Engaging Talk at Aga Khan University auditorium

There were moments when the audience burst into peals of laughter and then there were moments when they went completely silent mulling over a serious issue.

Like a master storyteller, eminent writer, humourist and artist Anwar Maqsood went down memory lane and drew the trajectory of his personal and professional life while delivering an engaging talk organised by the Sixth Sense Forum in the Aga Khan University auditorium on Thursday.

In the very beginning of his talk, Maqsood took a shot at the hospital claiming that two of its newly made blocks were largely built with the bills his family paid (suggesting members of his family came to the hospital every time they fell ill).

The subject got him to reminisce about the time when he underwent angioplasty at the institution and said a doctor friend had told him to
bring along Rs150,000. This meant he would have to write six episodes of the comedy show Loose Talk to gather that amount. During the angioplasty, complications developed and the operation stretched to three and a half hours, and the fee increased proportionally.

He recited a famous couplet to introduce the heart ailment:

Mushafi hum to yeh samjhey thay ke ho ga koi zakhm Tere dil mein to bahut kaam rafu ka nikla (Mushafi, one had thought it was a mild pain But one heart needs a lot of patching up) Maqsood said his family (300 to 400 people) migrated to Pakistan in 1948 after a month of the Quaid-i-Azam’s death. The entire family went to the Quaid’s gravesite to offer Fateha. There were mourners from all parts of Pakistan (Chittagong, Tharparkar, Pindi, etc). He asked his mother how big Pakistan was. She extended both her hands to suggest it was quite big. He lamented that now when his grandson asked him how large the country was, he could only stretch one of his arms (alluding to the Dhaka Fall). The writer rued: “Every day proves to be more disastrous than yesterday.”

Maqsood said he had been in show business for 45 years and writing scripts for the Zia Mohyeddin Show was one of his early assignments.

Then he traced the political history of Pakistan starting with Z.A. Bhutto. He spent more time narrating true stories from Ziaul Haq’s era.

He said when cricketer Imran Khan announced his retirement, Zia’s sons came to him and asked him their father intended to pay tribute to the cricketer and wanted him (Maqsood) to host the show. He agreed. The sons also told him that Ziaul Haq would have to leave for dinner with the then French ambassador at 9.30pm therefore he should wind up the programme by 9pm.

The programme began and Maqsood talked about Imran Khan’s records, and while doing so mentioned that Zia too had made a record of sorts by jumping over 11 chairs (11 senior generals). He mentioned the fact that a naval junior officer had revealed to him that the reason Pakistan’s ships were named after Mughal emperors was because it had bought them from the Mughals.

This irked the dictator. He ordered him (Maqsood) to visit him at 3.30am. He went to his place where all the other chiefs and some officers were present as well. There a brigadier held him (Maqsood) by the collar saying he had crossed the border. To which the writer replied:
“You’re paid to cross the border, but when you don’t do it, it’s up to us to do that.”

Maqsood touched on the time when Benazir Bhutto was in power and in the end spoke about Gen Musharraf.

He said once at an event Musharraf was complaining about the difficulties of running the country to which the writer retorted that if he had landed his plane at Nawabshah (referring to the time when the coup happened), Musharraf would have been saved from all the difficulties.

On the subject of art, Maqsood said in the past works of such artists as Sadequain and Ahmed Pervaiz sold at Rs500 apiece. These days students who came out of art colleges sold their paintings for hundreds of thousands. He said it seemed Sadequain had made more paintings after his death.

Maqsood said his entire family were literature buffs. He claimed that it was Shakaib Jalali who changed the complexion of modern Urdu poetry. “It is because of Shakaib that poets like Iftikhar Arif, Obaidullah Aleem, Jamal Ehsani and Parveen Shakir came to prominence.”

After that he recited some of Shakaib Jalali’s couplets and then his sister Zehra Nigah’s nazms ‘Muslim Muslim Fasadat’ and ‘Jungle Ka Qanoon’. One of Shakaib’s couplets he read out was:

Ik yaad hai ke daaman-i-dil chhorti nahin Ik bael hai ke lipti hui hai shajar ke sath (A remembrance doesn’t leave the heart Like a vine entwined around a tree) He ended his talk by praising the hospital authorities and stating that Pakistan as a country had all that it required to be a great nation, but it was imperative that we mended our ways.

Replying to a query during the question and answer session, Maqsood said we spent a negligible amount of our budget on health and education.

He said the British knowingly kept the issue of Kashmir unresolved so that India and Pakistan could never become friends. He said our politicians could not go to Peshawar leave alone Kashmir. He said he hoped war would never happen.

Responding to a question on the AKU nursing staff, the writer said that 90 per cent of the times he came to the hospital was because of its nurses.


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