Bano Qudsia (born in 1928) is a great playwright, novelist, short story writer and an intellectual. She has been writing since 1950s and has written a large number of Urdu short stories, novels and plays to Urdu literature. Her literary work gained immense popularity due to its social, emotional and psychological appeal. Her works Baz Gasht, Amar Bail, Doosra Darwaza, Raja Gidh are very popular. She received Graduate Award for Best Playwright in 1986 and the same award for three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990. On 1986, she was also given the Taj Award for Best Playwright. In an exclusive interview with Sunday Plus at her residence “Dastan-e-Serai” she recollected her old memories and shared her views about literature, social and cultural issues.

Telling about her passion for writing, Bano said, “I had a craze for reading Urdu language and for writing short stories. I used to write for college magazine and journals. When I was in 8th class I wrote a play for Inter Dramatic Society of Punjab which was declared the best.

“My first short story which got published was Wamandige-a- Shouq in ‘Adab-e-Lateef’ when I was doing Master in Urdu at Government College, Lahore. Ashfaq Sahib helped me in its publication.”

On a question about the time spent with husband Ashfaq Ahmed, Qudsia replied they had spent 50 years together but it seemed as if they were only some moments. “Time spent in happiness and satisfaction always passes quickly. The time I spent with Ashfaq Sahib was so wonderful that it passed without any realisation of its passing away,” she said.

Speaking about her last activity in literature she said she has written her last book with the name Rahe Rawan in which she sketched her life spent with Ashfaq Ahmed and also discussed the characteristics of his life.

Answering a question about modern literature whether it was fulfilling its demands, she said literature was delivering whatever was the demand of time. “Writer takes inspiration from his/her surroundings and the circumstances. Every era has its own writers and when these writers pass away they become a bookmark for that specific era. Foe example, once there were era of Ghalib and Prem Chand.”

Talking about the modern trends and rise of technology in which books are losing their attraction, She said, “There is nothing odd about it. Trends, rituals, customs change with the passage of time. Newer ones always dominate the older ones. We should always accept the change with open heart. But we should never deviate from our cultural roots.

“People who want to stick with old customs should not criticise those who go with the newer ones and the later should not be looked down upon. This is the beauty of a civilised society.”

Shedding light on social issues and reasons of prevailing bitterness in the society where the separation rate among couples is increasing and moral values are on decline. “Man and woman are made in form of pair, but unfortunately they neither understand each other nor respect each other’s point of views. They never bother to fill up the communication gap which they develop with the passage of time.

“Secondly, the increasing tendency is that everyone concentrates on his private life and ignores social responsibilities. Societies groom when individuals fulfil their social obligations. We are negligent in fulfilment of these responsibilities and ultimately drive our society towards chaos. These social bonds can be strengthened and relationships can be improved if the habit of sharing the emotions and respecting each other’s feelings is practiced.

“Thirdly, there is a need to decrease the material needs to bring the economic prosperity and happiness in lives,” she said.

When inquired about the inspiration behind the novel Raja Gidh and from where she got the idea of Rizq-e-Halal and Rizq-e-Haram, Bano took a pause as if to recollect her memory from the past. “In 1980 writers used to visit different countries under Berkely Programme. They stayed in American writers’ houses to observe their traditions and society. Ashfaq Sahib went to America and stayed with a family called “Heyes”. In return, a boy from that family named Bob came to Pakistan and stayed with us. After spending a few days with us his superiority complex that he belonged to a more civilised society arose and he started objecting on petty things like ‘why do you add sugar in tea? It spoils its taste.’

“Sometimes he also asked questions about Islam and tried to rate it with Christianity. I always answered but to me those were not satisfactory answers. One day when I was standing in drawing room and looking out through the window towards a tree in our lawn; suddenly it seemed to me that the tree had lights and there was a sound of words Rizq-e-Halal and Rizq-e-Haram. I at once called Bob and told him that it is only Islam which orders for Rizq-e-Halal and forbids from Rizq-e-Haram. No other religion gives a perfect ethical code about everything as Islam gives us.

“Bob was so much impressed by this logic that he at once took a prayer cap (namazi topi) which was lying near the table and went to mosque. He embraced Islam. After that time, the days he spent with us I saw him as firm Muslim”.

“After his departure, I prayed to Allah to bless me with the strength to convey this idea to everyone. I started writing Raja Gidh.”

When asked about her spiritualism whether it was inspired from Qudrat Ullah Shahab, Mumtaz Mufti and Ashfaq Ahmed or she had her own identity in it, she said in Dhram Pura there lived a pious man Fazal Shah, who was known as Baba Ji Noor Walla. “Ashfaq Sahib used to visit him. One day he took me there. Baba Je impressed me and I started visiting him with Ashfaq Sahib regularly. He taught me lot of things. His philosophy was ‘keep sharing’.”

Bano Qudsia no doubt is a living legend. Her vision is source of strength for us. Unlike many other people of her age she is comfortable with modern gadgets and social media. She uses the internet and is also on facebook. She is a role model for the young generation.