Rakhshanda Jalil

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“Remembering Intizar Husain”

Raza Rumi remembers Intizar Husain as a colossus of letters, but also as a formative influence for himself

(L-R) Jamila Hashmi, Intizar Husain, Masood Ashar and Kishwar Naheed

I remember the languid afternoon in Lahore when I met Intizar Husain surrounded by his friends and admirers. This formal introduction happened as poet-writer Fahmida Riaz was visiting Lahore and wanted to see Intizar Sahib – as we all called him. This was nearly a decade ago and my memory of that meeting is a bit hazy. All I remember is that Intizar Sahib showed extraordinary enthusiasm when he heard my name.

Arrey I have been reading you in The Friday Times”, he said. Bewildered, I thought that he was trying to humour a young novice with literary pretensions. Noticing my maladroit attempt to hide my expression, he added in chaste, homely Urdu: “I had thought that this guy Rumi was some old man writing about the shared cultures of the subcontinent…Aap tau naujawan nikle (you turned out to be a youth).”

In those days, I was regular feature writer at TFT and had penned many a rant on the civilisational ethos of the Indian Subcontinent that has fast eroded in the past few decades. Little did I know that it would be noted by – of all the readers – Urdu’s master fiction writer and columnist, essayist and a critic!

ishtiaq2Intizar Sahib had resisted the temptations of turning into a cult figure, a pop star or a pir

This was a moment of reckoning for me. I was but a pygmy in front of this literary giant and man of all proverbial seasons. Hearing his acknowledgment was a kind of homecoming – a process that continues, distracted by the necessities of garnering jobs and nurturing pretenses of a ‘career’. Among other reasons to change direction in my life, perhaps Intizar Sahib was a major reason. His encouragement – to an utterly unimaginative person like me – acted as an elixir.


Rakhshanda Jalil – Panchlight and other stories

My friend Rakhshanda Jalil is singlemindedly pursuing her interests and dreams. Her latest book of translation has attracted attention from critics as well as high profile media persons such as Khushwant Singh. In his latest column he talks about RJ and her new book.

Bihar in translation
One of my lasting regrets is that when I migrated from Pakistan to India in August 1947, I did not learn to read and write Hindi. It was not entirely my fault as I got postings abroad and even lost much of the Urdu I knew. I was about to pick it up again in my years in Bombay. I envy those who are equally at ease with Hindi, Urdu and English.
One of them is Rakshanda Jalil of Jamia Millia University. She has written extensively about Delhi in English and translated Hindi novels. Though she is equally adept in Urdu, she does not write it, but uses it as her source material.
Rakshanda Jalil’s latest offering is translations of 10 short stories by Phaneshwar Nath Renu — Panchlight and other stories (Orient Black Swan). I had heard a great deal about Renu but was never able to lay my hands on any of his writing in English translation. I was aware that Renu (1921-77) was a Bihari from a tiny hamlet in Purnea district. He was deeply involved in the freedom movement and was jailed many times. His story Maraa Gayaa Gulfam was made into a highly popular feature film. Renu’s stories have the earthy fragrance of the soil of Bihar. […]

February 5th, 2010|books, South Asian Literature|3 Comments