Conversations with renowned author Qurratulain Hyder
In my otherwise uneventful life, something significant has happened. It may seem unimportant to some people but it’s a big deal for me: I finally met Qurratulain Hyder, twice, in Delhi. The journey to get to Ainee Apa (the affectionate title bestowed on Hyder by her admirers in the Urdu-speaking world) took fifteen long years, for despite my familiarity with Pakistani literary circles, I never met her in Pakistan. On my recent visit to Delhi, however, fate smiled upon me. Dr Enver Sajjad introduced me to her writings when I was in high school and since then, I have read almost every word published by her. Once, I composed a long letter to her that I never sent, thinking that it was a bit melodramatic to do so. Over the years, I internalised its contents and a part of me has been perennially nurtured by the magic of her writings. I still remember the glorious London summer when I finished Aakhir-i-Shab ke Humsafar during my college days; I looked around and discovered that the world was a different place. Henceforth, I lived the better part of my life in her books.
Ainee is arguably the greatest living Urdu writer. The Times Literary Supplement once commented that she can be counted alongside her contemporaries Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as one of the world’s major living writers. Her novels and short stories have dealt with the inextricability of Hindu and Muslim subcultures in terms of literature, poetry and music, and the historical forces of colonisation, Independence and Partition and their impact on the current of individual lives. Her first novel was published in 1947 and her magnum opus Aag Ka Dariya (translated by her as River of Fire ) undertook a groundbreaking examination of issues of identity in the context of South Asian civilisation; Darya is to Urdu fiction what A Hundred Years of Solitude is to Latin American literature.