A Hameed’s silence | Pakistan Today

A Hameed’s silence

LAHORE – A Hameed lies on a bed, breathing raspily into an oxygen mask. His son stands outside, looking at his father grow fainter and fainter, his own heart sinking with heaviness as he tries to remember him in better times. “My father has been suffering from chest problems for some years now,” says Masood Hameed. “He even contracted pneumonia which has been recurring in the form of attacks. In fact, during the past three months, he has been admitted four times in the hospital.”
Undoubtedly, this has been his worst attack, as the aged writer remains in critical condition, shifted onto a ventilator.
Abdul Hameed, whose nom de plume has always been A Hameed, is one of the most popular Urdu fiction writers from Lahore. He has written over 200 novels and 100 books for children. He has also been associated with plays. Today his most popular play for children, ‘Ainak Wala Jinn’, is still remembered for its vivid imagination, colourful characters and thrilling story.
Hameed was born in 1928 in Amritsar under the colonial rule. He passed his secondary education in Amritsar and migrated to Pakistan after partition. Here he passed intermediate level as a private candidate and joined Radio Pakistan as an assistant script editor. After working some years for Radio Pakistan he joined Voice of America. His first collection of short stories Manzil Manzil received great acclaim from the readers and made him a well-recognised romantic short story writer.
Apart from writing short stories and novels, he also wrote columns for national newspapers, along with many programs for Radio and TV that also got great acknowledgement from his audience.
Saeed Ahmed, a writer, who is a close acquaintance, told Pakistan Today that Hameed incorporated a unique style in his work, mainly because he was never associated with any groups, and believed that literature should always remain impartial. Besides this, A Hameed had the distinction of putting stress on the plot and the story rather than on anything else.
“In the 1960s, under Ayub Khan’s military rule, the writers out of fear of being harassed had begun to use symbolism in their work rather than speak outright about issues, especially cruelty,” says Ahmed. “Habib Jalib was the first to break the ice here, through his poetry, while A Hameed did the same through his prose and plays.” Hameed, he says, is basically known as being a romantic short story writer.
“He is a romantic writer in both ways: as a writer who incorporated love and romantic relationships in his stories, such as Champa Kali and Naaryal Kay Darakht, and as a writer who was inherently a follower of the romantic movement of literature, which focused more on descriptions.”
Unfortunately, however, Hameed’s columns in Urdu newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt, did not do him a favour. He wrote for about 10 years for a meagre Rs 300 per column, and afterwards was told he was given an increment. His wife says that upon hearing this, he was delighted but was again left downcast and dejected when he discovered that the increment was only for Rs 100.
Masood, his son, says that the family is distressed at the moment in dealing with the situation. “We were not even given a concession by the hospital until Ataullah Qasmi interjected and spoke to the medical superintendent and had them make the treatment free for us,” he says. “Otherwise it was about Rs 6000 for injections everyday. I felt terrible thinking about those who had to go through this. We ourselves could not afford a better hospital for him.”
But it was only Ataullah Qasmi, because of whom the family’s burden has been eased. No other government official, including the governor or the chief minister has bothered to come and at least visit the writer, who continues to fade away in the small ICU room of a hospital. Not even the media has bothered to give importance to Hameed. To make matters worse, the doctors’ strike has heightened matters.
“Usually the pharmacy is closed because of the strike and we have to travel a long distance to get his medications,” says Masood. He voices his solidarity with those members of the intellegencia who have been ignored by the Pakistan governments, both federal and provincial. “They are not given importance, or any substantial amount of pension to live respectably. Instead, these artists and writers are hand to mouth or starving. Some have died unnoticed, while others continue to remain ill because they have no money for treatment. A nation which promotes its artists and intellectuals is a nation which will prosper, but ours prefers to support and promote only feudal lords and bureaucrats,” he says.
A Hameed has written more than 200 books. Urdu She’r Ki Dastan, Urdu Nasr ki Dastan, Mirza Ghalib, Dastango Ashfaq Ahmad and Mirza Ghalib Lahore Main, are his most famous books. He is also known for his excellent essays on Lahore, seen from a unique and original perspective, which were later translated by Khaled Hassan into a book called ‘Lahore Lahore Ae’. His Drama Ainak Wala Jinn is still fondly remembered by the 90s generation, while his fantasy series of 100 novels for children known as Ambar Naag Maria (a series) also made him famous among young readers.

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