Report by Ammar Khalid
Theatre Wallay held their annual tribute to Urdu literature, Shaam e Sukhan, at Go Organic (in Islamabad, Pakistan) on January 20, 2016.
Shaam e Sukhan has been a regular feature of our annual calendar for which we gather and celebrate Urdu literature. This was the fourth edition of the annual event. For this year’s edition, a reading of letters written by celebrated writers was held. The evening involved 9 readers and over 150 audience members. It was encouraging to see the interest shown in the event by the attendees and the hearty appreciation they gave to the readers.
The event kicked off with a reading of Ghalib’s letter to Mirza Tufta. Read by Kamran Ali Taj, the letter is a reflection on the sense of gloom prevailing over Delhi after the failure of 1857 War of Independence against British imperialism in India. A reading of three fictional letters written by Safeer and Salman Haider for our recent production, Daagh Daagh Ujala, followed this. These letters were read by Rabia Ajaib and are a comment on the tormenting Partition of 1947 and how the new realities divided old relations and friendships.
Issues of political, social and literary criticism also came up in some letters read at the event. Hishaam Qureshi read Manto’s letter to Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, which is a window into the life and challenges of a struggling writer. Nasir Hasan’s reading of a letter written to Maulana Maududi by Khalid Akhtar offered brilliant insights into the emergence of right-wing politics in Pakistan’s history. Manto’s ficitional letter to Uncle Sam (read by Umer Ghumman) foreshadows Pakistan’s current political and social crises, and evoked an excited response from the audience. Ahmed Bashir’s letter to Jamiluddin Aali was read by Ruhani Barkat; the letter touches upon issues of literary criticism and language politics in Pakistan. Muzaffar Qureshi read Ibn e Insha’s letter to Qurat ul Ain Haider. Composed in Ibn e Insha’s iconic wit, the letter is an amusing reflection of the two writers’ friendship. Sadaf Ahmed read a fictional letter that appeared in Umera Ahmed’s works, which reflects the struggles of a contemporary woman after marriage. Shaukan Niazi’s reading of his own fictional creation concluded the evening. The letter is a comical account and captivated the audience with its wit and humor.
The evening was hosted by Safeer of Theatre Wallay. Peppered with references to Urdu poetry addressing the art of correspondence and associated emotions of longing and desire, Safeer brilliantly synthesized the evening to direct attention to a dying art of letter-writing and the literary contributions of the genre to Urdu language and thought.