Intezar Hussain

Intezaar Hussain

An eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.

“The good earth in our cities is confined to small pots”

Where are such scatterbrains to be found today? I mean people like Mubarik Ahmed, the poet. A selection of his poetry has been published recently and I am reminded of so much: about his poetry, about his bicycle, about his concern and his efforts for the Movement for World Government. Meera Ji, free verse, Halqa Arbab-i-Zauq, his bicycle, prose poetry, the Movement for World Government were the elements that together defined the poet’s personality. Of course, seeing the parts as disparate is just a mental block. Let me say nonetheless that together his many interests piled up so much stuff ...

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Lahoris don’t care about their trees

The Horticulture Authority tried to rid the city of all its shady trees and replace them with date palms. Lahoris watched quietly. In the end, it fell to the palms themselves to protest the initiative. The palms planted along the Circular Road, it has been reported, are wilting and dying. Actually the genius who thought of depriving the city of its own trees and adorning it with desert trees should also have imported a little desert. Trees, after all, grow from soil and are best nurtured in the climates associated with their native lands. Lahore is Lahore: Not Dubai or Japan In the ...

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Eighteen years and counting

A watchman at a rural health centre in Chiniot has not been paid his salary for 18 years. All this time he has been arriving at the office at 7 o’clock in the morning and leaving at 11 in the night. The worker and the management have both kept to their ways. (Who’s watching out for the watchman? The Express Tribune, April 17, 2011) The official, identified as Munir Ahmed, has been regularly visiting the accounts department first day of the month, every month, to demand his wages. The cashier has been telling him his cheque is not ready. Every ...

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Does anyone care about the peacocks in Thar?

Are you aware, ladies and gentlemen, of what Tharparker’s peacocks are going through? According to a news report a strange disease is stalking them. The infected bird develops a bulge in the neck which keeps growing and then bursts. From this sore a worm crawls out. The beautiful bird turns blind and pretty soon stops breathing. The report says in Khipri and Islamkot areas of Tharparker district the situation is so bad that as many as 10 birds are dying a day from the mystery disease. The Thar peacocks did not have it easy even before this epidemic, the ever-expanding human settlements ...

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So what if Urdu newspapers use English words?

A friend recently called my attention to a headline in a credible paper – hamari mulki tareekh kay corrupt tareen vizier-i-azam. I was furious. Such slander of the country’s prime minister can in no way be considered decent. The friend stopped me saying it was not this aspect of the headline he was hinting at – slander being the inescapable fate of whosoever wields power. He was annoyed at the English ‘corrupt’ and Persian ‘tareen’ being forged together. “What kind of Urdu is this?” “My dear,” I said, “it may once have been an English word. But with the English it ...

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The silent painter: Shakir Ali

To Lahoris today the building across the street from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is a familiar sight. When it was first built, however, the passers by tended to stop and wonder what the structure was meant to be. The outer walls had over-burnt bricks laid apparently by poor craftsmen. Those who ventured inside were further amazed that a home could be so different. But then so was the man who built it for his residence. The place was Shakir Ali’s home. Earlier, he had treated the National College of Arts as his home and been content amidst its students ...

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Qasmi’s columns: Surprise, surprise

One can never really be sure about two things: death and Ataul Haq Qasmi’s M’aasir. M’aasir makes an appearance every once in a while and you are surprised that it has been published again. Gradually, the surprise gives way to a feeling that it is going to be a periodical publication. But the hope is dashed and you quite forget after a while about M’aasir, the journal that used to appear out of nowhere one fine morning and make your day. Now this special issue – every M’aasir issue is special – deserves applause for the great writers and the wonderful ...

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The ass needs a hearing aid

The great advantage prose writers enjoy over poets is that when the galloping pen shows signs of fatigue they switch turfs and start writing memoirs. If not that, a journal. Tauseef Tabassum however has been a poet first. But the pen that wrote ghazals is maybe slowing down a bit. It is well therefore that he has rested the poetry and recorded his memories. The surprise here is that he remembers little, no, very little, about himself. About his contemporaries he remembers so much that the whole book is full of their accounts. Some of it is hearsay but mostly ...

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The demise of reason

“Being in your company”, said Bahadur Shah Zafar, the principal convict after India’s battle for independence in 1857, “is nothing like what it used to be; it’s harder for one to speak up than it ever was.” The entire experience of those troubled times informs the verse. Strangely, what we are going through nowadays is very similar. Voice the littlest of dissent and you hear a bullet whiz by or a must-be-killed edict. The prudent counsel, therefore, is to shun religious debate. To hear whatever interpretation is being put forward for Islam and to remain quiet. But there are those ...

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Quietly through our cities of quiet

Researchers have always been at home in Lahore. So many of them have made the city proud with their excellent contributions, particularly to the Urdu literature, it is just amazing. Visit the Oriental College even today and you will find one under every proverbial rock. But the researcher I have on my mind today has been hiding at a department that has nothing to do with the College, or with the literary world. The world he has chosen for his efforts too is quite apart if not entirely disconnected from our own. The man is MR Shahid, known best probably to ...

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