Entire Urdu literary world and the writers’ community of the sub-continent was shaken by the news. Shaukat Siddiqui was suffering from heart ailment for several years. He was 83 at the time of his death.
Born in Lucknow (or Bareilly) in 1923, Siddiqui was a journalist of repute whose brutal portryal of underworld and the human tragedy after partition is unmatched.
It was said that no other writer had studied the life of the ‘wretched of the earth’ so closely and candidly before or after him.
His first collection of short stories ‘Teesra Aadmi’ earned him wide recognition. Subsequently, other collections of short stories, `Andhere Dur Andhere’, (1955), `Raton Ka Shahar’ (1956) and `Keemyagar’ (1984), followed.
But his magnum opus is `Khuda Ki Basti’. The epic novel was translated into 26 languages and dramatised time and again. The story of Sultana, a young woman, and her hapless brother Annu survive calamity after calamity, including the medically facilitated murder of their mother by her second husband.
The vulnerability of a family without its head is shown as it falls apart with the children exploited in every way by characters who are always lurking around the corner. Critics say the late Siddiqui describes the events and characters with minute detail in this novel without defending them or apologising for them. His wonderful understanding of the underworld makes him a spokesman for the working class.
Other novels of Shaukat Siddiqui are `Kamingah’ (1956), `Jangloos’ (1988) and `Char Deewari’ (1990).“Char Deewari” depicts Shaukat Siddiqui’s nostalgia for his childhood days in Lucknow. At an event in Doha, where Shaukat Siddiqui was honoured for his huge literary contributions to Urdu literature four years ago, he had been asked whether he had been to Lucknow since his migration from that city, he emphatically answered in the negative, saying he couldn’t have written `Char Deewari’ had he visited the present-day Lucknow.
“I do not want to say goodbye to the Lucknow of my childhood days, and hence the novel. Lucknow, I know, has changed its peculiarities over the years, and it is not the same Lucknow which I knew and which still dominates my memories.”
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