The Nation, Lahore

13 Jamadi-us-Sani, 1418 - Thursday, October 16, 1997, Lahore


Tarar and Rakh


Tarar and Rakh


Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar

I read Mustansar Hussain Tararís first book when I was in grade ten. This book even after many years of its publication is still a best seller. The book "Nekley teri talash main" has been published many many ti mes and I think is singly more responsible than any other printed material in inspiring Pakistani youth to go to the West. Though the book was liked so much by the readers but some self appointed critics were not so happy with Tararís success. Some did no t considered it as a travelogue at all and some even debated for quite long on the place of the travelogue in the Urdu literature. But now travelogue is very much IN and most of our writers have written their travelogues. Tarar is one of the best sellers with more than twenty (or thirty) books he has written. I have read many of his books but not all and I still think that he was best in his maiden book "Nekley teri talsh main".

Tarar is a seasoned compeer for the TV and has anchored very successfully the morning show for many years until our PTV was dragged to near death by so called "Advance thinkers" of the last regime. Over the years he has become a success ful writer for many successful TV plays and serials. Just a month ago his mini serial on PAF was being shown on the PTV, while the NTM was showing another of his serial. He writes a column for a magazine, pretty successful in many fields. But as a writer he was not feeling very comfortable until he produces something ultimate in the literature, "A Novel". I think to a writer a novel is just like a Ph.D., though many successful writers never wrote a complete full length novel in their lives and their statu s in Urdu literature is not questionable at all. But may be the extreme opposition, which Tarar faced (only due to the tremendous success of his first book), made him strive for excellence in other areas of literature and ultimately in writing a novel.

Rakh is not his first novel. I read his previous "Bahao". Though it was liked by many and has been published many times I honestly was not impressed. I think this is the problem of any writer who writes his first book tremendously well and after that success we have very high and sometimes unreasonable expectations from that person. A beautiful example is of Col. Muhammad Khan ( BAJANG AMAD). This gifted writer though wrote two very nice books after his first but was not able to reprodu ce the magic after his first creation. That does not mean that his later work was substandard, it only means that people had now unreasonable expectations from the writer and it is not always possible to go beyond your success.

As I have said earlier that after his first book Tarar has written many books and all of them have been published many times which shows that they are popular too among readers but it was difficult for me to state that they were better than his first book. His second famous travelogue was "Aundlas main Ajnabi" which impressed many of his critics too because it was so well researched and according to my information his last popular writing is his travelogue of northern areas in Pakistan. Again his critique were happy in labeling him as only a travel writer which they thought, is a place of a lower status in the literature.

But with the new book of Tarar, "RAKH" (Ashes) the scene has changed. When Tarar gave me a copy of this book he said that you will find this book so interesting that you are going to finish it at one sitting. He was wrong, this book is quite long, so you could not finish it in one setting. Its first few pages are difficult to read as characters build themselves slowly and it is not a thriller so it is not difficult for you to leave the book. But if you survived the first few pages then it is another world. It is yours world. It is your history may be not very glittering and may be sometime very black but it is my history. Though it is not uncommon now for Pakistani writers to admit the killings we did in 1947 but Tarar also quickly give s the justification that these Muslims had seen their daughters been raped and sons killed in front of their eyes in India. So it was a revenge but our religion does not allow such revenge especially not against kids and women. Tarar has raised this issue very beautifully when a Muslim Police inspector allows attack on a Hindu community in Lahore and when himself is shot dead refused to drink his last sip of water as he wants to die in fast.

The rise of Bhutto and his contradictions are also presented to the readers when they see him going for the great speech in Lahore and ignoring poor and then claiming poor when he is on the stage.

Story of East Pakistan, which was made Bangladesh not only due to intervention of India but also due to our attitudes. As Qudrat ullah Shahab wrote in his famous "Shahab Nama" our rulers from the very start treated East Pakistan as a co lony and not as a part of Pakistan. East Pakistanis were politically more advanced and culturally a little more groomed so it was difficult for the ruling class to control them as easily they did with the West Pakistanis. East Pakistan did not realized th at they are not being treated badly than any West Pakistani "Mazrah" of a feudal landlord there and they also decided not to wait for West Pakistanis who may needed more time to prepare themselves for a fight with the ruling class. This haste may be due t o the intervention of the India.

While admitting our own faults he does not forget to tell you about the ruthless killings of Biharis and West Pakistani officers by Mukti Bahni. Your heart sinks when you read about the rape of two characters of his story. Both were dau ghters of a Bihari civil servant and both were left naked with Pakistani flag to cover their bodies.

His novel progresses in flashes and I have read very few works which have used "flashesí so beautifully. It is becoming more and more difficult for me to stop reading the book now as characters have developed and story is opening but I donít want to finish this book so quickly. I want to enjoy each word of it. Urdu literature has gained a good novel to add to its list of best works and Tarar could relax, as his literary position is not easy to challenge now. I have not finished it yet b ut I donít want to wait more to tell you how beautiful this novel is. Go get it guys!

©The Nation Publications (pvt) Limited, 1997


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