What else could I have inherited from a tribe of poets and writers except the literary heirloom?!
My forefathers came from India empty-handed (The 1947 divide) , they started their life from the scratch for settling down in different cities of Pakistan, mostly in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
Although all of the assets and property was left behind in Amroha , still the very essence of the Amrohan soil was brought along by them, it was the love of literature and literary people which has always run in the Amrohan blood, these people decided to keep the literary culture and heritage alive in this new homeland of theirs and transferred the same to the next generation , for this was the only heirloom available . . .
When I was born, all I saw was books! Piles of them! Plenty of them! Variety of them! There were novels, there were poetry collections, digests, history, religion, literature, philosophy, astrology, and you name it. We were not only book collectors, but book readers too. My father used to discuss excerpts of history and religion in his evening gatherings and my mother was fond of writings of Ibn e Insha and Jon Aelia . Ibn e Safi and Ishtiaq Ahmed were major reads of my siblings. This love of literature, passion for books and habitual hobby of reading made one of my brothers a national quizzer, and one of my sisters a PhD , triggering my miscellaneous attempts on writing out of which I could only earn 5 books and some handful of stories. (Blogs excluded)
It was a time when T.V. was the latest invention, there was only one national channel that telecasted programs for selected hours and for the remaining part of the day there was no transmission at all. Social media was not even fiction! It was peace and it was pure. Book reading was not only a hobby but more of a life style too. There were coffee houses where writers and poets gathered and there were poetry session (mushairas) which always enlightened the hearts and souls of the common people. Pen was mightier than the sword and poets, writers were considered real celebrities.
One of those acclaimed celebrities was Jon Aelia , inherited to us from Amroha. He was a cousin to my father and we felt very proud of this relationship because of the class Jon had in the literal circles of the nation. He is considered one of the three most eminent ghazal poets of Urdu of the second half of the twentieth century.
Jon was an asset we inherited from Amroha and so was his elder brother ‘Raees Amrohvi’ , who was not only a poet but a psychoanalyst too. He was known for his unique style of Qatanigari (quatrain writing). For decades he penned quatrains for Pakistan’s daily newspaper Jang. Almost all the members of Raees’s and Jon’s family were poets.
He penned a number of books on metaphysics, meditation, and yoga. He also tried to produce a standard Urdu translation of the Bhagavad Gita but the work could not be completed.
These were the celebrities of that time. We used to listen to their names on our breakfast table and one of those names was Saadat Hasan Manto, who could not live long after creation of Pakistan but his works and his name is still ruling the short story domain of Urdu literature. Not an Amorhan by birth, Manto still remained an asset for us which I inherited from my ancestors and may pass on to my next generations.
(In 2009, on Manto’s 100th birth celebrations, a special play was staged in Karachi Arts Council based on his short story “Hattak”, and I played Manto in that historical tribute)
As I mentioned, my mother was also a very active reader and book collector, it was from her vast collection that we got to read classics like Inka, Aqabla, Amar Beil, and Janglus that introduced us to larger than life characters and made us fall in love with them.
The heirloom kept changing hands and found me, I was excited as this was more than a treasure, I found the same thrill in my blood that may have pushed Jon towards poetry. I started writing too but could not do justice. Living up to the legacy of Jon was a daunting task and I was not man enough.
People have plenty of things to tell about their family house, their forefather’s castle, the great grand mother’s jewellery, I have nothing but the treasure-of-the-empty-handed, whenever I see a book, any book, it turns into faces of Jon, Raees, and all, and their deep eyes keep reminding me of the holy responsibility of passing on the Amrohan legacy to my next generation.