For several centuries Urdu was a language of poetry. We had great poets like Meer, Ghalib and Iqbal, but we had no major work of prose to be kept alongside the novels of West. Ainee changed this forever and Urdu world will always be indebted to her for penning ‘Aag ka Darya’.
Her name meant ‘the delight of eyes’. The daughter of an illustrious couple, Sajjad Hyder Yaldaram and Nazar Zehra, brought Urdu fiction at par with writings in other major languages of the world.
I don’t buy the charges that she was arrogant, temperamental and sympathetic to the feudal system. Qurratulain Haider was beautiful and extraordinarily intelligent from her childhood. And she knew that she was special.
She could write about the upper class and the feudal system beause she was part of it. Though she could see the hollowness of feudal society, nostalgia remains the essence of her writing. (Yaldaram’s ancestal jagir was taken away by British for the family’s role in 1857). And this nostalgia took her back to 2500 years of Indian history.
Afaq Ahmed writes that Ainy was born in a broad-minded family. Her father Sajjad Hyder had told his wife to drop purdah in 1918 when Mustafa Kamal Ata Turk ended the custom in Turkey.
Yildaram was one of the triumvirate that founded the modern Urdu short story writers, the other two being Dhanpat Rai (Prem Chand) and Sultan Haider Josh.
Afaq Ahmed writes that she had a deep insight into the third world issues and knew its intricacies. She was fond of eastern high values and Indians’ innate goodness.
I liked Rahat Indori’s comment that ‘if Prem Chand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Rajinder Singh Bedi are considered four pillars of Urdu prose (story)’ then Ainee was the entrance to this structure. She was modern, had seen the world, more than any other contemporary Urdu writer of her times.
And Jawaharlal Nehru was a personal friend. But the stories that she just rejected a proposal because the high ranking officer ate biscuits dipped in tea, are simply ridiculous. She knew she was special and like a great writer when she didn’t get the mental compatibility needed for a person to spend life with, she decided against marrying. One can see its reflection when Kamal returns to India and asks Champa why she didn’t marry.
She became a disciple of Sufi Arif Miyan at Majgavan Sharif near Lucknow. While going from Lucknow to Lakhimpur Khiri, she would walk to the hospice on foot. Such was her devotion to her ‘pir’. Ainee wrote pathbreaking novels that attained huge popularity but couldn’t get a penny out of Aag ka Darya’s royalty.
On the evening of August 21, her Namaaz-e-Janaaza was held and later she was buried at the Jamia Millia Islamia’s Qabristan. She will rest in the same grave yard where Abid Husain, Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari and Sajjad Zaheer are buried.
On Her Demise:
Shamsur Rahman Faruqui (Urdu’s foremost critic, novelist, poet): With her demise, the era of modernism in Urdu ends. She was the only fiction writer in Urdu who successfully portray Western and Oriental sensibilities alike.
Her novel, Aag ka Dariya, even if it is considered a failure, still it would be a great failure, the kind of work we can truly take pride on. She kept writing till her last breath. Her forte was in describing the composite culture of the sub-continent and the role/status of women in the society, which has existed for millennia.
Nida Fazli: With ‘Aag ka Darya’, Qurratul Ain Hyder had opposed the ‘two-nation theory’ and this made it difficult for her to live in Pakistan. She left Pakistan and returned to India.
Zubair Rizvi: Her novel demands a slightly different sensibilities from the reader. She never wrote such literature that could provide momentary delight. Even when she wrote in a popular non-literary magazine like Shama, her standard of writing remained the same.
She was one Urdu writer who was interviewed the most and these interviews are enlightening. Talking to a critic of the standing of Faruqi, she gets slightly aggressive and says, ‘Critics feel that they are kingmakers of literature’. Even Shamim Hanafi, gets a curt reply to a question,’hamaare aksar naqqad lakeer ke faqeer hi rahnege’. To Zubair Rizvi, she says, ‘most critics don’t understand fiction’. She complains to Asif Farrukhi that women writers have been ignored.
It would not be correct to call her just an Urdu writer. She was actually an Indian writer whose work measures up to international standards. She was our last great fiction writer and her style died with her.
Read more about her works at my BLOG here.