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Her fearless pen - Mid-Day

Muhammad Najeeb ()
October 26, 1998

Title: Her fearless pen
Author: Muhammad Najeeb
Publication: Mid-Day
Date: October 26, 1998

Pakistan's most famous authoress says fearless expression of
thoughts on social evils and wrong alone can save the country
from chaos.

"One of the things that I became one hundred per cent sure was
that one must not be afraid to raise one's voice against what
one feels is wrong and finds painful. If one does not break the
silence one can't correct disorder," says Tehmina Durrani, whose
latest book Blasphemy is selling here like hot cakes.

"There is a disorder, because we are so silent... We do not want
to become inconvenient by putting ourselves in roles which will
not be immediately accepted. That silence of ours is a very
major reason for social and political malaise. I see lethargy
everywhere, in everybody," says Durrani in an honest outburst
about Pakistan's society.

The controversial book on the solitude and misery of the wife of
a high-profile Pir, Pakistani term for a feudal lord, has a lot
of similarity with her own life story, says Durrani.

"There seemed no escape from the violence and exploitation," she
told IANS in an interview here.

Durrani first made news in the early 70s when she married Ghulam
Mustafa Khar, the all-powerful Governor of Pakistan's Punjab
province and a close associate of the then Prime Minister
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Blasphemy has stirred a storm in literary circles by its
depiction of life inside the houses of religious leaders.

The Pir's wife, who died two years ago, spent 25 years in her
husband's home without ever stepping out. The Pir used to beat
her up and she was not allowed even to meet her own close male
relatives. When asked to identify the Pir, Durrani said that
that was why she had "fictionalised the story so that her
identity is kept private ... Moreover this was my promise to
her. So, when she could trust that I would not on any way
jeopardise her safety, she agreed to narrate her story."

Durrani said she wanted it to be a symbolic tale. "I wanted the
Pir in the book to be symbolic because it's about a system, not
of just two people, just like my earlier book My Feudal Lord was
not about me and my ex-husband. It was the injustice inherent in
the system that I was symbolising," she said.

Originally she had planned to name the book In the name of
Allah. "I was very happy with that name as it was apt, but many
thought otherwise... Some thought it sounded like a religious
book, others thought it would be misunderstood, so I agreed to
change the name."

"But after a lot of discussion with friends I preferred to name
the book Blasphemy. It's not that powerful a name but the story
is very powerful and conveys a strong message," she says.

Asked how she relates her story to Blasphemy, Durrani replied:
"In today's society, the message of God and the Prophet has been
distorted and twisted to such an extent that it has become a new
religion... completely different from that which is in the Quran
and was preached by the Prophet.

Able truth is that I started my struggle with the writing of the
book. While I was writing the book I felt it was very important
to break the silence that breeds corruption. It took three years
after my divorce to metamorphose from Tehmina Khar to Tehmina
Durrani," she explained.

t was rather a difficult phase in my life. I was looking for
an identity - what I really represented, what I was in my
oneself, what I wanted to do?"

Blasphemy is Durrani's third book, the second being a life
sketch and struggle of Pakistan's greatest social worker, Abdus
Sattar Edhi.

Her experience of living with a feudal lord made her quite
bitter and she was very depressed until she made friends with a
section of the Lahore literati who, Tehmina says, showed her new
vistas. She decided to stand up against marital violence.

My Feudal Lord, translated into 26 languages worldwide,
continues to be the best-read in Pakistan.

"The period in my life that I experienced alone, by myself, was
probably the best. It brought a lot of clarity about things...
This is my belief now," says the ageless lady. Herself an
artist, Durrani says the picture on the jacket of Blasphemy is
from one of the paintings she did in 1992. The cover depicts two
women, clad in shawl and fear in their eyes, running away,
constantly looking over their shoulders.

(India Abroad News Service)

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