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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dr. Enver Sajjad - An Enigmatic Icon

The first ever-commissioned play to be telecast in the subcontinent in November 1964 was written by Enver Sajjad. He was bestowed with Pride of Performance in 1989 for his valuable work in literature. And he got the ECO Award of Excellence 2004 in history, literature and culture. His screenplay are so deftly written that a prolific writer like Ashfaq Ahmed once confessed that he learned to write screenplay from Enver Sajjad

I was at Riaz Rafi's studio apartment one evening. Rafi as he likes to be called is an artist with a nagging conscience. I was in the midst of doing an in-depth profile of him. (project shelved indefinitely - cannot get permission to use some quotes.)

There I met an old acquaintance, Dr. Enver Sajjad, physician, artist, katahak dancer, playwright, columnist, short story writer, novelist and essayist...the list is long for this very talented man. He vividly recalled meeting a young temporal years earlier and commented with a twinkle at my appearance.

Ghazal oos nay chehRi mujay saaz daina I mumbled to which he instantly added... tO yeh umr e rafta ki saazish hay?

'Are you still in Canada?'
'Ji haaN.'
'Do you still write?'
'Have you published a book?'
'Why not? Why do you write?'
'I write (just) for myself.'
'Every creative writer does, but you must publish and make your work available.'
'I am aware of the limited appeal of my just a small time poet, stargazer...'

Luckily at this point someone entered and the conversation momentarily drifted.

'Aap kya likh rahay haiN aaj kal?'

'Nothing much, the odd script or two. I have stopped writing my regular columns for a number of years now. There is no point. The readers do not read. People do not read, do not educate themselves, do not inquire with an open mind. It fell on deaf ears and blind eyes. So I stopped wasting my breath.'

Dr. Enver Sajad is a diminutive man, with a lean body and unassuming demeanor. He is soft spoken, almost quiet. But when he discusses current state of affairs his eyes lit up and he punctuates his conversation with animated gestures.

Rafi was showing his latest painting of a man and a woman in a kathak pose to his guru Nighat Chowdhury. The classical music was playing in the background and looking at the painting Nighat instinctively moved her feet to the music.

Pointing to Rafi, I told Enver Sajjad, 'He switched from medicine to arts after being inspired by the Art Aur Musawwir columns by Shafi Aqeel.' (The columns ran for a number of years in the Daily Jang.)

'Words and thoughts do have an effect. You must not abandon your columns,' I implored. 'How can you encourage me to publish while you have stopped writing?'

He paused to reflect, then launched into a long monologue.

'We are still reeling from the effects of Daur e Jahilya's excesses. (He was referring to Gen. Zina ul Haq's dark tyrannical reign.) He has caused an ir-repairable damage to the already fragile national psyche. He empowered the demonic forces of sectarianism, fundamentalism and increased the already wide chasm between the haves and the have-nots.'

He kept bringing Zina ul Haq's reign throughout his conversation. At one point I interrupted politely and suggested that Pakistanis cannot forever blame the excesses of the past for their failure to live in the present.

'Not so, not so! The flood gates of terror and hypocrisy he unleashed cannot be recalled. The Uni-polar world and our (Islamic) conditioned fatalism have added fuel to this dilemma. My generation has had its innings. We played a poor inning. But the new(er) generations have been even worse than ours. They do not read, do not understand, do not think. They sadly have abandoned hope. And strive.'

'In the past 56 years we have not produced a single philosopher, thinker, writer of note. Not one from a pool of 150 million! And the one we had he disowned.'

'But janab this span of years is nothing in a nation's history. It is all too brief a period to lament.'

'I do not quite agree. We have regressed. The conditioning and fatalism I spoke of earlier coupled with 9/11 has forced us to regress even farther.'

'All the more reason voices like yours should be heard more often. You should impart your thoughts and ideas and what you have learned to the new(er) generation.'

'No use, no use. It is all a waste!'

'I disagree janab. You still have passion in your voice when you speak. You still have this fire burning in your belly. If I had not felt it I would not have asked you to continue to write. This sense of frustration is perhaps only a momentary lapse...'

Some more guests arrived, some drifted. In the ensuing melee our conversation drifted.

'Have you moved to Karachi?'

'No, I am here on an assignment. I am supervising the setting up of a Script Bureau for Geo.'

Last I heard he was helping Zia Mohyeddin in the National Academy of Performing Arts in the renovated buildings of the old Hindu Gymkhana.

(September 2004)


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