By Ishtiaq Ahmed
My article ‘Street theatre in Delhi’ dated Saturday, March 31, 2007, evoked strong emotions in India and Pakistan because the veteran writer Krishan Chander’s name had been mentioned in connection with the play I saw performed. Many of us are hugely in debt to him for inspiring in us a humanism, which has survived all the traumas of the late twentieth century. At the beginning of the twenty-first century we are still convinced with quixotic zeal that the pen is superior to the sword, and therefore it should be wielded in behalf of those who have no means to defend themselves against armed bullies and their patrons.
Krishan Chander died working at his desk in Mumbai on March 8, 1977. He had just started to write a satirical essay entitled Adab baray-e-Batakh (Literature for a duck), and wrote just one line ‘Noorani ko bachpan hi sey paltoo janwaron ka shock tha. Kabootar, bandar, rang barangi chiriyaan…’ (Since childhood Noorani was fond of pet animals such as pigeons, monkeys, multi-coloured birds…’) but before he could complete the sentence he succumbed to a massive heart attack.
I remember the news of his death was received in Stockholm by us with great anguish. Only a few weeks earlier, on an impulse entirely, I had written to him after reading one of his latest stories in which he had mentioned Mohni Road Lahore, where he once lived in the late 1930s and until he left Lahore sometime in the early 1940s for Delhi to take up a job with All-India Radio. I urged him to visit Lahore where some of his best friends were still to be found. He was needed to preach his message of peace again in Lahore. He wrote back a very moving reply dated February 21, 1977. In it he wrote, among other things:
‘Lahore is a place where I was born, where I was educated, where I started my literary career, where I achieved fame. For people of my generation it is difficult to forget Lahore. It shines in our heart like a jewel — like the fragrance of our soul’. Continue reading