A.Hameed -The Prolific Writer
Written by LegendsofPakistan   

As I entered Abdul Hameed's Samanabad residence,I knew almost immediately that I would be in for an hour of interesting conversation in an environment not cluttered with decoration items but a myriad of books.

Although I was heartily welcomed in a mixture of Punjabi, Urdu and English with a cup of hot tea, what intrigued me was why Abdul Hameed wanted to know how long the cas¬sette on which I was recording would run. However, my con¬fusion was cleared the very next day when I met his contem-porary Ahmed Rahi who remarked that Hameed does not have time for his friends, for he considers that in the half hour spent with them, he could have conceived a novel. No won¬der he has written more than two thousand and five hundred books in just forty-nine years which include romantic novels, manuscripts on realism, travelogues, personal accounts, recollections and children's stories. He probably qualifies for the , Guinness Book of World Records. Now one can understand when I say that I felt elated that he had given me enough time in which he could have envisioned at least two novels.


A Hameed's life is like a novel itself, each year unraveling an unimaginable adventure that one would simply fantasize about but never conceive as reality.

He was bom in Amritsar in a middle-class Kashmir) family. His father was a wrestler and he wanted his son to follow the same profession. But Hameed who was studying at the MAO school had other interesting ideas up his sleeves. He did not want to become a wrestler though he savoured the heavy concoction of milk, honey, nuts, cardamoms and a blend of tasty herbs his father made him drink. Also he enjoyed the daily routine of the mas¬sage and exercise. "I was just eleven years old when I saw a movie that starred Saira Bano's mother, Naseem Bano, and I fell in love with her.


I was so crazy about her that when I read in a digest that she lived in Bombay, I ran away from home, caught a train and reached Bombay. The city was a labyrinth of commotion and obviously I could not find Naseem Bano and was totally distressed. But during the return journey, I  was completely flabbergasted by the jungles and mountains that we passed and the landscape left a profound impact on me. I did not like school and the only subjects I enjoyed were Urdu and English and by the time I was in the eighth grade, I derived pleasure from reading Krishnan and Bedi." When Hameed was still in school, sister got married. Her husband who was in the army was posted in Rangoon and on her insistence, Hameed accompanied her for a few months. Any excuse for staying away from school was always welcome and in no time he.was all packed up on his way to Rangoon. His brother-in-law was a literary person and enjoyed the company of intellectuals like Dr Bakar, Ishtiaq Hassan Hasrat and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Enroute to Rangoon they stopped at Delhi and stayed at the residence of Noon Meem Rashid who was then the director of programmes at the All India Radio. It was here that Hameed interacted with belletristic people including the great dramatist Saadat Hassan w|anto. The scenic landscape from Amritsar to Delhi and onward to Nagpur and Deccan and then fnally Rangoon remained imprinted on his impressionable mind.


The escapades from home became a regular feature in his, life.

"I was young and very adventurous, and during the British rule there was a period of complete safety and security. No one feared getting lost or kidnapped. I was crazy about jungles, music, the sea, rivers, rain and of course, beautiful female faces.

I wanted to see Bengal, hear the music, the songs, and the shimmering of the coconut trees. Their women who were known to be delicate, patient and enduring, were also chaste and faithful. I reached Calcutta and met someone who told me that the Bengal ka jadoo was such that it could caste a spell on anyone. Unfortunately, I had rel-atives in Calcutta who found me, locked me up and informed my father to come and collect me, so the bewitching spell was rudely cast off. Skipping school in this way resulted in a lack of regular attendance. I read my tenth grade results at the Lucknow railway station. It was during one of these trips to Sri Lanka in 1947 that I learnt of the increasing communal riots in Punjab and I returned to Amritsar in July of the same year. It was then an onward journey to Pakistan, with not a penny to our name, not even a tawa in the dilapidated house in the Gawalmandi area of Lahore where we initially settled down. Suddenly life had taken an unexpected, serious turn."


But life actually had taken the best turn of his life. Lahore became the hub of literary activity.

Hameed's associates such as Ahmed Rahi and Dr Mateen had also migrated, and others like Ibrahim Jalees, Ibn-i-lnsha, Kaifi Azmi, Hanif Ramay and Ashfaque Ahmed all congregated at the famous coffeehouse of Lahore. At that time when the Adb-i-Latif was well circulated, Hameed was asked to write for it. The writing that was to his credit included his diarv and a never-ending stream of love letters to girls usually ofder than himself who either returned these or reprimanded him with a tight slap for his boldness. He was a romantic at heart from his adolescent days when he claims he had a torrid affair in Lahore. On the insistence of his friends, he wrote a true love story entitled Manzil Manzil which not only fetched him twenty-five rupees a fairly handsome amount in those days, but the talent of his expression, spearheaded him to overnight fame. Offers started pouring in from other publications and he says, "I penned down all my past and present love affairs." He was living in the world of renaissance romanticism, caught in the web of aristocracy and chivalry that he had read about. He explains, "The area of Gawalmandi where we lived   had drug addicts, poor daily wage earners, women and girls toiling all day, those sitting on the threshold of their houses buying vegetables with whatever little money they had, men fighting among themselves, and those who loved their wives • and also fought with them for every paisa. Hunger and poverty was all around us. I was greatly touched by what I saw. Suddenly romanticism and realism were running side by side within me and in 1950, I wrote my first novel Darbay, a story of the post-Partition problems of the mohajirs." The novel completely sold out and Hameed earned rupees eight hundred.

