Lahore in Literature

The session ‘Lahore in Literature’ was focused about the charms and beauty of Lahore which has always attracted the great writers. The city is also important because of its historical monuments. Bapsi Sidhwa said that Lahore has always wooed her and her memories are attached with the city. “Lahore is a city where colours of life are very much visible. Lahoris are joyful and merry making people. ,” she stated. Talking about the rich taste of Lahoris, she said that the city has more eating spots than any city has in the world. She called it a ‘beloved city’. “All my books are based on Lahore. My two novels tell the stories of this city which are in fact an ode to this beloved city,” Bapsi added. Her recent book “The Language of Love” has the stories about the same city. Intizar Hussain also recollected his memories and shared those with the audience. Taking about the literature and Lahore he said that after 1947, a new generation of literary personalities settled in Lahore. The city groomed many poets and writers. People all around the world have affiliations with this city and write about it. Mentioning about his migration from India to Pakistan, he and his family stayed in a house in Krishan Nagar. “The house in Krishan Nagar was very beautiful and had magnificent furniture. When we came, we saw a buffalo tied in the drawing room. I mentioned this house in a story and described its location in Sham Nagar. After that story, a column was written in India addressing to me ‘stop Intizar Hussain’. In that article the whole description of the house was given and told that the house is not in Sham Nagar rather in Krishan Nagar and it belonged to the lady who had written that article,” he said. Intizar sahib also mentioned a Russian writer who has written about Mughals and their interests. Mentioning about Shalimar Garden in Lahore she said that Muslims are keen about gardening because they are preoccupied with the gardens in Heaven and that is why wherever they go they make gardens. He also quoted some verses of poetry to highlight the importance of Lahore.

The Courtesan in Literature: Umrao Jan to Gohar Jan

The session “Courtesan in Literature: Umrao Jan to Gohar Jan” highlighted the role of courtesans in the past and how much power they owned. Navid Shahzad, a well-known educationist, described the hierarchy and the history of these women. She said that concubines were very wealthy and powerful ladies. They were capable of making big appointments through whispering in the kings or high ranked officials’ ear. Talking about their ethics and social values she said that these ladies love their Kothas rather to fall in love with men. However, the only exception is shown in Umrao Jan, who fell in love with a man. Zehra Nigah cast light on the circumstances which led most of the girls into this profession. After the 1857 war, parents were afraid of their daughters respect. Some of the girls committed suicide with the fear of ignominy and those who wanted to live ran into forests and far off places. Some had to stay at nawabs’ houses and others were taken by wealthy women of Khotas, who taught these young girls and trained them. With the passage of time these girls started to rule over the heart of colonial masters who came to the subcontinent to rule over the Indians. Zehra also quoted many verses which depicted the sensitivity of the matter. She made it clear to the audience that these girls never wanted to serve as courtesans but it was the circumstances which lead them to this way. She also explained that these ladies were not vulgar in their dresses; rather they adore proper dresses. Afzal Ahmed Syed said that courtesans were the part of aristocracy and they were respected during the Mughal rule. It was the 19th century when they lost their respect because the British rulers left them only for physical pleasure. Musharraf Ali Farooqi said that in the past only few forms of art were known which nourished at these Khotas, which were the hub of dance (in performing art) and poetry (in literature). Women belonged to these Khotas used to say marvellous verses. However, he said that physical relations at these places were accidental. He also made it clear that calling these women notch girls or bad women was the prejudice which we got from the British.

Future of Urdu Literature in Punjab

In “Future of Urdu Literature in Punjab” session panellist discussed the background of Urdu Language and what are the challenges Urdu literature is facing in Punjab. Presenting a vivid picture of the background of Urdu literature, Intizar Hussain said that after 1947 writers and poets came to Lahore and a new era of Urdu literature started. Urdu got many great writers and poets like Iqbal and Faiz from Punjab. However, he highlighted a fact that these days fiction writers are celebrated but no prominent poet has come forward. But the good note is that he was not disappointed about the future of Urdu Literature in Punjab. “There always come some barren time and that does not mean in literature Punjab is going to barren,” he added. Asghar Nadeem Syed said that saying Urdu Language is totally colonial is unfair because it has its roots in many languages and was called Hindwi or Rakhti in the 13th century. Talking about its future he said that Ziaul Haq put lot of restrictions on the writers. Literature was removed from Urdu syllabus and the policy is till under practice. Literary heroes have been sent into oblivion. Talking about the present fiction he said that fiction of the present time has crossed the barriers of time and space because the writers of the present time have travelled a lot. Now topics are cross cultural and does not relate to single society.

Children’s Literature Today

The session “Children’s Literature Today” was focused on the importance of children literature; which issues should be part of their literature and which should be ignored; what are the reforms which should be introduced in schools. Baela Jamil reiterated the fact that change will come only through youth and children and we should focus on them. She emphasised that children should be allowed to speak about their heart, their imaginations should not be ignored because they imagine beyond our imaginations. Once we let them do so, world will come to know abut their wonders. She criticised the fact that schools focus only on the course and the productivity of children is ignored. Baela emphasised teachers should give importance to literature and children should not consume it rather they should question about it so that they could know about the background of their own literature. Musharraf Ali Farooqi who has recently authored a wonderful book for children “Tik-Tik, The Master of Time” discussed how conflicts in children literature should be addressed. He said that issues related to violence should not be part of children’s literature because it is not permanent, it has to change. “Problems are always exists in every society but children’s literature should be about joyful and happy life. It should be about human relations and about the understanding of the world,” he stated. He also mentioned another dying tradition of narrating stories. “In the past grandparents used to narrate stories for their grandchildren but that trend is dying quickly because the concept of nuclear family is developing. To fulfil that gap parents’ should spare some time for the children,” he said. Oral story telling should also be introduced in schools because it increases the interest of the children. At the end it is reiterated that text books should be changed and literature should be given a due proportion. More diverse literature should be introduced. Nina Fiet speaking to the audience said that the USA is facilitating the Pakistani children in learning English Language and the US is doing its best to facilitate the Pakistan students.