Akhtar Balouch: Why did Qurratulain Hyder leave Pakistan for India?

NB: Today we learn the sad news of Janab Akhtar Balouch’s passing. I have not been able to find an obituary and am posting some of his writings as a tribute. This is the first article of his that I posted: Daya Ram Gidumal of Sindh. Here are some more, including a fascinating account of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan’s assassination in October 1951. The piece below is of especial interest, given that we are now witness to literary censorship that India has never seen before. Rest in Peace Akhtar saheb. You loved humanity irrespective of religion and nationality; yours was a heart of gold. DS

Why did Qurratulain Hyder leave Pakistan for India?
She departed this world in August 2007, but continues to live on in her fluid writings since then. After Partition, Qurratulain had migrated to Pakistan and lived here for a few years before deciding to return to India; eventually, she took up Indian citizenship. It was during her stay in Pakistan that she penned her masterpiece novel Aag ka Darya (River of Fire). With the critics, it is a long-running debate on whether it is a novel or a book documenting the history of pre-partitioned India.

The story spans over centuries, and the protagonist Gautam Nilambar apparently personifies the cultural and social changes taking place in the subcontinent. Those who have read the novel would vouchsafe that Qurratulain Hyder writes more like a historian than a novelist when she unearths the history of several centuries. She treats the ending of the novel with unparalleled dexterity. This is how she describes Gautam Nilambar as he passes by a ‘shamshan ghaat’ (open air crematorium):

“He climbed up the high peak of Gaurishankar, wrapping himself in clouds. On the top, he sat down, bending his knees. He looked around to find vacuity everywhere, and he realised that he was alone as usual, the eternal and everlasting human of the earth, tired and vanquished, rejuvenated and hopeful; the human who found himself in god and who was himself a god.

“Smilingly, he descended and opened his eyes.

“Hail the awakening of those awoke; hail the rule of law; hail the asceticism of those who have found peace, Shankia Mani said.

“He climbed down from the brink, took a deep breath, and slowly walked towards the village.”

Critics on Aag ka Darya
Muzaffar Hanfi, in one of his essays, both censures and praises Aag ka Darya, saying that notwithstanding some minor flaws, the work is an important milestone in the history of Urdu novels.

He says that it is a patent fact that in response to Aag ka Darya, a number of great novels in Urdu have been written, including Udas Naslein (translated into English by its author as The Weary Generations), Sangham, Ali Pur Ka Aili, Khuda ki Basti (translated into English as God’s Land), and Lahu Ke Phool, as if Hyder, by writing Aag ka Darya, had opened a door to the fourth dimension for other novelists.

Aag ka Darya, he says, is charged by explosives that would go off when touched and lead to several blasts, killing everyone devoid of sagacity and prudence, and leaving the survivors mourning for the rest of their lives….