word about letters
Apart from being a political and historical document of personal nature, the text of the memoirs of Dada Amir Haider puts real meaning into the Marxist dictum that the world ought to be changed for the better
By Sarwat Ali
Chains to Lose: Dada Amir Haider.
Edited by Hasan.N.Gardezi.
Published by Pakistan Study Centre, Karachi University 2007
Pages: 767(Two volumes)
Price: Rs 800.(Two volumes)
Dada Amir Haider, for my generation, was a legendary figure. He was often mentioned in admiration by the elders that I looked up to and his name aroused much curiosity. But other than oral references and anecdotes no adequate account of the man and deeds were available in black and white.
All this has changed with the publication of his autobiography which has been painstakingly put together by Hasan Raza Gardezi. When Dada Amir Haider was arrested for the second time in 1939 he started to write about himself, his struggles and his vision which was simple. The role of the progressive writer was to expose everything bad in society, no matter how ugly it might be and those who did not like it let them change it.
His writings were interrupted in 1942 by his release from Nasik Jail made possible by the Soviet Union joining the way to defeat Germany. After his release a jail inmate Senior Apte put together his prison writings and made six typed copies. Each typed copy comprised 952 pages. Of the six copies passed from hand to hand at least one was kept by Mrs. Indora Renu and Mr. Ladli Lal Renu who had gone over it with the author in Bombay and had inserted some corrections and subtitles. It was mailed to Dada in 1975 when he was in Pakistan, unable to leave the country due to official restriction on travel abroad. It is from this weather beaten Nasik Jail manuscript that the entire first volume has come except for the last portion of the manuscript which had been shifted to volume two as the first chapter.
This first volume then was published in India but the second volume which was also sent to India got lost and was not published. This is the first time that both the volumes have been published together. The credit for compiling and editing goes to Dr.Gardezi for it was his commitment that preserved these memoirs. The first volume covers the phase from 1922 to 1926 and the second volume covers the time period till 1936.
Broadly speaking there were four strands in the freedom struggle. Reformative organisations and societies like the one started by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan were established where even government support was accepted for it was perceived that the struggle they had started would last a long time and antagonising the government would be detrimental to the realisation of the objectives. Then certain organisations employed peaceful means to acquire gradual concessions for the Indians. Both the Muslim League and the Congress relied on these constitutional devices which were made available by the British rulers themselves. The third strand was represented by the ulemas who regarded British rule as objectionable from religious point of view and decreed the launch of jihad against foreign rule. The fourth strand comprised radical organisations operating in India which received their impetus from the socialist revolution in Russia. In subsequent years many Indians went to Soviet Russia to see for themselves the formative phase of the revolution the working classes were mobilised, organisations and unions were established and political work started. It operated through underground networks as the political rule of the game as delineated by the British Government seldom allowed dissent beyond a particular level.
Dada Amir Haider was born in a village in Gujjar Khan in difficult circumstances, made more difficult by the loss of his parents. He was forced into a bigger wider world prematurely and looking for better opportunity he traveled to cities far away from his native village where he learnt fast on the class rooms that were laid out on the roads, the dockyards and the storehouses. He became street-smart and quickly learnt to face up to the many challenges that life had thrown at him. He got employment on the merchant and military navies that afforded him the opportunity to travel all over the world, imbibing the affairs at the international level, the condition of the colonies and the plight of the working classes.
He returned to India in 1928 after his exposure to the world including the Soviet Union with some plans and priorities. He set to organise the worker of the textile industry in Bombay. The authorities sensing trouble clamped down on the incipient movement under trumped up changes commonly known as the 'Meerat Conspiracy Case" in 1929 and passed orders for his arrest. But Dada by now a shrewd and seasoned political worker, sensing trouble escaped on a forged passport by sea, a route that he knew too well and traveled the world mobilising international proletarian support against British rule in India. He was labeled as the most dangerous individual by the British authorities. He was finally arrested on his return in disguise in 1932. He was arrested again in 1939.
After his release from jail in 1942 he immersed himself in organisational work after partition Dada was imprisoned repeatedly. This entire period took a heavy toll of his health but his old colleagues and comrades Dr. Adijkari, P.C. Joshi, S.S Mirajkar and Sohan Singh Josh encouraged him to follow up on his memoirs. He resumed updating his earlier work from 1926 to 1936.
