone down the road for a cup of tea and didn’t come back for twenty minutes. That’s how long Chacko and Rahel had to wait for the pink receipt that would entitle them to collect Ammu’s remains. Her ashes. The grit of her bones. The teeth from her smile. The whole of her crammed into a little clay pot. Receipt No. Q498673.