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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Qurratulain Hyder - An Enigmatic Icon

Qurratulain Hyder Jan 20, 19260 – Aug 21, 2007: An Enigmatic Icon Passes Away

Qurratul Ain Hyder, Annie Apa to many, recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan died today in a Delhi hospital.

She was iconic, erudite, well read, intelligent, somewhat aloof and arrogant, when I met her many moons ago but had mellowed down lately. She was equally well versed in both English and Urdu. Born into an elite UP family where both of her parents were writers she began writing at age 11.

She wrote short stories, novels, travelogues and did translations: she was most known for her magnus opum novel Aag ka Darya which she translated into English as River of Fire. Praising the creativity of Qurratulain Hyder, Prof Aziz states that books like Kaar-e-Jahan Daraz Hai amply show her firm grip on history.

The [London] Times Literary Supplement wrote that "[River of Fire] is to Urdu fiction what A Hundred Years of Solitude is to Hispanic literature. Qurratulain Hyder has a place alongside her exact contemporaries, Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as one of the world's major living writers."

My friend Raza Rumi met her in Noida, some years ago and wrote this:

She recounts how her parents were born at least a hundred years before their time. Her father’s liberal outlook and her mother’s love for the arts were the inspiration for Ainee to devote her life to writing. She never got married; it was quite evident that she could not have met a man capable of complementing her. I suppose the rich inner universe makes up for the ‘loneliness’ syndrome in exceptional individuals.

Ainee is fluent in the language of music; she co-authored a book on Ustaad Barray Ghulam Ali Khan and in her heyday, played the piano and the sitar with equal ease.

We talk about her discovery of the first subcontinental novel written by Hasan Shah in 1790 – The Nautch Girl – which she translated in 1992. She is angry that no one bothered until she unearthed the manuscript from the Patna Library. We drift back into lost eras and she remarks that Dara Shikoh was a 21st century man. Small wonder that he was beheaded in the 17th century, I respond.

Her foreword to Javed Akhtar’s poetry collection Tarkash is an eloquent narration of some of the reasons for the divide. I will go into these factors in a separate article.

The world of literature will miss her physical presence. Her words, indeed as words that come from the heart, shall resonate with us for a long time


Blogger Raza Rumi said...

Aik nigah-i-karam idhar bhee:

August 23, 2007 1:01 PM  

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