Shaukat Siddiqui - A most widely translated fiction writer
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Shaukat Siddiqui is without doubt one of the few left among those migrants from across the border who did not take long to be rated among the leading lights of Urdu literature in the new land of their choice.

This person came from Lucknow, among the centres of beautiful urban areas, with a long tradition of culture and literature. The city had an abundance of magnificent buildings that could claim names of residents famous in its renowned history. Each landmark, each street, evoked memories that went back tens of decades if not centuries. When such persons chose to cross the newly created border, the impulse must have indeed been overpowering.

Shaukat Siddiqui was 27 when he landed in Karachi. Speaking from experience, this writer feels that the teens and twenties are a most impressionable age. Immutable lines imprint on the mind about everything that the eye sees and the ear hears. The contrast between Lucknow, steeped in splendor and tradition, literature and architecture, and Karachi and Hyderabad, with their overflowing (kacchi abadis jhuggi town¬ships), must have created horrendous and numbing impressions on minds, used to fairly comfortable lifestyle. Many, if not all, would have found it a disturbing change of scene. Is it surprising, therefore, that Khuda ki Basti is so vibrant a novel about life and its demands? It is a story of a family of a mother, two sons and a daughter, who have to contend with new traditions and new values. They do not succeed in getting to lead an honorable life, with the result that the boys turn to crime.

Shaukat Siddiqui may not have explicitly brought out the sense of loss a young man, full of hopes and ambitions, uprooted and re-planted, can consciously ignore. It is to the credit of these migrants who forsook their all to build new lives among those already here, that Pakistan owes an immeasurable gratitude. But in his mind's eye, whether he wanted to or not, and the same has to be true of all creators of literature, Shaukat Siddiqui, must have been comparing conditions back there with what they were here.

It is the background of these conditions that help to understand inspirations and other factors, if any, that must have gone into the writing of Khuda Ki Basti.

Shaukat Siddiqui has written other novels and short stories, indeed had been and has been writing and publishing before and since. But it is this piece of unique literary merit on which, one may say with reasonable certainty, that his place in the second half of the last century will be determined. Khuda ki Basti, says Shaukat Siddiqui, was written in 1957, within seven years of his migration. In its original language — Urdu, it has been reprinted 46 times in Pakistan and India. .It has been translated into 29 languages, including English, Russian and Chinese. The novel is among the only two works of fiction that have been translated into English under the auspices of UNICEF. Khuda ki Basti was long ago serialised by PTV in 1969, when Aslam Azhar needed a script for a good play. He said that it was a powerful script. Siddiqui remembers that there used to be hardly any rehearsals, the scripts being handed to the performers just before recording time. Ishrat Ansari, Zaman Ali Khan and Qasim Jalali were in the production team. Shaukat Siddiqui says he went to the studios a couple of times during the initial shoots only.


They didn't really need me because most of the dialogue in the novel were used without change.

The 13-episode serial has since been telecast four times. Every time, it has been well received. A township, Khuda ki Basti, stands
between Kotri and Hyderabad as a testament to the novel and the emotions that it has always evoked in the breasts of thousands of Pakistanis who have embraced this land by choice. His first literary creation was a short story written in July 1940, while still a student. By 1948 he had written a novel Kameen Gah and several short stories that were published in literary journals, bringing him some recognition.

To date he has had four collections of his short stories published under the titles Teesra Aadmi (1952), Andhera aur Andhera (1955), Raaton ka Shehar (1956), and Keemyagar (1984).

More than one edition of each has been published. Many of his short stories have been translated into foreign languages and included in anthologies of selected international writers. Some of his short stories are being translated into English for publication by the Oxford University Press, Pakistan.

His four novels published so far are: Kameengah (1956), Khuda Id Basti (1958), Chaar Diwari (1990), and Jangloos (1994). Writing Jangloos was a gigantic task that Shaukat Siddiqui set upon himself. He started writing it in 1977, and took twelve years to complete this three-volume work of fiction. It has been reprinted four times since it first appeared in 1994, and has been serialised and telecast twice by PTV. This in effect, is a story woven around the
feudal conditions in the south of Punjab, Dera Ghazi Khan to be precise, where women are exploited shamelessly and the weak are ruthlessly suppressed, where the karokari of Sindh is as savagely practised under the localised name ofkalokali.

