Prominent Urdu fiction writer, Razia Fasih Ahmad, presently resides in Elgin, a suburb of Chicago. She migrated to the United States in the 1980s.
Razia started her literary career with short fiction stories. Her novel Abla-pah won the Adamji Prize for literature in 1964. She also won the Writer’s Guild Prize for best short story for Aankh ka Kanta . During the last five decades she has produced a vast array of intellectual outputs: novels, short and long stories, plays, travelogues, humorous articles, and poetry. Her popular novel titles include Seemeen (1964), Abla-Pa(1964), Intizar-e-Mosam-e-Gul (1965), Ek Jahan Aur Bhi Hai(1966),Mata-e-Dard (1969), Tapti Chhaun (1969), Azar-e-Ishq (1971),Atash Kada (1983), Sadiyon Ki Zanjeer (1986), Yeh Khwab Sare (1992), andAadhi Sacchayan ( 2008). Her most recent novel is Zakh'm-e-Tanhai (2008). It is based on the life of the Bronte family of England: Charlotte, Emily, and Ann Branwell are authors of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and many other literary works . Her poetry collections include Chak-e-Qafas and Qafas Zad. Razia Fasih Ahmed is currently recuperating from heart bypass surgery that was performed recently.
Dr. Ahmed S. Khan (ASK) conducted a short interview with Razia Fasih Ahmad (RFA) at the launching ceremony of Breaking Links at the Bartlett Public Library, Illinois. Breaking Links is the English translation of Razia Fasih Ahmad’s Urdu novel Sadiyoon Ki Zanjeer (Chained Centuries) based on the chain of events that unfolded as a result of the political clash between West and East Pakistan. She did the translation herself. It is perhaps the first book that focuses on the human suffering of the conflict: how families got affected and how politics affected human relationships. The author has put in considerable effort to get the facts and details of events right. She traveled to Bangladesh and talked to people of different viewpoints and gathered facts related to the 1971 tragedy. She has presented a true picture of the violence, rape, murder, and bloodshed: the horrors of war. In Breaking Links , Razia Fasih Ahmad has very eloquently juxtaposed history with romance.
ASK: When and how you decided to write Sadyon Ki Zanjeer?
RFA: I visited East Pakistan during 1965 and again in 1967 to receive the Adamji Prize for my novel. These experiences were very different. In 1967 I could feel the rift between East and West Pakistan as the Bengalis were extremely reluctant to speak with West Pakistani writers in Urdu. They made it clear that if we did not speak Bangla language they would prefer to talk to us in English.
My experience in Army cantonments was that in every gathering there were separate groups of West and East Pakistani officers and families who never shared their thoughts, grievances and misunderstandings. This attitude on every level resulted in misgivings and animosity. After the 1971 war and my husband’s retirement from the Pakistan Army, I met many Biharis in Karachi who had fled from East Pakistan during the turmoil. Their stories were totally different from what we had heard in the West Wing. After getting this insight and not finding any significant writing on the subject at that time, I decided to write this novel.
ASK: What led you to translate the novel into English?
RFA: One lecturer in India translated it but the scholars did not think it up to the mark. It was not accepted by the publishers and so I decided to translate it myself. Oxford University Press (OUP) wanted it abridged so I cut it short and the OUP got it edited.
ASK: You traveled to Bangladesh to do research on your book. Based on your interaction with people of different viewpoints, what actions could have prevented the fall of Dacca?
RFA: I went to Bangladesh in 1985 to conduct research for this novel. I met many scholars, Mukti Bahini leaders, editors of newspapers and people from different walks of life. Most of them told me that Sheikh Mujeeb wanted autonomy and not a separate state. The mismanagement by the Pakistan government, Army action in March 1971 and the growing influence of Bengali student leaders led to the war and fall of Dacca. Fairness in dealings between the two wings and political dialogue could have prevented the breakup.
ASK: Who is your favorite character of Breaking Links and why?
RFA: Omar is my favorite character. He is very perceptive and wise like a sage and guru. He has a unique personality.
ASK. What are the lessons to be learnt from the fall of Dacca?
RFA: The government should be fair and considerate and treat everybody equally. Should a conflict arise, it should be dealt with fairly and through political dialogue. Most importantly, there should be a just cause to win a war.