The memoirs of Dr Kazi Khadim Hussain
Reviewed by Altamash M. Kureshi
Courtesy: daily dawn, 20.9.2009
The autobiography is an account of oneself, narrated by oneself and the biography is an account narrated by some one else; whereas the memoir is author’s personal experiences about series of events. The book under review falls within the category of a ‘memoir’.
There is a strong tradition of writing memoirs by the prominent writers, scholars, politicians, artists and important persons belonging to various fields of life. In Sindhi Language most significant memoirs are, ‘Yadgeereon’, by Seth Naomal (1804-1880), ‘Uhe deenhan uhe sheenh’ by Pir Ali Mohammad Rashdi, ‘Kaee kitab’ by Rais Karim Bux Nizamani, ‘Yadgireon’ by, Gurdas Wadhwani, ‘Janam Guzrium Jineen Saan’ by G.M Syed and Uhe Dothee Uhe Deenhan’ by Pir Hisamuddin Rashidi et al.
The memoirs of Rashidi brothers and GM Shed are in form of life sketches of prominent persons writers have come across. The only However, memoir which commensurate with the present one is ‘Yadgireon’ written by, Gurdas Wadhwani. However peculiarity of the present memoir is that events are not narrated in a time sequential method but as the title of book goes, events are narrated as and when recalled. This typical style of reminiscences has made the book more enchanting as it does not develop monotony or boredom at any stage of reading.
Before review it is also vital to be familiar with the background of its author, so as to understand the message emanating from the contents. The author by profession was first a journalist then a teacher, who retired from the University as dean faculty. However as a life pursuit he is more famous as a men of letters who has authored many books in Sindhi language besides reviewing autobiographies of renowned scholars and educationist in English, published as ‘The glorious past’, reviewed in Books and Authors.
Thus in this memoir what discernable for the reader are the three aspects of author’s life i.e. a journalist; a teacher; and a man of letters which began with writing a novel in Urdu.
The author until the age of 16 traveled across the length and breadth of Sindh while his father was posted in different places of province. Thus he had the opportunity of observing closely the rural culture of Sindh. He even stayed in small townships of Sindh, from Jati, Sijawal, Thatta to Sehwan Sukkar, Larkana, Chachro, Jhudo, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Sewhan, Sanghar, Halla (old and new) and Tando Adam. The book therefore contains in it the unique flavor of sub cultures of almost all the areas
He has narrated past, which was glorious or not but definitely was far better and peaceful than the times we are living in. However what lacking is that the author has left many significant events of the past century which as a journalist he must have come across. Nevertheless from the style of his writing, it is evident that this is not the end of it, and he may continue his life story and come out with topics which need to be recorded, so as to present the young generation perfect picture of his times.
As compared to the other memoirs this one has also another unique flavor i.e. it does not portray some specific aspect of life, but there is a cavalcade of memories presenting almost all aspects of the life and society of Sindh during past century. Even small events like how the people traveled through railways and waterways and used Tangas , Victoria and physically driven cycle rickshaws did not evade his keen observation. It will be definitely interesting to know that in those days one demand security from Tanga or Victoria drivers rather than paying them fare in advance as practiced now a days.
Surprisingly cloth was weighed and given to the tailor master and after stitching he was bound to weigh it before handing over the tailored garment. The milkman used to pour some additional milk after giving the required quantity similarly the butchers and vegetable sellers offered something extra over and the required quantity as a matter of civility and good businessmen like attitude. Who would believe now that Hyderabad was once a city of gardens, with highly reputed teaching institutions and well stocked Libraries and reading rooms? This book has all this and much more to uncover about the real Sindh, before and immediate after the creation of Pakistan.
For those who lived in Hyderabad particularly during the last century these memoirs will be a pleasing picture gallery of events refreshing their days gone by reminisces. For the new generation it will be a source of information about the social life of the recent past of Sindh. Dr Kazi has not only talked what he has personally observed but has also highlighted the past as told by his elders who survived during his childhood and early youth with equal eloquence.
When he talks about the literary life of Hyderabad with reference to particular sitting places where writers used to gather in the evenings; for example Karachi hotel a meeting place of Sindhi writers and Sultan hotel where Urdu writers generally used to sit what comes immediately to mind is the historic Coffee House of Lahore.. Besides he has rightly lamented disappearance of famous bookstalls, Pakistan National Center and Libraries of British Council and Pak American Culture Centre which played positive role in the promotion of literary culture of the city.
This book is based on the memories of the author encompassing almost all aspects of his life; happy and unhappy moments, his encounter with different subculture of Sindh, including lifestyle, food, clothing, and traditions.
The book however contains repetition of events which evaded the eye of writer probably on account of plethora of information given in it. Moreover there are editing mistakes as some events and names of persons and places have not been correctly reported. I hope in the second print more attention will be given to this important aspect of publication.
This book is spread over 508 pages including 32 pages of rare pictures, some of which having historic significance.