Bano Qudsia - Sheer pacifism
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Few individuals are at peace with themselves and the world around them as Bano Qudsia. Remarkably young looking for someone in her seventies, she seems full of life.

The serenity, reflected in her eyes makes you momentarily forget the anxieties of life. Dastan Serai, the house where she lives, appears to have adopted a similar air of calm which defines Bano Qudsia. She talks of love and peace. Strife is one word she would like to banish from the dictionary. She attributes the hostilities raging across the world to the intolerance and selfishness of the human race.

"We are only interested in grabbing and do not believe in giving, which has made us belligerent. We live like mercenaries who would trample over anyone for personal gain. Yet, our frustrations multiply by the day, and we end up neither pleasing ourselves nor others," she says.

Having lived a fulfilling life, which Bano ascribes to the benevolence of those around her, she keeps herself busy caring for her husband, the writer Ashfaque Ahmad, and working on her present literary undertaking — a novel which she plans to title Dastan Serai, after her home. "I formally started work on this novel in 1992. Prior to this, I had worked on it during the 1950s. The novel is set against the backdrop of Partition'and revolves around the theme of intention and motivation. It highlights the importance of intention as the key determinant behind every act."

Born in Ferozepur in India, in 1928, Bano says she has had a passion for writing for as long as she can remember. As a student, she wrote for college magazines and other journals. Her memories of her days  at Kinnaird College in Lahore, from where she graduated, are still quite vivid. She talks that was a hallmark at Kinnaird's campuses during those days. Though her stay at Kinnaird went a long way in sharpening her scholarly skills, Bano felt an incessant need to polish her expressions in Urdu, the only language with which she could reach the minds of the people. So in 1951, she completed her master's degree in Urdu from the Government College Lahore.

Author of innumerable short stories, novelettes, television and radio plays, besides some memorable stage plays, Bano's writings have a strong association with life's vicissitudes.

Though many term her novels and plays 'undigestible,' it is true to say that she is one of the few contemporary Urdu writers who have used the everyday philosophy of life as thesis her writings. The strength of conviction in her prose is unmistakable. Her short stories like Baz Gasht, Amar Bail, Doosra Darwaza and Twajju ki Talib, the latter, a stimulating collection of short stories, have mustered a vast readership. Of her novels, none has received as much recognition as Raja Gidh which centres around the forbidden truth. The plot builds around the symbol of a vulture, a bird of prey, that feeds on dead flesh and carcasses. The moral sought implies that indulgence in the forbidden leads to physical and mental degeneration.

The first born in a family of two siblings, Bano moved with her family to Lahore during Partition. Her father, a landlord with a bachelors degree in agriculture, died when Bano was still very young. She attended school in Dharamsala in eastern India before moving to Lahore. Her mother was an educationist, and this inspired the young Bano to develop a keen interest in academics which turned her into a conscientious student. Her marriage to Ashfaque Ahmad consummated the artist in her, though she says she never discusses any of her works with her husband nor has the writer-spouse ever tried to influence her writings. "We work very independently. Writing a book is like bearing a child and you do not share that with anyone. God is your only confidante. It is also like falling in love. You keep it personal and private."

But Bano has always been a committed and attentive wife, in spite of her engagements as a writer, and is a firm believer in accepting the concept of the primacy of the husband's position in a household. "My husband needs more care at this age. I hardly find the time to do anything else."

Bano Qudsia is recognized as a trendsetter in the realm of television plays.

Some of them gained immense popularity across the border because of their vitality, warmth and courage. These include Tamasil, Hawa key Naam, Seharay and Khaleej. The plight of women and other socio-economic issues have often been the subject of her television serials that have inspired families wherever they have been aired. The Graduate Award for Best Playwright was conferred on Bano in 1986, followed by the same award for three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990. In 1986, she was also given the Taj Award for Best Playwright.

Bano is somewhat disillusioned by present-day television plays. Terming them sagas of violence, sex and aggression, she says that most of them are beyond her comprehension. "It's like I am watching a different medium, one that I have never known. I am not in a position to assess these plays because most of the time I do not understand them."
In reply to a question, as to whether television plays reflect society, Bano says that television and society both reflect and influence each other. However, she laments the excessive commercialization of art and the negative role of marketing in converting art into another saleable commodity. "Literature has gone back inside the books. Modern-day plays gain popularity not because of their content, but because of how much publicity they get prior to and during their telecast. We see billboards and newspapers advertising television plays in abundance. The number of sponsors and advertisements determine a play's worth".

Bano can expound endlessly on the myriad aspects of life without risking to bore her audience.

Her articulation and diction add to the charm of her discourse. Rather critical of the deviation of today's woman from her natural role of mother and home keeper, Bano decries what she terms 'a woman's unsolicited and disoriented escape from responsibility. Interes-tingly, though, she blames men for plotting a conspiracy to push women out of the house, her only domain. "And women fall easy prey to this trap. Men of the post-industrialization era gave women a taste of luxurious lifestyles and then instigated them to step out of the house and earn that lifestyle. The woman developed a taste for what she thought was freedom for her, but which actually bonded her as a labourer and a breadwinner."

She cites the example of the woman who does the dishes in her home. This woman is more liberated than you modern women, since she does not suffer from any conflicts of the self. Poverty is all that hurts her and she is not caught in a rat race to prove something to herself or carve out an identity for herself. Her existence is identity enough." Bano also feels that what she calls women's 'strength of softness' has been lost in their struggle to prove themselves equal to men. What women take as their weaknesses are in fact their strengths. she believes.


Religion  is a soul soothing experience for Bano Qudsia.

"I am not a very religious person, though I admire the tenets of religion.

If the soul of a living individual is unhappy, the body can never be happy and for the soul's contentment, we need religion." She has an interesting healing formula for the ailments of the body and the soul. "If the body is ill, try curing the soul by prayer, care and pacifism. If it is the soul that is hurt, try to keep the body busy and entertained."

Bano Qudsia plans to co-author a book with her husband, but is not sure how soon she can find the time for it. Her obligations towards her family are much more important for her than her work. "My husband, my three sons and daughter-in-law have all been very kind to me and have always showered their affections on me. So, how can I ever
put anything else before them?

Written by Faryal Shahzad

Work of Bano Qudsia shared by Salman Siddiqui : Kucch Aur Nahi