Dr. Enver Sajjad – An Enigmatgic Icon


The first ever-commissioned play to be telecast in the subcontinent in November 1964 was written by Enver Sajjad. He was bestowed with Pride of Performance in 1989 for his valuable work in literature. And he got the ECO Award of Excellence 2004 in history, literature and culture. His screenplay are so deftly written that a prolific writer like Ashfaq Ahmed once confessed that he learned to write screenplay from Enver Sajjad

I was at Riaz Rafi’s studio apartment one evening. Rafi as he likes to be called is an artist with a nagging conscience. I was in the midst of doing an in-depth profile of him. (project shelved indefinitely–cannot get permission to use some quotes.)

There I met an old acquaintance, Dr. Enver Sajjad, physician, artist, katahak dancer, playwright, columnist, short story writer, novelist and essayist – the list is long for this very talented man. He vividly recalled meeting a young temporal years earlier and commented with a twinkle at my appearance.

Ghazal oos nay chehRi mujay saaz daina …I mumbled to which he instantly added… tO yeh umr e rafta ki saazish hay?

‘Are you still in Canada?’
‘Ji haaN.’
‘Do you still write?’
‘Have you published a book?’
‘Why not? Why do you write?’
‘I write (just) for myself.’
‘Every creative writer does, but you must publish and make your work available.’
‘I am aware of the limited appeal of my writing…am just a small time poet, stargazer…’

Luckily at this point someone entered and the conversation momentarily drifted.

‘Aap kya likh rahay haiN aaj kal?’

‘Nothing much, the odd script or two. I have stopped writing my regular columns for a number of years now. There is no point. The readers do not read. People do not read, do not educate themselves, do not inquire with an open mind. It fell on deaf ears and blind eyes. So I stopped wasting my breath.’

Dr. Enver Sajad is a diminutive man, with a lean body and unassuming demeanor. He is soft spoken, almost quiet. But when he discusses current state of affairs his eyes lit up and he punctuates his conversation with animated gestures.

Rafi was showing his latest painting of a man and a woman in a kathak pose to his guru Nighat Chowdhury. The classical music was playing in the background and looking at the painting Nighat instinctively moved her feet to the music.

Pointing to Rafi, I told Enver Sajjad, ‘He switched from medicine to arts after being inspired by the Art Aur Musawwir columns by Shafi Aqeel.’ (The columns ran for a number of years in the Daily Jang.)

‘Words and thoughts do have an effect. You must not abandon your columns,’ I implored. ‘How can you encourage me to publish while you have stopped writing?’

He paused to reflect, then launched into a long monologue.

‘We are still reeling from the effects of Daur e Jahilya’s excesses. (He was referring to Gen. Zina ul Haq’s dark tyrannical reign.) He has caused an ir-repairable damage to the already fragile national psyche. He empowered the demonic forces of sectarianism, fundamentalism and increased the already wide chasm between the haves and the have-nots.’

He kept bringing Zina ul Haq’s reign throughout his conversation. At one point I interrupted politely and suggested that Pakistanis cannot forever blame the excesses of the past for their failure to live in the present.

‘Not so, not so! The flood gates of terror and hypocrisy he unleashed cannot be recalled. The Uni-polar world and our (Islamic) conditioned fatalism have added fuel to this dilemma. My generation has had its innings. We played a poor inning. But the new(er) generations have been even worse than ours. They do not read, do not understand, do not think. They sadly have abandoned hope. And strive.’

‘In the past 56 years we have not produced a single philosopher, thinker, writer of note. Not one from a pool of 150 million! And the one we had he disowned.’

‘But janab this span of years is nothing in a nation’s history. It is all too brief a period to lament.’

‘I do not quite agree. We have regressed. The conditioning and fatalism I spoke of earlier coupled with 9/11 has forced us to regress even farther.’

‘All the more reason voices like yours should be heard more often. You should impart your thoughts and ideas and what you have learned to the new(er) generation.’

‘No use, no use. It is all a waste!’

‘I disagree janab. You still have passion in your voice when you speak. You still have this fire burning in your belly. If I had not felt it I would not have asked you to continue to write. This sense of frustration is perhaps only a momentary lapse…’

Some more guests arrived, some drifted. In the ensuing melee our conversation drifted.

‘Have you moved to Karachi?’

‘No, I am here on an assignment. I am supervising the setting up of a Script Bureau for Geo.’

Last I heard he was helping Zia Mohyeddin in the National Academy of Performing Arts in the renovated buildings of the old Hindu Gymkhana.

