By Zubair Qureshi
Otherwise, he is a down to earth humble man a “yaron ka yar” but when it comes to appreciate a literary piece critically, you can not expect any favour. In the weekly meetings of Islamabad’s Halqa-i-Arbab-i-Zauq, Hameed Shahid, the short story writer, and critic is always there to evaluate, to appreciate and….to give unprejudiced opinion. He does so since he believes Halqa is a training institute for both the newcomers and the seasoned. Being a member of the executive committee of Halqa-i-Arbab-i-Zauq, he is always in the frontline to organize receptions for the guests, to hunt new talent and to make the regular meetings a possibility. Hameed Shahid weaves his stories around the Wheel. By doing so, he manages to get a larger canvas. In his stories, he not only highlights the sufferings of the deprived living in dark alleys, he also shows various dilemmas faced by the expatriates living abroad in the post-9/11 scenario. Another familiar theme of his short stories is the increasing distances between the urban and the rural communities. The powerful onslaught of “media revolution” on our lives is also his favourite subject matter. And he does all that in a single stride. In his own words, “Nothing else but life is the subject matter of his short stories. In my stories, I grapple with the question, What life is and how it should be?, and sometimes I try to recreate but very often I let it be”.
A banker by profession, Hameed Shahid, does all the business of plus and minus (since the job requires of him) during the daytime. It is the night that fascinates him much and he finds time to write in the peace of night. According to another great name of short story, Mansha Yad, after Mushtaq Ahmed Yousafi, we have another banker who is enlisted among the prominent names of Urdu literature both afsana and criticism. So far, three collections of his short stories “Band Ankhon se Paray”, “Janam Jahanam”, and “Marg Zar” have appeared. His book of criticism on Urdu fiction “Urdu Afsana; Soorat-o-Ma’ana” has appeared recently. Over a hundred short stories to his name, Hameed Shahid is a prolific writer. But what involves in the making of a short story? It can be anything, he says. You may call it an idea, a character some fleeting thought may turn into a serious subject of great significance. This is how story takes shape in my mind. Born in 1957, Hameed Shahid hails from a rural background. He cherishes the memories of his school days and sees them as a golden period of his life. “Those were really the days of colour and romance and it was of course the beginning of my creative journey”. After intermediate, he got admission to Agriculture University Faisalabad. It was precisely the time when students countrywide had started agitation against the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. Hameed Shahid delivered many speeches in that era of agitation but soon his first love for literature took precedence and he returned to books. After graduation from Agriculture University, for a brief period he joined Law College Punjab University Lahore but later quit Law education due to unforeseen circumstances. Meanwhile, a job was offered in a bank and he fell headlong in the banking sector. But how does he take time out of the busy bank schedule? “In the beginning, it was really a challenge. I busied myself too much with the bank work but with the passage of time I learnt how to spare some moments for my creative pursuits. Short story is Hameed Shahid’s favourite genre but extensive reading has also produced “side effects” of criticism in him. He insists that he should be known and recognized as a short story writer. His stories appear in all the big and small literary journals of the Urdu world including Funoon,Auraq, Mah-e-No, Shab Khoon, Aafaq, Symbol, Alamat, Duniyazad, and Makalma. Is writing short story is easier than writing or composing poems? According to Hameed Shahid afsana or short story requires toil and what you call “gehra mushahida” or keen observation and command over language. He is also writing a novel whose various chapters have appeared in Shab Khoon (Allahabad, India). To Hameed Shahid, Saadat Hasan Manto and Rajindar Singh Bedi are two greatest names of Urdu short story. Bedi gives us psychological analysis of his characters and makes them dear to us in spite of the entire shortcoming they have. Manto on the other hand, has lent the short story form smartness. He has made the narrative a compact and precise. This is something, which has never been done before and for that Bedi and Manto deserves all praise. Ghulam Abbas is another name to whom Urdu story owes a lot but his sole merit lies in “Anandi”. This short story has made his name immortal in short story. He says Islamabad is Shehr-e-Afasana in the true sense of the word. “Mansha Yad has given this title to Islamabad since great short story writers have lived and written here”. Qudrat Ullah Shahab, Mumtaz Mufti, Sadiq Hussain, Akhter Jamal, Waqar bin Ellahi, Mansha Yad, Rasheed Amjad, Masood Mufti, Mazharul Islam, Mirza Hamid Beg, Ahmed Javed, Ejaz Rahi, Amjad Tufail, Rana Abdul Waheed, Shabana Habib, Asim Butt, Irfan Ahmed Urfi, M, Ilyas, Nilofar Iqbal, Shabnam Shakeel, Lubaba Abbas, Nighat Saleem, Farida Hafeez, and many others. They credit this city to be called so. When asked what is Story-writing, Hameed Shahid says, “It is journey within. It is discovering self. In my opinion short story or afsana is nothing else but a recreation of life. You will have to understand subtleties of creative process before you understand that. In creative process you may come across a world of secrets, which are of metaphysical nature. You have to cope with all that. In writing a short story, you have to draw a balance between all these elements and than narrate a story. It is a mystery let me say and very difficult to explain. You may use symbols, metaphors, similes, allegory and any device or medium but mere use of certain medium does not make a short story successful. A genuine writer however, has a command to use certain symbols and can make his story widely read, well received by its use. Actually it is the writer and the way a symbol is used which matter and not the symbol or the use of symbol. Hameed Shahid says for a person who writes or aspires to write, extensive reading of other writers is must. If you are not aware of the literary trends of your age and do not know the contemporary work and names you can not produce good literature. He regards Mutalia, Mushaida and Mujahida (Study, Observation and Toil) as the essential components of a good short story. This “three-meem” theory has benefited me a lot, says Hameed Shahid and besides, the company of great writers has helped me discover new possibilities in the realm of short story.