Have you ever heard the name Hijab Imtiaz Ali? Google the name and what you get are endless details and images of the Hijab controversy in the West. Well, it used to be a Muslim female name, which shows that the word obviously has a positive connotation. It seems out of fashion today but I think it’s a lovely name.

My personal view is that Hijab is a woman’s personal matter. Observing Hijab or not is hers to decide and it isn’t her husband or father’s decision. Ironically the woman I am talking about, Hijab Imtiaz Ali, never wore Hijab and was one of the very first Muslim women in India to come out of their homes and play an active role in the society.

Hijab was from an aristocratic family of the Princely state of Hyderabad Deccan. A born writer, Hijab started writing at a very young age. One of her best works Meri Natamam Mohabbat, which is considered one of the best love stories ever written in Urdu literature, was written at the age of twelve.

Within a few years, she grew up to become the princess of publishing world. Her short stories were always in demand and her work was published in the best magazines of the time. She was popular throughout the subcontinent. Her stories were very romantic and had a lot of natural, beautiful and sensitive imagery of life. Her unique style of sentence construction and repeated use of some selected exquisite words distinguished her work from her contemporaries.

Another specialty of Hijab’s stories and novels was that she always used same characters in different situations. Her famous characters Dr. Gaar, Sir Harley, Dadi Zubeida, Habshan Zonash, etc remained with her throughout her writing career which spanned over 60 years. Yet her readers were never bored. In fact these characters formed a memorable part of the legend of Hijab Imtiaz Ali. She was the pioneer romanticist in Urdu literature.

Her novels Meri Natamaam Mohabbat and Zaalim Mohabbat were huge hits of their time. Both were beautiful modern romantic stories.

She published a few short story collections. Hijab also translated Louisa May Alcott’s famous classic novel Little Women into Urdu. Her diaries were also published in magazines and were later compiled in a couple of books.

A very special part of her daily diary was during the 1965 Indo Pak war which was later published with the name of Mombatti ke Samne (In front of the Candle). It was so named because during the war, blackout was observed at night and Hijab used to write her diary in candlelight. It is a very interesting account of the days of war in Lahore.

Hijab was the most natural person in her real life as well as in her writings. She was so upset with the age of nuclear bombs and chemical weapons and their impact on human beings and natural life that she started researching and wrote her award winning novel Pagal Khana (Madhouse). She studied renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud in detail and was fascinated by his concept of subconscious. This provided background material for another of her great novels Andhera Khwab (Dark Dream).

Although renowned as one of the finest Urdu writers ever, Hijab was a woman of many talents. She was the first Muslim woman pilot in Indian subcontinent, which even impressed Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah who always used to wonder how she became a pilot.    

To link new generation with Hijab Imtiaz Ali, I would remind you of some great childhood or adolescence memories. Do you remember the famous PTV sitcom of late 1990s or early 2000s Teen Bata Teen? Do you remember the guy who played Johnny? He is Ali Tahir, Hijab’s grandson.

Hijab got married to Imtiaz Ali Taj in early 1930s. You must remember Imtiaz Ali Taj from your Urdu course. He was the person behind Chacha Chhakkan and Anarkali. He was a renowned journalist and also wrote for radio and films. They had only one daughter Yasmeen Tahir who later on became one of the most famous voices of Radio Pakistan. Yasmeen’s husband Naeem Tahir is a great television and stage artist.

Hijab died in March 1999. She spent last years of her life in a comfortable home in Model Town, Lahore with her children. In her real life, Hijab was a critical thinker and a very sensitive person. Her style of thinking and vision was different from ordinary people. Very small details affected her. That is why she used to get upset with minor disturbances in her environment.

Model Town, Lahore has been the scene of some major terrorist attacks in past few years. Sometimes I wonder how Hijab would’ve felt after hearing the explosions and seeing broken glass of her room's windows.

The Queen of Urdu Romanticism rests in peace in Lahore.