KARACHI: The Pakistan Arts Council Karachi hosted an event in its Josh Malihabadi library on Tuesday evening to pay tribute to the famous Indian literary critic, playwright and poet, Professor Shamim Hanfi, who died on May 6 of this year.
Indian poet Ranjit Singh Chohan, who joined the online debates, was the first speaker. He said that Hanfi sahib’s death was his personal loss. It was the life of literary events. Chohan regretted that during the second wave of the pandemic, when the late academic was unable to make it to the Jashn-i-Adab [in India] he didn’t like it and stopped taking her calls for a while. He and Hanfi sahib subsequently contracted the coronavirus. The latter reached a stage where he needed the help of a ventilator.
Chohan said he would often be Hanfi Sahib’s companion during his visit to the Urdu Lecture held annually by the Arts Council. In 2019, when they passed through Wagah and entered Lahore, Hanfi sahib told him that this may have been his last visit to Pakistan.
Indian literary critic, playwright and poet recalled
Critic Nasir Abbas Nayyar said there are many sides to Hanfi Sahib’s personality. He has written over 50 books (including the famous book The Philosophical Foundation of Modernism), created children’s literature, and wrote poetry and plays. One of his major contributions to literature has been his exceptional conversational skills (guftugu) which is part of our oral tradition. It would have a huge impact on his listeners. He spoke quietly but with a lot of confidence. This confidence came from the fact that he had a particular vision and concept of literature.
Nayyar said the reason for Hanfi Sahib’s detachment from movements such as the Progressive Writers’ Movement and Modernism was that after the Cold War ideological wars began to decline. He argued that if one wanted to understand Hanfi sahib’s literary criticism, one had to know that he did not only belong to the world of literature: he had a deep interest in other genres of art such as painting, music and theater.
Critic Mubin Mirza said that the late scholar had a multidimensional personality (mukhtalif jihaat theen) which also manifested in his different moods and conditions (kaifiyatein). He met him at the Urdu Conference for the first time. Of the 12 lectures, he physically attended 10 of them. He also participated in the 13th edition online from India. The kind of relationship he developed with the Canada Council made it hard for everyone to forget about him.
Indian novelist Khalid Jawed said it was difficult for him to talk about Hanfi sahib because the late critic had fed him like a plant. He was like a father figure to him. Together, they went for a walk every day in the evening; Hanfi sahib did not like morning walks. He used to insist his cadets walk in densely populated areas like Zakir Nagar because there were people from all walks of life – rich, poor, educated, illiterate, etc. . It kept your ego from bloating.
Jawed said he had never seen Hanfi sahib get angry with or about anything. He was a different man at the literary sessions; but as she walked in the evening her conversation used to have a distinct flow.
Playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed said earlier today that he was at the funeral of writer and journalist Masood Ashar [in Lahore] who was a dear friend of Hanfi sahib. He had known him for 50 years. He agreed with Chohan that during his visit in 2019, Hanfi sahib told him [Syed] as well as this could be his last trip to Pakistan.
Syed said he often struck up a conversation with Hanfi sahib on two topics: music and theater. In this regard, he told an interesting story. During his first tour of Pakistan in 1983, Hanfi sahib and his family and their hosts visited the northern regions. The late critic decided to travel in Syed’s car because it contained cassettes of Pakistani Ghazal singers such as Mehdi Hasan and Iqbal Bano. But it took Syed a pleasant surprise when Hanfi sahib immediately and lovingly recognized the voice of Pathaney Khan. Asking him how he knew about Pakistani folk music, Hanfi sahib replied that from 8 p.m. to midnight Pakistani Radio Multan transmission could easily be heard in Delhi. And it was there that he was able to listen to Pakistani folk music.
Dr Ambareen Hasib Amber facilitated the program.
Posted in Dawn, July 7, 2021