The rent of their home in Misri Shah was just fifty rupees so there was ample money for the family with which to live a comfortable life. His stories continued with the same themes sometimes intertwining both aspects of romanticism and realism. He continued to read a lot of Hardy, Dickens and Oscar Wilde where the prose and the ability of expressing the inner psyche stirred him the most.

"Among the romantic poets, Shelley impressed me with his intellectual thought and practical philosophy. I had begun to read Hali since the 1940s and had enjoyed the experience, especially what he had written about Ghalib.

I read Russian literature such as Gorky and English translations of French writers When I started writing, I began recollecting the people I had met and the experiences that had moulded me. I recalled the blended fragrance of coffee, cocoa and cigar floating in the streets of Rangoon. People were fascinated as to what I was writing about, they had not seen the places I had visited during my childhood adventures." From these recollections came such masterpieces as Zard Gulab, Khizan ka Geet, Jehan barf Girti Hai, Jungle Rotay Hain, Ravan kay des Main, Sona Gachi ki Ratain, Ra ki Sazish, Dilli Action and others. Among the 2,500 books published under his name, there are five collections of stories, seventy novels, hundreds of travelogues and three hundred novels of hundred and fifty pages ,each comprising part of a series for children called Amber Naag Maria. The books feature thought provoking stories based on fantasy, science fiction, history and detective themes.

 

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Another of Hameed's highly popular series for children that ran on television for well over two years and eventually became popular with adults was Ainak wala Djin. It was for the drama serial Dachi that he won the PTV National Award for the best writer and in 1997 he was honoured with the Pride of Performance award. He speaks of his literary pursuits, "My association with Nawa-i-Waqt dates back to 1950, in fact the best time of my writing was between 1950 to 1970  when I was contributing stories to the Sunday edition of the newspaper. Ten years ago, when I was selected by Voice of America for their Urdu programmes, I was on night duty with Nawa-i-Waqt. Although my contract with the American news agency remained for five years, I missed the fresh breeze of Pakistan and the fragrance of motias, and so I came back after three years."


Besides wrestling, Hameed's father was fond of Persian and he was tutored by a master of the language who was a darner by profession.

From then onwards, his interest in the language developed, despite occasional thrashings from his tutor. In Lahore, he came across Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabbasum, who was his neighbour and an early riser as himself. "Tabbassum sahib offered to teach me Rumi, the great Persian scholar for an hour every morning. He was a Kashmiri from Amritsar and as such equally temperamental as I was. When after six months, he said I was no good as a student, I responded by agreeing not to come back. I probably did not leam much of Rumi but acquired enough knowledge of Persian to understand the original poetry of Allama Iqbal. Unfortunately, what people know are translations of these verses. I personally believe that knowledge of the three languages — Persian, Arabic and English — is very essen¬tial. For instance, only if you read English, will you be able to understand the greatest works of literature, science, technol¬ogy, and international relations. I read Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov and Fyodor Dostoevsky, the leading exponents of nineteenth century Russian realism in fiction and drama, all in English.
There are no Urdu translations of their works. Other than Askari, who translated Madame Bovaiy in Urdu and the few works by Aziz Ahmed. No one has done such translations. We must know a language in order to fully understand the meaning of its literary texts. Persian is the language of our national poet, so it must be taught at the national level."


A widely travelled person, Hameed enjoys travel writing as he says, "The memories I recall are like rewinding a film. I laugh, feel happy and write. I keep in touch with my friends Ashfaq Ahmed, Hameed Akhtar and Shaukat Siddiqui. Those who are no more, I miss especially Ibn-Insha and Ibrahim Jalees and I feel terribly sad." On his trips, he has met several Kashmiri mujahideen. He has compiled a series of novels called Commando, Kashmir kay Janbaz and Watan kay Sarfarosh. Presently, he is writing the fourth in this series.


His last love affair in his younger days was with the young Rehana Khadija. It was more of a story out of a Hindi film which always seem so very unrealistic. The young lady used to study in Kinnaird College and read Hameed's novels. She was an ardent admirer of his work and always wanted to meet him. After three years, they coincidentally met and fell for each other. Unlike all his previous infatuations which ended tragically, this one had a happi!y-ever-after ending. They'got married and have two children, a daughter and a son, both of whom are also married.


Intezar Hussain has rightly written that people travel from the first rung of a ladder to the top but Hameed started from the very top. That is where he has remained.

Work of A. Hameed shared by Salman Siddiqui : Baagh-e-Jinnah Ki Doopehar

 

Written by Shehla K. Fatah