Raah e Rawan | راہِ رواں
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راہِ رواں - بانو قدسیہ
قیمت : 2000 روپے
Title: Raah-e-Rawaan – راہِ رواں
Author: Bano Qudsia
Year of Publication: 2016
Number of Pages: 675
The enigma behind the man
Reviewed By Sarwat Ali,
Literat, The News on Sunday
In her latest book, Bano Qudsia attempts to capture the essence of
After a selection from the writings of Ashfaq Ahmed, titled ‘BabaSahaba’, Bano Qudsia has now written on the lifetime spent with her husbandAshfaq Ahmed and called it ‘Rah e Rawan’.
In her life, Qudsia has placed Ahmed on a very high pedestal and does notshy away from attributing with him hidden qualities often associated withsages. Being fully aware of it, she does not even claim to understand the manshe lived with for more than five decades, bearing many children in theprocess. So, an attempt at writing the biography of Ashfaq Ahmed took herbeyond that ‘one person’— and she started to write about his ancestry, thefamily including his grandfather, father, uncles, brothers, sisters and theirchildren so as to fully understand the enigma that was Ashfaq Ahmed.
Ashfaq Ahmed was a Momand Pathan whose family migrated to thesubcontinent from Afghanistanand then settled in what is now Indian Punjab at a place called Makesar. Theyhad 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 personalityof 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 whenshe 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 hellmust 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 thefamilies — and the two apparently got married in defiance. In the daysimmediately after independence, marrying someone of one’s own choice was stilla very rare occurrence and must have raised both eyebrows and hackles.
However, Qudsia’s steadfastness paid off. It proved to be a very goodmatch. Even after his death, she continues to be intrigued by his behaviour,his choices and his demeanour, while attempting to understand him through hisfamily and the circumstances that they all went through in the last hundredyears or so.
In worldly terms too both were very successful. Both were verywell-regarded writers and Ashfaq Ahmed was something of a cult figure. Theyalso moved upwards socially. From humble surroundings they rose to a levelwhich is considered an example of success in this society. In terms of postingand position and in terms of living style, they did show a remarkable upwardmobility 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 awhole lot of writings of Ashfaq Ahmed and many of the contemporaries who wereconnected to them both on the various travails and the vicissitudes that bothwent through and how they were perceived and regarded by others.
This collection of material and biographical details can be most usefulin placing the writings of Ashfaq Ahmed against a perspective. The 600 oddpages are written in a rambling style. Even the writings of Ashfaq Ahmed,edited and published posthumously by her, lacked a well-ordered design. BabaSahaba was not written with any meticulous pattern in mind, and appeared tomeander through the various phases and experiences of his life. Anautobiography of sorts written in the first-person was penned in the"hikayat" tradition, and there was hardly anyone who could match thegenius of the Ashfaq Ahmed in this genre.
Gradually, with the passage of time, the very particular plot andcharacter and its mutual development was abandoned for the allegorical stylewhere symbols as subtext were supposed to offer a grid of meaning, otherwiselost to a lay reader. The magic of the style was enough to lure the reader intohundreds of pages, but then as one began to sit back, detach oneself and thinkabout the content, the drift was not difficult to guess — because Ashfaq Ahmedwas much exposed to the media, rather overexposed. What he said and believedwas common knowledge among the literates of this society.
Nevertheless, as one probed deeper, it became clear that he was leadingthe reader to some area of experience that could not be shared or commonlyexperienced. The private space of the writer and that of the reader did notnecessarily coincide.
As long as Ashfaq Ahmed developed his inimitable style and took thereader up the garden path of love, forgiveness and tolerance of diversity as hedid in his earlier work like ‘Gadarya’ it was a palpable experience, itstangibility recognizable. But when he delved deeper into the esoteric andarcane 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 humanemotion. There have been few writers who have laid bare the subjectivity ofwomen, especially in a society where all avenue of independent expression aresealed off in the name of propriety, honour and tradition. The repressedwoman’s sexual innuendoes and cryptic suggestiveness have being captured by herfaithfully. It is only when she places these on a bigger canvas that artisticproblems 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 thanthe other.
In life, inliterature: the Siamese twins
Reviewed By Humair Ishtiaq |InpaperMagzine April 10, 2011
BETWEEN thetwo of them, there happen to be well over 60 titles, innumerable televisionplays and countless radio scripts. It is well worth a shot to locate a moreprolific writing couple in literature than Ashfaq Ahmed and Bano Qudsia, whoare celebrated names and for reasons more than one.
