The Era of Urdu’s Bronte Sisters Draws to an End with the Demise of Hajra Masroor
By Dr A. Khan
With the passing away of Hajra Masroor, a prominent fiction writer, the era of Urdu’s Bronte sisters comes to an end. Hajra Masroor (January 17, 1929 - September 15, 2012) and her elder sister Khadija Mastoor (December 17, 1927 – July 25, 1982) were prolific writers; both started writing stories for children in their early teens. In 1940s they moved up to the higher league. Their short stories received acclaim in Urdu circles, and both the sisters became the rising stars on the horizon of Urdu fiction. The brilliance of their work enabled the two to join the ranks of Ismat Chugtai and Qurratulain Hyder . Over the next four decades the sisters went on to produce a number of literary masterpieces. Khadija wrote novels Aangan , and Zameen; and short stories Bochar, Khael, and Chand Rooz Aaur. And, Hajra’s imagination yielded powerful short stories like Teesrey Manzil, Undahray Ujalay, Charkhaay, Chorey Chupay, Chand key Doosrey Taruf, and Hai Allah.
According to Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi , Hajra Masroor was born in Lucknow , British India, in 1929 (some of her biographers cite 1930 as her year of birth). Hajra’s father Dr. Zahoor Ahmed Khan was a doctor in the British army. In 1937, when Hajra was eight years old, her father died of a heart attack. The loss of her father left young Hajra devastated and emotionally shattered. Recalling those days, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, her mentor and a close friend, in his biographical sketch of Hajra Masroor in Naqoosh (January 1956) had observed, “When her father passed away…suddenly her prosperous middle class family was left in a desert of solitude. In her household there was only one male member - her five-year-old brother Tauseef… when her relatives abandoned them…Hajra’s mother took the family to her father’s house in Lucknow… her trials and tribulations made her a very sensitive person. Her innocent dreams were shattered…”
In October 1947, Hajra’s family migrated to Pakistan; traveling from Lucknow to Lahore via Bombay and Karachi . In 1948, Hajra and Khadija actively participated in the Progressive Writers’ Movement , and were often ridiculed for their progressive outlook and ideas by the other male writers. In the 1950s, Hajra and Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi co-edited the prominent Urdu literary magazine Naqoosh.
In early 1950s, Hajra married Ahmed Ali Khan , then the assistant editor of Pakistan Times, who later became the editor of Dawn. The couple had two daughters. After her husband’s death in 2007, she became a recluse and stopped writing and producing intellectual work. Hajra Masroor was very passionate about bringing social change in society; she zealously wrote about social equity of women. She received a number of awards for her intellectual work including Pride of Performance (1995) for best writer, Nigar award for best script writer and Alami Faroogh-e-Urdu award for promotion of Urdu language.
Hajra Masroor was a perfectionist; while authoring stories she would revise her script many times to improve it; she was seldom satisfied with her writing, and she would often say “Baat naheiN baney.” She was also an avid reader. She loved music too, but in her early married life, she was reluctant to buy a radio, as it would deny her time to read.
Indeed, with the demise of Hajra Masroor, the era of Urdu’s Bronte Sisters has come to an end. Urdu literature readers will miss their simple but elegant style of storytelling. Au revoir! Hajra Masroor, future generations will read your stories and will praise your uncompromising boldness. May God bless your soul.
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