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Celebrating cultural diversity

By December 8, 2017No Comments

Source : The Hindu


The works of Abdus Samad, winner of this year’s Majlis-e-Farogh-e-Urdu Adab award, speak against religiosity and his characters tend to learn from the virtues of others

At a time when dreadful underpinnings of our longing for new technology and heightened emphasis on ‘virtual reality’ leave us grasping for breath, who has the power to stem the tide? Who could fill the long hiatus created by our hallucinogenic dream for luxuriant and secured life? One should not grope for answer as he is supposed to be one who produces an air of amused fulfilment not fuelled by globalisation phenomenon and it is who deserves commendation.

This quest prompted Majlis-e-Farogh-e-Urdu Adab, Doha, to confer its highest literary awards to two prominent Urdu writers of the subcontinent, one each for India and Pakistan, annually. The committee has been conferring award, carrying a cash prize of one lakh fifty thousand rupees and a gold medal for the last 25 years. Much- admired , this year’s award has been given to an eminent fiction writer Abdus Samad, who also got Sahitya Akademi Award (1990) and Sahitya Bhasha Parishad (1990).

According to Mohammad Ateeq, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Majlis, the award is chosen by a jury comprising reputed scholars from India and Pakistan. Indian jury is headed by the eminent critic and scholar Prof Gopichand Narang.

For Mohammad Ateeq, authors are those who shape our thoughts and put forth different ways of belonging and the Majlis recognises them annually. Poetry gets a lot of awards but his organisation does not take this well-trodden path and confers awards only to prose writers who usually remain unsung.

Abdus Samad got the award at a glittering ceremony held in Qatar recently. His writings hold deep intellectual rigour and create an intellectual space where gender, status, faith and language-fuelled entitlement have no bearings. He has published more than twenty books in Urdu and English. Samad’s creative dexterity sews together an ever morphing canvas where the legacy of tolerance and coexistence has a dominant presence. Much ink has been expended over the partition of the country but the period of bitter travail and communal turbulences is narrated through whatever occurred in Punjab and the northern part of India but not much is known about what had happened in Dhaka.

Further, the aftermaths of 1971 war and the subsequent emergence of a new country – Bangladesh – are hardly made the object of creative exploration. Samad’s critically acclaimed novel “Do Gaz Zameen” zeroes in on the miseries of the people who migrated from Bihar to Bangladesh. They faced insurmountable hardship when they were the citizens of the East Pakistan but the creation of Bangladesh hardly mitigated their sufferings. The characters seek solace from language, culture, social norms, eating habits and faith but Azimullah, Asghar Husain and Sarwar Hasan have no shoulder to cry.

Breaking new ground

Their migration was nothing but an attempt to get themselves free from subjugation but for Samad, freedom is not as important as keeping himself in the state of being freed. For him, writing itself betrays a flicker of hope. “Do Gaz Zameen” broke a new ground in Urdu fiction and it fetched many prestigious awards to Samad. His recent novel “Ujalon Ki Siyahi” (Brightness of Darkness) produces a counter narrative as a poorly educated Muslim preacher (Imam of a mosque) argues vehemently against the blind adherence to ancestral beliefs and uses modern education as a means of reconciling Muslims to secular education.

Samad, through a multitude of voices, creatively asserts that sardonic rejection of a non-conventional opinion is always self-defeating. His novels “Dhamak”, “Khwabon Ka Sawera” and “Mahasagar” make it clear that the diverse element of culture and political legacy cannot easily be filled into a single master narrative. At the risk of opprobrium, Samad through his novels and short stories, speaks against religiosity and his characters find chewing the cud a futile exercise and they tend to learn from the virtues of others.

Samad’s multi-sensory prose provides the readers with intellectual armament to deal with a growing sense of anxiety and alienation in a society that is more concerned about digital literacy instead of cultivating a vibrant reading culture and the Majlis-e-Farogh-e-Urdu Adab did well to honour a writer whose books affirm cultural diversity.

The Majlis has also honoured noted Pakistani author Professor Fateh Mohammad Malik and the Qatar based literary organisation is committed to, according to Dr. Fartash Syed, President, honouring those who dream of an integrated and cohesive society.

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