The two havealways been known for their specific thoughts on the many issues surroundingman’s existence and have a unique approach towards life in general. As such,they are not beyond the odd controversy that people with commitment face whenthey share their own ideology with the public.
But that is notimportant… it is just not important. The “respect” factor remains unhurt forthe work they have produced, which they have done with literary finesse interms of language, expression and story-craft, and with remarkable awareness ofthe different vehicles of expression they used, such as short stories, novels,television drama, radio features and so on.
In their publiclife, Ahmed and Qudsia remain an inseparable unit. It is difficult to imagineone without something of the other creeping into the picture. They representone school of thought — ‘old’, but by no means dated — and share a remarkablesense of unity in managing their image in public.
Just as the twolives are inseparable, the books in hand — Baba Saheba and Rah-i-Rawaan — arejust as much the proverbial Siamese twins. Though each has enough material tobe appreciated as a stand-alone title, they are more like companion volumes toeach other.
The initial halfof Baba Saheba, an account of Ahmed’s time spent teaching and in broadcastingassignments in Italy,which has been published posthumously, was written by Ahmed himself, while thelatter half was compiled with the help of his extended notes by Bano Qudsia.Naturally, there is a marked difference in the pace and texture of the twohalves.
The part that wasgiven the finishing touches by the writer himself carries all thecharacteristics of Ahmed’s prose — gripping, thought-provoking, lucid andutterly spellbinding. The second half stutters a bit though it has enoughenergy in its contents to keep the reader interested. But the intense feelingwhile going through the latter half is that of sorrow.
The reader isconscious that the book would have been different if Ahmed had time to completeit. In his hands, the contents would have been delivered with the punch that isso visible in the first half.
Ahmed’s closeobservation of the life abroad and of the various characters that he comesacross — from Rosetta, Dr Velonica, Professor Angaretti and ProfessorFerracotti to celebrities such as Sir Alexander Fleming, Charlie Chaplin,Jacqueline Kennedy and others — are fascinating.
The contrast hehas then generated with our local input is remarkable, but even more remarkableare the commonalities and similarity of thought and attitude to which he haspointed in a rather indirect, inoffensive manner. The latter half of the bookis more focused on the wisdom of the East.
Rah-i-Rawaan,penned by Bano Qudsia, is a biographical sketch of the two lives — one from atraditionally conservative tribe of Mehmund Pathans and the other from aforward-looking, easygoing family of Jat Punjabis. The former was a patriarchalsetup, while the entire decision-making in the other was led by a woman who wasa senior official in the education setup, but, more than that, she had to leadfrom the front as her husband had died early.
The two met atthe famed Government College in Lahoreand there began a story that is worth many a novel. Ashfaq Ahmed’s marriagewith Bano Qudsia was the first such rebellion in the Mehmund household and thecouple had to pay the price till others in the family followed in theirfootsteps.
Though the marriagewas unconventional, what followed was not quite as unusual. The woman had beena sportsperson, a drama fan who was not averse to the idea of acting on stage,a music lover who took lessons in singing and dancing, and a social personalitywho loved to go out to parties with all the glitter and gold. All this startedchanging after marriage. Was it for the better or worse is something people canhave their opinion on, but it happened, and happened with the absolute andvoluntary consent of the woman in question.
The unusual partin the story is that Bano Qudisa started transforming herself even though therewas no pressure from Ahmed and has no regrets that it happened that way.
It was only bydoing away with all the distractions in life that she was able to locate thewriter in herself. After more than 30 titles to her credit and all the fame,glory and, indeed, respect from a life in public, she hardly has a reason toregret the way it all materialised. In fact, the whole narrative inRah-i-Rawaan is laced with gratitude towards Ahmed for not just initiating thetransformation, but for doing it in a way that Qudisa thought she was doing itall herself.
And it is herethat the reader may find something slightly off-putting because the narrativeis not just self-effacing; it is downright self-deprecating. It will be hugelyunfair to label it as fake, but Qudsia could have so easily avoided runningherself down so repeatedly and with such an air of fatality about it.
This aside, thetwo volumes are highly readable both in terms of content and expression. Thoughthey have been priced slightly on the higher side, once you finish reading, youwill not mind having dished out so much for such worthy stuff.
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