(Karachi, September 2004)


Filed under Art, Books, Dance, Fiction, Karachi, Literature, Theatre

15 responses to “Dr. Enver Sajjad – An Enigmatgic Icon

  1. @T: thank you for this personal vignette about one of our few remaining renaissance men.

    dr sajjad’s statement about not having produced philosophers is particularly apposite. what we need even more than good doctors and teachers and engineers and… bankers, are thinkers — who can holistically define our current socio-political state, and then provide a vision of the future which takes those fundamental ground realities into consideration.

  2. Qandeel

    I agree. Where are the real thinkers and the bohemians, the ones not permanently seeking escapism or tripping on lsd?

    I think we’ve become so intolerent and intellectually bankrupt, and so hopeless, that there is just no space for these philosopher types.

    Daur e Jahilya continues…

  3. Temporal
    many thanks for this post – Enver Sajjad is truly a reanissance man.

    Qandeel has rightly said that zamana-i-jahilya continues or we are simpy drifting into it

  4. thanks for your comments folks

    he is so right!

    we do not read – there is a dearth of thinking (and of tolerance)

    we are a nation of whiners and men of faux-conviction bent on pushing the baby back into the womb

    in one of my travels i met a non-pakistani who was familiar with the literary scene in pakistan and he asked me to show him one man (or woman) who left pakistan in protest

    i thought of faiz, fehmida, faraz

    but sadly, they all returned and if you forgive me ‘compromised’ for one reason or another

    no solzhenitsyn, no salam like figure!

  5. personally, T, i think leaving in protest is an admission of defeat. and the people you mention are to be lauded. compromise, however, is another matter, and can vary in type and degree. and is not necessarily to be decried.

    i agree that it’s easier to be outspoken in more open socieities. you can say a whole lot more and get away with it. but if all our writers and philosopher-types start deserting the sinking ship what will become of us?
    what will become of them… amputated from the host body which gives them their legitimacy and their voice (and their ideas and ideals)?

    [spoken by a seemingly terminal exile-on-inane-street, viz, me]

  6. kinkminos:

    by no stretch my non-pakistani friend was suggesting they desert a sinking ship

    what he meant was “men/women of conviction” who could continue to keep the literary flame of protest and opposition aflicker providing a moral compass of sorts

  7. now that kind of “sat-nav” i can live with.

    : )

    now if only i could get my own immoral compass to point east instead of magnetic west, there might be some hope for my redemption

  8. east?

    and how f a r east?

    burma…..er….mynanmar, bangkok, bali, ……:)

  9. dekho mian, ye sub natak-shatak chhoro… your (freudian) slip is showing in the way that all three places you mentioned begin with “b.” maane ke “b.b.b.” : )

    so, okay, b + b = our dearly departed shaheed bint-e-viqar-ul-mulk, whose untimely death we all mourn, for different reasons.
    pray tell, after consultation with your shrink[ing violin], what the third (or first) “b” expands to.

    okay, so now you know why i’m not a world-renowned psycho-analyst!
    but hey, at least i can say i’m halfway there.
    (the first half, yaar… vy ko all my vundarfool jonks fall flat on their backsides!)
    : (

    as for the issue of “east, or vast, is bast?” i’d settle for shedding my pavlovian sniffing of western posteriority for a huqqah, pugg and dhoti. lekin aisa jiyala jeeves kahan jo iss post-colonial hangover se nijat paane ke liye pick-me-up bana kar pesh karay!

  10. ok:)

    so i took this …could get my own immoral compass to point east… and pointed to those places in the east (of where i think you are – UAE?)

    as for bb’s (freudian slip?) – chaalisa notwithstanding – it was not the intent – unless you are dropping a hint that my appointment with the shrinks is overdue;)

    (and not all your jokes land on the floor)

    digression: would you like to contribute to desicritics.org?

  11. >>> and not all your jokes land on the floor

    many thanks for that highly comforting dulasa
    : )

    as for desi-critics, well… honoured to be considered i’m sure, though i have to admit (shamefacedly?) that i’m not very familiar with the site. what did you have in mind?

  12. check out the cabals at desicritics.org

    read these two

    # » The Desicritics Team
    # » Become A Desicritic

    and the other stuff there

    see if you are comfortable

    and let me know

  13. faizaabi

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful article on Anwar Sajjad.He is a marvellous writer.I can never forget his novel “Karab”.Has he got his own website or a web-contact.

  14. Asif

    Can someone let me know if Dr. Anwar Sajjad is settled out of country? Does any one has his email/phone number to contact him.

  15. he is very much in pakistan. not keeping too well these days. email me for his contact number