A traveler in time and thought
Reading Pakistani literature is hardly ever in vogue. It is a rare treat I believe when a best seller hits the shelves, but even that is not granted when it leaves a sour after-taste. Pakistani literature is still finding its scope in a region that has more brawns than brains. My sensibilities beg to wonder whether reading had a moral, social and aesthetic obligation to it, with a score of religion. It can surely be said that we are not a nation of readers, and we do not need statistics to prove that. Our public and private libraries are dusting their furniture that has smooth films of undisturbed dust over them. Before we get any gloomier or rush to Quaid-e-Azam library for our membership, there is a published Urdu book in existence which answers various questions about life and its bumpy journey of self-discovery. “Haq Ki Talaash Ka Musaafir, Aap Beeti” which can be translated as, “Traveler in the Quest for Truth, An Autobiography” is written by Aamir Yazdani, an acknowledged civil engineer with a master’s degree from the University of Southampton. This novel is an integral contribution to our minute collection of contemporary literary books, in Urdu.
It was a pleasant moment in time when I got the opportunity to sit down with the author and hear about the journey he has embarked upon, from the horse’s mouth, quite rightly so. On being presented the book, I could not help but notice the quality of its fine pages, and wonder to what lengths this determined man must have gone to, in search for the best printing and publishing available in Pakistan. In times when Pakistani English writers like Mohsin Hamid and Kanza Javed travel to our neighbouring countries and to the Far West, Mr Yazdani’s effort in finding the best publisher within Pakistan is rather laudable.
Far from being considered an author prior to writing this book, Mr Yazdani took the liberty to pen down his life’s story, instances that ended on “various inferences”. And that he believed would do a reader a favour, in ironing his wrinkled and arrayed thoughts on life, seamless. Like a fable that ends in a moral deduction, this is the essence of this novel. The traveler who wrote this novel and the one who will read it, cannot remain “fossilised”, in terms of his or her religious beliefs. With due respect, the author does not at any given moment condemn any religion at all. He merely presents a reason for thought, for negation and for critical understanding of the existing belief systems of society and of religion.
The recorder in place, the clink of china hushed, and thus began an hour long discussion on reasons believable for a common man about the bare complexities of life. The title of the novel is self-explanatory. The author exudes the idea of traveling not around the globe to admire God’s creation, that is the visible–cosm. It does not even allude to the great mental and physical migrations that have undergone in history as a result of the great orators such as Mandela or Jinnah. Their contributions were larger than life and very rewarding for millions of people, making the pragmatic next-door neighbour see it as a feat unattainable. Mr Yazdani in fact enforces the idea to reject blind-hopes and blind-following for religious, political and social intolerances; to explore the depths of our own sensibilities and reflections. It cannot be an emotional journey. “It must be a logical one”, the author emphasises, so that man can be “dynamic” in his approach to the current affairs of life. Hours back, an article on the Independent released a statement that “It’s an unhappy coincidence that the announcement of a third royal baby comes in the same year the government deems third babies a luxury not every family has earned”. The article is in sync with what Mr Yazdani claimed weeks ago: to not force an idea (law, practice, ritual) into stagnancy.
The novel is a narration of life’s events that Mr Yazdani believed was universal enough for every layman out there, searching for some meaning and a lot more truth in life. It takes more than a truth-potion to conquer a said truth. Very rightly has it been said that the “truth is rarely pure and never simple”. It led the author to the Quran, which is one of the highly acknowledged truths of the historic and the contemporary civilisations. When in conversation with the author, he claimed that “For a person who was not born in a Muslim household, he will find the manifestation of truth essentialised in anything that his heart testifies to”. Not necessarily to Islam. For all we care, it can be for something entirely humane, which may subsequently lead an individual to have faith in any of the binaries in life. Thus indeed this autobiography presents an idea that is malleable and commendable. It makes the reader revisit the truths in which s/he was born, and that is an obligation for each man for himself.
Mr Yazdani reaffirms this idea by discussing the creation of Adam and Satan. The difference lay in Adam’s realisation as he sought for forgiveness, and Satan did not do precisely that. And with this, the traveler in this hypothetic journey needs to let his “conscience prick”. It is not complex when one has their “conscience for guidance at all times”. Otherwise he says, “the heart does skip a beat” and that is a signal sufficient for the one who realises.
At long last, one may wonder who Mr Yazdani’s audience might be given that readership, especially of Urdu, is infamously declining in Pakistan. Many must be in denial, but the only honest commando in reviving it is the one who writes for the youth and for society, believing as the author does, that “there has to be more than this”.