A Pakistani author who left his heart in India

Intizar Hussain  

At 91, his voice is youthful, sturdy and lucid, and punctuated at the right places. His memory is in place, whether about renowned authors like Revthi Saran Sharma and Nirmal Verma, his friends and their writings, or the days spent in Dibai – his hometown in Bulandshahr, U.P. He is currently residing in Lahore, Pakistan

Meet Intizar Hussain, “a good looking author” who took up writing soon after Partition. His popularity spread in a short span as one among those ‘nostalgic writers’ who couldn’t leave India, their country of birth, and kept coming back.

This time, Hussain was in New Delhi to attend the city’s first Urdu Literature Festival Rekhta at the India International Centre.

Speaking to The Hindu, the writer of Gali Kooche , his first collection of short stories on Dibai days, recalls: “I often dream of my home in Dibai. I dream I have reached there but can’t find my home. I get scared as my passport is not with me; I try to hide from the police.”

Bugged by his dreams, he decided to locate his home a few years ago. “I remembered all streets, two mithai walas, Fakirchand and Mitthan Lal. I finally found my home! It was bought by a municipal commissioner from my cousin. I told him that it was my home and I played there as a child. I showed him the chaukis it had. His family welcomed me. I used to love Diwali as during the evening I would wait to steal those twinkling diyas . Last time when I went there, I saw tiny bulbs instead. I felt really bored.”

The author’s stories like Basti , Shahre Afsos , Hindustan se Akhiri Khat , Vo Jo Kho Gayee popularised him but also proved to be counterproductive. Says the author, who was nominated for Man Booker Prize in 2013, “The Progressive Writers Group town would always criticise me saying ‘You always live in the past. You only do ‘nostalgic writings.’ They had disowned me.”

But the author kept coming back to Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb and Hindu Muslim unity between India and Pakistan. He delivered a lecture on Karbala and Vrindavan, and spoke about ‘Hussaini Brahmins’ (Hindu community who cherish their origin to Imam Hussain and commemorate Muharram with them every year).”

What next from the author?

Agar umr ne wafa ki to phir aayenge. Meerut ki gur ki ghazak aur rewdi bhi le jayenge. Vaisi aur kahin nahi banti…

Notably at Rekhta festival, when noted poet Gulzar learnt of his love for gur ki ghazak , he left “loads of packs” for him. Fondly, Hussain says: “ Main to unhe personally janta bhi nahi, phir bhi unhone bhej di .”

Who says nostalgic writers do not connect?

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 1:58:59 PM |

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