Apart from being a political and historical document of personal nature the text of the memoirs puts real meaning into the Marxist dictum that the world ought to be changed for the better. The real emancipation of working class people lies through the socialist transformation of society, the primary value of the work as a guide to put that belief into practice.
Dada Amir Haider was not formally educated but his observations are very clear and concise. It encompasses a whole lot more than just political analysis. His book is about cultural and social history of the time that it covers rather than a strict political analysis. According to the editor, being uneducated he used the English language as a native would, and probably was a precursor to the usage of English now with much great deference to the local idiom. The published version it seems has been straightened out considerably by the translator.
By Sidrah Haque
In a recent article, Uzma Aslam Khan discussed how the moral justification of the 19th century colonisation by white man was 'civilising" the native, whilst the moral justification for 21st century imperialism is 'liberating" the native. Khan goes on further to define the neo-Orientalist, a brigade of hyphenated writers (Pakistani-American, Anglo-Indian, Afghan-American) who subscribe to the "the West saved me, and so can it you" philosophy. Hence, what was previously Kipling"s white man"s burden, whence exotic East was explained in simpler, xenocentric terms to its western citizens -- awaiting for fresh news along with their cargo of spices and teas -- has made way to the freshly-scrubbed army of brown men and women who now go about explaining this odd, vague Oriental island.
Postcolonial literature is very much about guilt. Whether it is Barbara Kingsolver flat lining the Colonists, attaching a portion of guilt to her silent, shopping-bag totting fellow Americans to the misadventures carried out in Belgium Congo in the name of Civilian Advancement, or even if it Gabriel Garcia Marquez penning down pokerfaced stories on the unpeopling antics of Imperialist Warfare (carried by the then Banana Company). Or even if they be modern day hyphenated writers that chop off their roots, writing on the oppressions of the East and the freedoms of the west. Guilt dominates the theme of these postcolonial writings and migrant literature: guilt of being white or guilt of being brown.
Colonisation is still going on, only it is not the traditional boatload of crusaders arriving at supposedly 'empty lands" from which to pillage, or feed the slave trade. Colonisation continues on in the form of military, political, financial and cultural strings that are pulled to control the 'Lesser World." The Washington Consensus that gives the right to the Breton Woods Institutes to maintain a level of control over structural adjustment policies, dangling out the promise of aid, crippling today"s third world countries. WTO neo-liberalist agenda ensures that in the name of Globalisation, government support is withdrawn to third-world farmers that need it the most, in order to provide a 'level playing field" with the Big Boys up west, who can afford the research and developmental cost of high-yielding varieties. Country can be invaded under a half-baked alibi that most of the world did not believe, yet not a single person could halt. Sub-Saharan Africa is not expected to reach poverty alleviation goals or complete primary enrollment by the next 140 years. The guilt should very much be there.
From the heap of hyphenated writers, emerges Khaled Hosseini. As wildly endearing as Hosseini"s first novel, 'The Kite Runner", was, his latest offering failed to fling itself atop reader"s hearts. It failed to claim itself. Mere platitudes will only take one so far. However, heart can be taken from the world that Hosseini pens around himself, the Kabul of his Books. No matter what critique his stories may fall prey to, Hosseini was undoubtedly born to tell stories rather then to fix bones, or cure coughs. Whether it is the fertility of the Indus that teems over to feed the land and the people with this virility: the people of the subcontinent are above all, great storytellers.
Telltale signs point towards a continuance in Hosseini"s books: the orphanage manager with chipped eyeglasses, Zaman, makes an appearance in both books. The Taliban continue their savagery in a sequential manner. And the Capital falls over twice.
The mind goes back to Faulkner"s Yoknapatawpha County, or even Gabriel Garcia Marquez"s imaginary Macondo that was the backdrop of so many of his tales. Khaled Hosseini could be to Herat what Thomas Hardy was to Dorset -- "the historian that observes and recreates a freely imagined land," as Albert J. Guerard wrote in his preface to 'Return of the Native." There is nothing stopping Hosseini from creating a series on his imagined towns and townspeople, filling in the backdrop to a disintegrating land; perhaps a tribute to what his heart calls home.
Hosseini and others must write on: they must plough the soils of their lands to uncover a fairer picture of what is brown. The neo-Orientalist agenda that is dominating the markets and bookshelves must stop or must stop being read. Cultural impeachment is at stake, and it is up to the responsible writers to come out of their grottos and explore the vast shades of being brown. That is perhaps the fairest thing of all.