A collection of his political columns from the dailies Mashriq and Musawat has also been published under the title, Tabqat i Judd-o-jehed our Bunyad Parasti, that is, class struggle and fundamentalism. He is a 1948 Masters in Political Science from Lucknow University.

Shaukat Siddiqui has won the Adamjee Prize for Literature in 1960, while it took the Government of Pakistan 37 more years to recognize his worth and award him the Pride of Performance in 1997.

He has already begun to inspire research into his works all over Pakistan. Since 1985, six students of Bahauddin Zakarya University, Multan; Islamia University, Bahawalpur; Oriental College, Punjab University, Sindh University, Jamshoro and Peshawar University have been writing Masters dissertations on his personality, his craft in general, and his progress as a writer of fiction. He is the object of an ongoing PhD thesis one Maryam Hussain in the Urdu Department of the University of Karachi.
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Shortly after he came to Pakistan in 1950, Shaukat Siddiqui opted for journalism. He worked as subeditor in three English language dailies Pakistan Standard, The Times of Karachi, and Morning News. But, as he says, he could express himself more effectively in Urdu so he bid farewell to English journalism in 1963 and switched over to Urdu journalism the same year as news editor of the then popular daily Anjam, which used to be published simultaneously from Karachi and Peshawar. He soon became its chief editor, but left the paper in 1966. There is a gap of seven years without a formal appointment, though he continued as a columnist.He was in 'business' again with appointment as chief editor of the daily Musawat that came out from Karachi, Lahore and what was then known as Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) in 1973. He continued with the assignment till 1979. Thereafter, he contributed to several newspapers as political analyst, till 1984, when he gave up journalism and devoted himself entirely to literary writings.

He has travelled abroad, too. For example, of the few times he could recall, he has been to Beijing, the Middle East, parts of Africa and different countries of Europe, including a visit to Moscow in 1987 where he still remembers the address by Gorbachev, the then Kremlin leader.

Shaukat Siddiqui is a satisfied man. His bread and butter is assured through the 15 to 20 per cent royalty that he gets from the publishers abroad. While talking about the state of Urdu, he says "In Pakistan the future of Urdu in the urban areas is assured for it has remained the language of daily interaction."

But in Pakistan it represents the composite culture of the people of the whole subcontinent. The roots of the regional languages of Pakistan, that is Punjabi, Sindhi, are the same as that of Urdu. Indeed, he agrees that the grammatical basis of Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and Sindhi are the same. "Urdu's contribution in welding the Pakistani nation," he says, "cannot be over-emphasised." He lauds the role of the Punjab in promoting Urdu, and in particular, though it may surprise some, he places Faiz Ahmad Faiz as a more popular Urdu poet of the 20th century than others after Iqbal.

In fact, Shaukat Siddiqui holds that after Ghalib and Iqbal, Faiz is' the most significant Urdu poet "He is universal, because his knowledge of Western thought adds depth to his creativity. Next to him, he places Makhdoom Mohiuddin "No poet is as great as Makhdoom after Faiz,

he asserts. Other poets he venerates are Noon Meem Rashid and Josh Malehabadi.

He laments that owing to its script Urdu is read by a minuscule minority in India, though the language continues to be widely spoken. His advice to the present generation of writers: Read, read and read everything but write in continuation and in conformity with our heritage. We are a separate and special people, just like all others on Barm. "Please note that all people have specific and particular stamps of national and or tribal (in the sense of Marshall McLuhan) cultures. That does not remove them from the pale of common humanity. Neither will we be removed. It is our identity. Let us not lose it.

By Sikandar Sarwar

Work of Shaukat Siddiqui shared by Salman Siddiqui : Raaton ke Shehar