By Inderjeet Singh
Dawn : September 20, 2017
FAISALABAD: With the passing away of Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, the country in general and the Punjab literary world in particular, has lost a great poet, novelist, playwright and a short story writer. Besides, he was also a seasoned politician and a successful lawyer.
Afzal Randhawa died on Monday night at the age of 80, and was later laid to rest at the Qaim Sain Graveyard in Ghulam Muhammadabad.
Born on Sept 1, 1937 in Amritsar (India), Afzal Randhawa earned laurels for his tireless and selfless efforts towards the literary journey, especially in Punjabi language. Moreover, he was a major proponent of the renaissance of Punjabi language and literature.
The literary career of late Randhawa began in 1961 with the publication of his first novel Diva Tay Darya (Earthen Lamp and the River); while his second book published in 1965 was a collection of poetry Sheesha Aik Lashkaray Dou (One Mirror Two Reflections); followed by a book of short stories Runn Talwar Tay Ghora (Lady, Sword and Horse) published in 1973.
His yearning for the fulfillment of his burning literary passion continued to churn out many a masterpiece poetic and fictional work.
Afzal Randhawa’s six poetry collections, which left a mark on the society, included Raat Daay Char Safar (Four Journeys of Night) in 1975; Punjab Di Var in 1979; Mitti Di Mehek (Aroma of Mud) in 1983; Piyali Wich Aasmaan (Sky in a Cup) in 1983; and Chhewaan Darya (The Sixth River) in 1997.
He also wrote long poems and his collection of long poems, ‘Punjab Di Var’, was banned by the martial law regime of Gen Zia.
He authored four novels, including Doaba (1981), Suraj Grehan (1984) and Pundh (2001,) and four short story collections, including Randhawa Dian Kahanian (1988), Munna Koh Lahore (1989) and Illahi Mohar (2013).
Randhawa’s contribution to Punjabi literature also included translation works. He translated two great writers of postcolonial literature, Chinua Achebe and Garcia Marquez into Punjabi. He translated Achebe’s Things Fall Apart into Punjabi as Tutt Bhaj (1986) and Marquez’s A Chronicle of Death Foretold as Maut Da Roznamcha (1993).
Randhawa got appreciated, not only by his readers but critics as well as he won many awards, including the Pride of Performance Award in 1996, Masud Khadarposh Award, Pakistan Writers’ Guild Award, and many more by Punjabi organisations in India (an award by Punjabi Sahitya Academy), UK, America and Canada.
Faisalabad Arts Council resident director Tariq Javed said Randhawa was a prominent name in Pakistan and India. He lost his only son in 2014 and wife last year and these days he was living alone at his residence near Rajaywala. He was elected MNA from Faisalabad on PPP ticket awarded to him by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972 and contributed to framing Pakistan’s constitution in 1973. He was disqualified from taking part in politics for seven years by a court during the martial law regime.
According to his Facebook profile, Randhawa started practising law in 1967 and continued until his death.
In a statement, World Punjabi Congress Chairman Fakhar Zaman said, “It is sad news for the Punjabi writers because his contributions towards poetry, short story and novel writing have inspired generations of Punjabi literati.
‘‘Randhawa was my personal friend and we shared many dreams and ideals. I remember when he was a member of National Assembly on PPP platform; he used to make eloquent speeches in the assembly. His magnum opus, titled Diva Tay Darya set new directions in the fresh sensibility and art of novel writing.
His poetry and short stories were equally trend setters and undoubtedly he was one of the very few writers who were equally popular in Pakistan and India. Both of us have spent many days together during Indian visits where I witnessed his popularity. I was personally impressed by his diction, imagery and realism. He did not have arrogance of vocabulary and that is why his writings were equally popular in all social echelons.“Afzal Randhawa was an excellent friend, a sincere soul. He was very frank and at times disarming in his conversation on different topics starting from literature, politics to human rights and social issues. Randhawa’s departure has ended an era, an era of straight forwardness, truthfulness, integrity, commitment and ruthless struggle against undemocratic forces and extremism in our society. His personality exuded an awe, and forceful personality.”