Naheed Mazoor is a writer, critic & former RAC resident director.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading Khushboo by Parveen Shakir. This book of poems by the best woman poet of the country was published in 1977 and I still keep it on by bedside table. I read some books again and again and Parveen Shakir is one of the writers who knew how to keep the reader engaged.

In her book, Shakir presents the emotions of a woman who is struggling with her identity in a male-dominated society. She presents suppressed emotions and raises a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Many poets have written about the emotions of suppressed women but Parveen gave them a new identity. She died at an early age, at 42, but the work she has produced is incomparable. There are three books which I read again and again which include Qudratullah Shahab’s Shahbnama, Bano Qudsiya’s Raja Gidh and Ashfaq Ahmed’s books.

What was the last book you particularly enjoyed reading?

I really enjoyed Razia Butt’s Bano. The novel is based on the partition and tells the story of the families who had to migrate during the partition of the subcontinent, especially what women, children and old people had to go through. The book tells the story of when the Hindus who claimed to be friends of Muslims cheated and looted them.

Razia Butt writes very well and one cannot just put her books down. The reader feels like he is part of the plot of her stories. The other book I really enjoyed reading was Raja Gidh by Bano Qudsiya, which is one of the best Urdu novels and changed the trend of novels set by Aag Ka Dariya by Qurratulain Hyder. Bano Qudsiya foresaw the problems created by martial law in society.

Are there any classics you could not get through?

There are many books I wanted to read but could not. I wanted to read Firdosi’s Shahnama and Maulana Rumi’s Masnawi. I started these books but could not complete the. I was busy with the RAC and also had to focus more on my writing but I want to read them now. I have always wanted to read South Asian classics including Arabian Nights, Alif Laila, Aariash-i-Mehfil and others. I did not have time to read these books and just skimmed through them but they require a lot of attention. I want to take time out for them and read them now.

Do you think there is a great Pakistani writer?

I think Asadullah Khan Ghalib is the greatest poet as was Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I also like the works of Ahmed Faraz. The works of Anwar Maqsood are also incomparable and he has produced works in Punjabi, Urdu and Persian. He presents complex ideas in a simple way so that the common man can understand them.

In fiction, I think Qurratulain Hyder and Abdullah Hussein are one of the best writers who changed the trends in literature in the Indian subcontinent. They knew how to keep readers engaged and their characters were so strong that you felt like you were part of the story.

What are you planning to read next?

I am planning to read the works of Gunner Myrdal who writes on economic and social issues.

Originally published in Dawn, June 14th, 2017