Simone de Beauvoir is widely acknowledged as the progenitor of the modern feminist movement and is often remembered as the 'mother of all feminists." She presented her ideas in 'La Deuxieme sexe" published soon after the Second World War. The book, labelled as the first manifesto of feminism, was widely read in all the continents and was translated into many languages. Its Urdu version was made available some ten years ago. De beauvoir was well-known in our literary and intellectual circles even before the publication of her book"s Urdu translation. References were often made to her in the discussions of the Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq and other literary circles during the 1970s. The impact of her ideas on the poetry of Kishwar Nahid and Fahmida Riaz composed in those bygone days, was quite discernible.
Simon de Beauvols has mostly been remembered for her association and friendship with Jean Paul Sartre. Consequently, she has rarely been perceived as an independent thinker. This was perhaps inevitable. Despite being the zealous exponent of aggressive feminism remembered by many of her colleagues as 'very brilliant and strong minded woman," de Beauvoir inextricably allowed Sartre to dominate her life. She remained in close contact with him from their first meeting, when they both were students of philosophy in the University of Paris until his death in 1980.
Paul Johnson"s description of de Beauvoir"s relationship with Sartre is interesting. He says she had become a 'slave" to Sartre and served him as "mistress, surrogate wife, cook and manager, female bodyguard and nurse, without at any time acquiring legal or financial status in his life."
The opening sentence of de Beauvoir"s over 800 page tome, translated into English as 'The Other Sex," goes "One is not born a woman, one becomes one,". She wants us to understand that while men are born, women are 'made." -- made by the system. From the very beginning, they are deformed to fit in the image of womanhood that the religion, society and state have developed.
'The Other Sex" became de Beauvoir"s magnum opus. But she was a prolific writer who produced a number of literary and philosophic pieces. Years ago, I read her novelette 'The Woman Destroyed" and remember it as an exceptionally fine description of a middle-aged woman suffering from an emotional crisis. She died in April 1986.
A treat for book lovers
Majlis-e-Taraqi-e-Adab has republished the only introductory book on the life and art of Abdur Rehman Chughtai. The book 'Abdur Rehman Chaughtai: Shakhsiat aur Fun" was first published in 1980, five years after the death of the great painter. Compiled by Dr. Wazir Agha, it is a collection of articles penned by a number of literary dukes and art critics including Allama Iqbal, Faiz, Justice S.A. Rehman, Malik Ram, Dr. Syed Abdulla, Mirza Adeeb, Dr. Wazir Agha and Dr. Anwar Sadeed. The Urdu translation of three western critics Basil Gray, Dr. James Dickie and Tamara Talbot Ric are also included in the 286 page book.
Now that the newly-elected people"s representatives of the North-West Frontier Province are making demands to change the name of their province, poet and scholar. M. Athar Tahir has come up with an excellent volume described by Sardar Asef Ahmad Ali, a noted intellectual and former foreign minister, as "an exciting exploration of many a splendid facet" of the province. The history and physical features of the province as well as the culture of its tribes and towns "find thoughtful expression in this sumptuously illustrated and meticulously researched volume." M. Athar Tahir believes the Frontier Province to be one of the most legendry places on earth and he has told its story in the most charming way.
'Jurat-e-Rindana" may not be very engaging title for a novel but it has brought a new and promising novelist out of obscurity. As remarks carried on the book jacket reveal, it is the debut novel of Amna Mufti. Published by the Qausain, Amna Mufti"s novel is worth sparing some time for.
Amjad Tufail"s latest book
Amjad Tufail won his early spurs as a literary critic. His first writing that I came across was his book on Qurratulain Hyder which, I think, is one of the best appraisals of the great writer. But it never occurred to me that Amjad Tufail would some day take to writing fiction. He proved me wrong with his maiden collection of short stories which appeared many years ago. In fact, he had never stopped writing fiction. 'Antique Shop" was the titled of his first collection of short stories published in 1990.
After an interval of seventeen long years he has come up with his second collection. Published by the Multi Media Affairs of Lahore, it is titled 'Mchlian shaker karti hain." 144 ages of this slim volume carries no less than twenty-five stories that, as fictionist Muhammad Hamid Shahid has rightly pointed out in the blurb on the inside of the dust cover, can be enjoyed reading while sitting beside the fireplace.