The Dawn: Apr 04, 2014

Books: novel and dictionary of technical terms

Mushtaq Soofi 

‘Galicha Unan wali’ (The carpet weaver) Zahid Hassan’s novel is different from the run of the mill fiction in the sense that it draws its inspiration from the research done on the carpet weaving industry in Punjab which does not imply that it lacks in imagination. His first novel ‘Ishq Laatare Aadmi’ was well received. He is a poet and fiction writer who knows the literary tradition as well as the cultural life of the people. In his novel under review Zahid Hassan takes the facts offered by his research on the carpet industry in Punjab as his raw material. He does with his material what a weaver does with his/her thread. The weaver knitting the threads evolves a pattern that is a thing of beauty but what goes into making it what it is, remains concealed. Zahid’s intent is to reveal rather than conceal. He, with his deft imaginative fingers, knots the story lives of the creators of tactile beauty which is as good as the layered design of a hand-woven carpet. Diverse characters from different backgrounds forced by varying circumstances come together. Punjabis, Kashmiris and Afghans create a little world of their own reaffirming that Punjab historically has been and still is an open society capable of absorbing the different ethnic and cultural strands. The novelist develops his characters in the context of their working conditions shaped by socio cultural forces and geo politics. He paints a picture where as the blurb says ‘-all the stakeholders related to carpet industry’ stand explored and exposed. The realistic approach creates a narrative that is simple but illuminating, artistic but not laboured. It also explores the alienation of working people especially women who being creative and innovative make products that have functional and aesthetic value but sadly producers are denied the opportunity to enjoy what they produce due to unjust politico-economic system. The cultural milieu in which protagonists are placed make them come alive. Zahid Hassan’s novel is a literary event and needs to be celebrated. Writing fiction demands discipline and hard work which most of the writers lack in our sluggish and half dead literary world. Zahid is already working on his new novel, a part of which is being serialised in one of the literary magazines. One hopes, the next will be even better than the present one.

‘Istlahat-e-Peshawaran’(technical terms of professionals) is Shaukat Mughal’s new book published by Jhok Publishers Multan that lists technical terms and phrases used in different traditional professions with their meanings in Urdu. Shaukat Mughal is a scholar, researcher and lexicographer and has a number of research-based books to his credit. The book claims that it encompasses the terms and phrases generally used by hundreds of professionals belonging to different professions some of which are no longer practiced. The professions dealt with in this big volume include gardening, cloth making (garments, stitching, dyeing, laundering, embroider etc), sports, cattle breeding and raising, hunting, music, arts and crafts, agriculture, cuisine, jewelry and many others. The book also explains the terms and phrases employed by traditional professionals, now a dying breed, like carpenter, blacksmith, shoemaker, well digger, potmaker, sailors, soothsayer and horse trainer. The book is a treasure trove for scholars and ordinary readers who may be interested to know the ways of working classes especially the skilled ones who lives are as much productive as hard. It evokes not so hidden a world whose presence is always with us but usually remains unnoticed due to lack of respect and appreciation for the creative potential of working classes.

Shaukat Mughal like a skilled worker has painstakingly collected a lot of material and has given us an excellent dictionary which is a sort of little encyclopaedia. His work on the one hand shows the creativity and innovativeness of working classes and on the other displays the richness of the people’s language. Though Mr. Mughal insists that the terms and phrases he collected are Seriaki but anybody with some knowledge of language can tell you that all of these barring a few are used and understood throughout Punjab as all our dialects including Seriaki and Majhi (central dialect) have the same roots. But ‘what is in a name’? His valuable work reminds the writers that so many words related with the traditional professions, which are fast falling in disuse, can be re-employed if one has the guts to impregnate them with new meanings. The words and phrases in fact warble like birds; ordinary and rare. Do not miss this book if you love the sound and song of people’s life. —

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