Intezar Hussain

Intezaar Hussain

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

Wayward verses

Let us talk today about a wayward creature. Waywardness, of course, is not a preserve of the humankind. There are countless verses in Urdu that merit the tag including some very high standard stuff. One hears and reads verses that would be credit to whoever they were attributed to and yet like some unfortunate orphans or our urban poor they remain ‘homeless’. I mean you don’t see them in a famous poet’s work or in a celebrated anthology of poetry. And yet, they are not quite unfortunate either. Given that you don’t see them in a renowned collection, they have a secure place ...

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Imitating art

I was at the Karachi airport, waiting, and then from the blessed corner of the lounge where several rosaries were placed on a long prayer mat the azan was called. I welcomed it as an omen that the departure of my flight was about to be announced. But this azan too did not herald the awaited prize. No announcement followed. Depressed, I remarked that this was the third azan I had heard being called while I sat in the same seat. “Just the third?” the passenger sitting next to me asked. “It is the fifth I have heard. That is how ...

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Dedicated writers: The bright side

The days of calm and peace lie so distant in our past as to be a fading dream. What we have is chaos and anarchy, loot and extortion, theft and robbery, violence, murder and terrorism. Not many days go by without another blast killing many and causing wives to be widowed and children to be orphaned. It is natural for people in times like these not to take life for granted and for the feeling of transience to be heightened. Such are our circumstances but sometimes one comes across something that makes one wonder how it is that there are ...

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Qayyum Nazar: Giving myself a break

After a lifetime of looking for the newspaper first thing in the morning I have realised that this is not a happy habit. Almost every day the papers feature some story or the other that counts for a bad omen. Reports of suicide bombings and terrorist strikes are, of course, a routine. To recover from the bitterness, I thought, I needed to read a book. The book I happened to pick at random had sketches of Qayyum Nazar, Prof Syed Waqar Azeem, Dr Nazir Ahmed, Dr Muhammad Ajmal and Dr Syed Abdullah. In the foreword, the writer, Sabir Lodhi, asserted that ...

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A strange fate has befallen us

Don’t ask me how hard writing has become nowadays as one calamity or the other hits us on a daily basis. Every day there is some accident, every day some tragedy. There was many a calamity one lived through, said Meer, but then one fell in love and discovered that nothing had prepared one for it. The tragedy that visited us Tuesday has stunned not just me but a whole people. The whole country, one might say, has been shaken. Salmaan Taseer has left the world in so unusual a manner. Is this, I ask you, the way to go? I ...

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Reminiscing about Faiz

I had left for Karachi eager to watch the literary festival sponsored by the British Council and the Oxford University Press. But when I wished to return there was just no way to do that. PIA’s flights were suspended. I thought of leaving the city on board the old whistle-blowing train. But the trains today are worse than a bullock cart. The latter is slow but reliable the former is not to be trusted at all. There is no telling where and when it may be stopped and for how long. Several trains have been abolished. The remaining may be ...

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Talking about Sufism: Faiz vs Askari

The national politics have brought us to a point where everybody is engaged in a religious debate. While my contemporaries brave the treacherous ocean’s currents, I, for one, have to plead ignorance of the finer points of the Quran and Hadith studies. Akbar’s verse – I never entered a debate about religion, for I always lacked the extra intelligence it required – has served me well in the perilous times we live in. So it’s not as if I am preparing to enter the debate now; just wondering about the blessed moment when Faiz Ahmed Faiz did. A word first ...

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In times of suicide assaults

In a way, the recent suicide attack in Lahore is the first of a kind. The suicide attacks so far had had a target each; this one had two. It killed, or tried to kill, two birds with one stone. There was a sea of devotees brimming over at Data Darbar on account of the urs. At nearby Karbala Gamay Shah, the mourners milled around in anticipation of a chehlum procession slowly winding its way towards it. Great planning, one must say, for this way the attack had an impact on two fronts. Of course, both gatherings, from the planner’s ...

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Cleanliness: Another dream for Lahore

Shahbaz Sharif, our chief minister, has said he wants to see Lahore become as clean and presentable as Istanbul. The statement is music to my ears, weary as I have been growing of stereotyped statements reeking of hatred and violence. Given the oppressive atmosphere created by these, this one came as a breath of fresh air. But then I remembered some more statements of a bygone era and then some more – the declarations about beautifying Lahore. One I remember particularly well was an announcement that Lahore would be turned into Paris. And it was not a single Punjab minister ...

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Our arts councils

Lahore Arts Council has completed three years under the current management. At a farewell reception for the soon-to-be-replaced governing council Ataul Haq Qasmi, the chairman, was congratulated by one and all for the changes he has brought about. Just one decision, to end the exclusion of literature from its programmes, made so much difference. Several international conferences were held successfully at a time when the security situation was considered anything but hospitable with guests even from India participating. Not that the other arts were ignored. The most recent literary conference included papers and discussions on music, painting and theatre. It ...

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