They were speaking at a literary reference organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) to commemorate the centennial celebration of the short-story writer.
The event was close to being cancelled as the tragic news of the terrorist attack in Karachi poured in a day earlier.
“We decided to still hold the programme with the idea that if Krishan Chander was alive today, he would have been the first to speak up about the atrocity and turned it into another of his literary masterpieces,” writer and intellectual, Ahmed Saleem said.
The traditions of the South Asian literature were replete with accounts of both international and national tragedies, Saleem remarked.
In a somber air, the speakers related Chander’s thoughtfully-balanced writings with the carnage to find some respite from the throes of despair.
Fiction writer and critic Hameed Shahid chaired the panel that comprised Prof Iqbal Afaqi, social scientist and translator Raza Naeem and writer Dr Robina Almas.
Almas presented a paper on Chander’s writing. She underlined that Chander wrote extensively on the plight of the marginalised and the downtrodden, as well as against communalism and intolerance.
Although a contemporary and friend of literary giants such as Saadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chughtai, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Chander has not been given similar level of attention.
Unfortunately his work has not been extensively translated into other languages. However, out of his contemporaries, Chander has written the most. He wrote 20 novels.
“It is staggering, the number of short stories he has written. Chander wrote about 5,000 short stories, which are compiled in 30 collections,” said Naeem.
“The best tribute to pay to Chander is to read the translation of one of his short stories, which is about communalism, hatred and what it can do to people of different communities who have been living together for thousands of years,” he added.
He read the story-short “Ek tawaif ka khath Pandit Nehru aur Jinnah ke naam (a courtesan’s letter to Pandit Nehru and Jinnah)” from a collection titled “Hum Vehshi Hain” (We are savages) that was published in the wake of partition.
Shahid spoke about the relevance of Chander’s writings in current times and their power to lead to a more enlightened, civilised and humane society.
Afaqi termed Chander a progressive writer, who wrote about love and redemption instead of regimented ideas in grand narratives.
The speakers agreed that Chander was a prolific writer, whose writings offer a silver lining in the bleak, current socio-political scenario. Born in Wazirabad in 1914, Chander was brought up and received his early education in Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2015.