“Writing a book is like bearing a child and you do not share that with anyone. God is your only confidant. It is also like falling in love. You keep it personal and private.”
— Bano Qudsia
On the fateful day of 4th February 2017, Pakistan lost one of its literary giants and indubitably a gem in the world of writing when the legendary author Bano Qudsia passed away at the age of 88, plunging the literary world into a pall of gloom and depriving contemporary Urdu literature of one of its most striking and authentic voices. She will be always remembered for all her literary services and the changes that she brought about in this society with the power of her pen.
Bano Qudsia, popularly known as ‘Bano Appa’ was born in Ferozpur, India on November 28, 1928 as Qudsia Chattha. Her father, who was a landlord and a well-read man having a bachelor’s degree in agriculture on his credit, died when Bano was quite young. Bano got her early education from a Dharamsala. Her mother, Mrs Chattha was an educationist and she encouraged her daughter to complete her higher education. Her only brother Pervaiz Chattah was a painter.
She was a budding genius and was fond of writing since childhood. She began writing short stories when she was in class 5. She had to migrate to Lahore with her family after the partition of the Subcontinent.
Bano wrote for college magazines and other journals. Her stay at Lahore’s Kinnaird College went a long way in sharpening her scholarly skills. Bano wanted to polish her expressions in Urdu, the only language with which she could reach the common people. So, in 1951, she completed her master’s degree in Urdu from the Government College Lahore – the same institution where she met Ashfaq Ahmad, another giant of Urdu literature to whom she later got married. Her marriage to great writer Ashfaq Ahmed completed the artist in her, though she asserted that her writer-spouse never tried to influence her writings. After her marriage, Bano went on to establish her very own magazine which was called Dastango.
Bano represented an era during which Pakistani literature soared. Though she gained much acclaim for the plays she penned for radio and TV, her novel Raja Gidh (The Vulture King) earned her accolades within the country and outside. Some of her other most exemplary works include novels like Haasil Ghaat, Aik Din, Amar Bail and Footpath Ki Ghaas.
Qudsia was, in fact, the brains behind many of PTV’s most popular television plays, out of which Aadhi Baat became a classic. Her other famous plays include Tamasil, Hawa ke Naam, Seharay and Khaleej. She became a trendsetter in the realm of television plays due to thought-provoking sentiments.
Her Magnum Opus
Her novel Raja Gidh can be rightly called her magnum opus as none of her other novels has received as much recognition as Raja Gidh which centres on the forbidden truth. The plot of the novel builds around the symbol of a vulture, a bird of prey, which feeds on dead flesh and carcasses. The moral sought implies that indulgence in the forbidden leads to physical and mental degeneration.
Her Life with the Great Ashfaq Ahmad
In Rahe Rawan, she wrote about her life with Ashfaq Ahmed. As in her life, in death too, she placed him on a very high pedestal and did not shy away from attributing him with hidden qualities often associated with sages. She did not claim to understand the man she lived with for more than five decades, bearing children in the process. An attempt at writing his biography took her beyond just him, and she wrote about his ancestry, the family including his grandfather, father, uncles, brothers, sisters and their children so as to fully understand the enigma that was Ashfaq Ahmed.
Awards & Recognitions
The Graduate Award for Best Playwright was conferred on Qudsia Bano in 1986, followed by the same award for three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990. In 1986, she was also given the Taj Award for Best Playwright. The Government of Pakistan also recognized her contributions to her field and she was bestowed with Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2003 and the Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2010. Pakistan Academy of Letters honoured the renowned author by awarding her with Kamal-e-Fun Award in 2010.
Her books and tele-plays include Adhi Baat, Aik Din, Amar Bail, Assey Passey, Bazgasht, Chahar Chaman, Chota Shehr Bary Log, Dast Basta, Dosra Darwaza, Dusra Qadam, Foot Path ki Ghaas, Haasil Ghaat, Hawwa kay Naam, Hijraton ke Darmiyan, Kuch aur Nahi Lagan, Apni Apni Marde Abresham, Maum ki Gallian, Naqabal-e-Zikr, Piya Naam Ka Diya, Purwa Purwa, Aik Din, Raja Gidh, Saman-e-Wajood, Shehr-e-Bemisaal, Shehr-e-Lazawal, Abaad Weerany, Sudhraan, Suraj Mukhi, Tawjha ki Talib, Rahe Rawan and Phir Achanak Yun Hua.
In her writings, Qudsia always tried to give all the details of eastern society with its true values, respect, harmony, family system and ethics which is slowly vanishing under the influence of Western cultural projection. She constantly gave a message of selfless love and contentment to her readers, she believed that “Madness is the result of unfulfilled wishes”.
The deviation of today’s woman from her natural role of mother and home keeper, Qudsia criticizes what she terms ‘a woman’s unsolicited and disoriented escape from responsibility.’ Interestingly, though, she blames men for plotting a conspiracy to push women out of the house, her only domain. “And women fall easy prey to this trap. Men of the post-industrialization era gave women a taste of luxurious lifestyles and then instigated them to step out of the house and earn that lifestyle. The woman developed a taste for what she thought was freedom for her, but which actually bonded her as a labourer and a breadwinner.” She cites the example of the woman who does the dishes in her home. “This woman is more liberated than your modern women, since she does not suffer from any conflicts of the ‘self’. Poverty is all that hurts her and she is not caught in a rat race to prove something to herself or carve out an identity for herself. Her existence is identity enough,” Qudsia writes. Qudsia also feels that what she calls women’s ‘strength of softness’ has been lost in their struggle to prove themselves equal to men. What women take as their weaknesses are in fact their strengths.