Gulzar's tribute to Intizar Hussain, chronicler of lost love between India and Pakistan

Literary figures should be revered the way he was venerated, because they are above boundaries.

 |  4-minute read |   06-02-2016
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Intizar Hussain is one of the greatest Urdu writers. His literary excellence is something that is not confined to the limits of languages, countries or boundaries. 

I started reading his books quite early in life. His Chand Gahan was the first book that I read. It was the around Partition when I fell in love with his writing. Once I shared my feeling when I met him. He replied with a smile, “It seems you started chasing me quite early.” Whenever he came to India we would meet. 

He was from Meerut. The memories of this place were deep preserved in his heart. He would get nostalgic at the reference of gajak and rewariya, as if their flavour and taste were still fresh in his mouth. I ensured that he got his share of these sweet candies whenever someone went to Pakistan. 

Meerut lived in his heart. He referred to the days spent in that city in (his soon-to-be-released) Aage Samunder Hai. A kind of nostalgia overpowers his writing. Often he was criticised for his fondness for the town. However, nostalgia is the reality of life. 

We cherished a very fond relationship with each other. He wrote the preface to my story collection Dyorhi. He was invited to the literary fest in Mumbai “Aman Ki Asha”.  

He was an endearing person with an eternal smile on his face. 

His book Aage Samunder Hai is to be launched in Rekhta fest on February 13. I asked him whether he was coming, for I thought he might not, because he was not well. He replied, “I am coming for sure. I will stay for five-six days. I have to finish many works.”

All of a sudden, I got to know that he was not well from a friend in Pakistan, Faisal Zafar. He was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed pneumonia. Soon he collapsed to coma. Some days passed, yet I did not get any positive news. I became restless with apprehension. 

intizar-hussain-embe_020616093425.jpg Intizar Hussain. 

On the morning of February 2, shortly after I finished talking to the publisher regarding his book, I got a call from Faisal. He informed me that Intizar Saheb had left for the heavenly abode. I was heart-broken.

Today, I received another call from Faisal. He said that people across Pakistan assembled to bid him farewell during his funeral procession. 

True, literary figures should be revered like this, because they are above boundaries. I would have definitely gone to Pakistan, had there been no visa issues between the two countries. 

He gave a new dimension to folklores - fresh colours to old fictions. He presented the harrowing circumstances around the time of Partition of India in his bestseller Basti in such a realistic manner that it would stay in the memory of generations forever. 

Some of his writing may categorised as classic. He continued to write columns in Urdu. 

He had a style of presenting things with softened satire that tickled his readers. He would insert poetry in between the lines of his articles making them more interesting. 

His writings had a cultural outpouring. 

He was a prolific narrator. His experiment with folklores was amazing. Two to three years ago, he was going to give a lecture at Lahore University. I was very interested to attend that. So I asked him to record it. 

Listening to that recording was a wonderful experience. He told the students that Panchatantra and Mahabharata were very important. People who do not perceive them equally as the heritage of Pakistan were wrong. 

He expressed that these two were the literary assets of not only India, but Pakistan also. They cannot be restricted to the borders of selective countries, but are interwoven in the inherent cultures. He said that it would be a big mistake, if we started counting from the year 1947.  

He was a liberal thinker. We grieve as a chord of cross-cultural resonance fades with the demise of the brilliant Intizar Hussain. 

Some facts about Intizar Hussain:

Born: December 7, 1923; Dibai (Bulandshahar).

Moved to Pakistan in 1947 and settled in Lahore.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013 

Major works: Basti, Hindustan se Akhiri Khat, Aage Samunder Hai, Shahar-e-Afsos, Chand Gahan, Jataka tales, Birth Stories, Vo Jo Kho Gaye. 

Death: February 2, 2016; Lahore (Pakistan).

[This article first appeared in India Today Hindi.]


Gulzar Gulzar

The author is a poet and lyricist.

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