Story of a story writer

Lalit Gupta

One who displays equal ease with characters as disparate as politicians, ministers, bureaucrats, academicians, saints, scholars, writers, poets, littérateurs as well as commoner on the street, Khalid Hussain, is the well-known Jammuite with a truly multifaceted personality. Joining the State government service as a clerk and rising from ranks to retire as Deputy Commissioner, is the aspect that made Khalid Hussain known in the political as well as official circles of the State, however it is his persona as a creative writer that not only differentiates him from other mortals involved in day to day business of life but also bestows a kind of halo upon him.

Khalid Hussain is one such creative writer and luminary of Jammu, who despite being born and brought up in Dogra land, has made a niche in the Punjabi literature and literary circles. What makes him distinguishable from other Punjabi writers of the State is that despite born in Dogra area and living since more than half a century in Jammu—the so called peripheral area of the once greater Punjab, Khalid Hussain is today recognized in the Indian sub-continent as one of the leading Punjabi and Urdu short story writer of eminence. The recent felicitation by Punjabi University, Patiala of Khalid Hussain as a creative writer who has contributed to the development of Punjabi literature and language was one of many such honors that speak of his high status in the contemporary literature.

Talking about as to how he came to inherit the Punjabi language, its earthy and idiomatic flavor which is a hall mark of unique literary style, Khalid Hussain narrates the story of early years of his life which was overcast by the shadow of holocaust of 1947 partition, bitter memories of communal strife and bloodshed which resulted into the killings of his grandfather, father and two uncles and also many of his relatives migrating to Pakistan.

After shuttling for seven years between one to another refugee camp, his family finally took residence in Mohalla Ustad, which was a Muslim residential area of Jammu along with mohallas like Jullahka, Afgana, Dalpatian, Pir Mittha and Talab Khatikaan. The Muslims of these localities of Jammu, many of whom either belonged to different parts of Jammu region or migrated from Lahore and other parts of British India, have traditionally been Punjabi-speaking communities.

With the result, the childhood of the orphan Khalid Hussain was spent amongst the ‘kochwaans, thathiars, butchers, smiths, the so called the underbelly of the society—who having no inkling of elite expressions and trappings of sophistication and artificiality, spoke and expressed their agonies and ecstasies in rustic Punjabi that was raw, earthy and full of native wisdom in shape of idioms and proverbs which he automatically imbibed. Khalid Hussain says that ‘there is no ‘rala’ in my language’.

During those days of poverty and the concomitant hardship, he came to observe the life in poor households along with that of havelies. He also became interested in real life characters many of whom scarred by psychological traumas of partition, personal affliction like alcoholism, drug addiction, stood marginalized within the enclosed society of the mohalla.

One who started to express in Urdu prose while at the threshold of youth, Khalid Hussain took to writing Punjabi in Shahmukhi or Nastsaliq script and when his stories were published by almost all leading Punjabi and Urdu literary magazines, he was acknowledged as a gifted writer by the writers’ fraternity.

What distinguishes Khalid Hussain as a writer is his sensitivity and insight, which enables him to portray the agonies and ecstasies of life in a style that is marked with brilliant use of linguistic expressions full of idioms and proverbs. Many of which are spontaneous paraphrases, similes, metaphors, and allegoric allusions to universal truths of particular human situations as well as characters’ inner states of mind.

He weaves stories around man and woman relationships, cleavage between human associations under the pressures of the so-called needs, aspirations and the tragedy that has befallen the separated families now living on both sides of the LoC in J&K finds special place in his works. As a seasoned craftsman he uses language as effective tool to express gamut of psycho-emotional side of his characters in situations that have universal association and relevance. He is noticeably candid in painting the sexual desires and needs of women characters and drawing attention to the important role it plays in their relationship with men in their lives. But he is never erotic.

The grand design of fate, destiny viz a viz the human action emerges as one of the important aspect of his stories. Though many a time the lives of his characters do not end with a happy note, but all of them irrespective their stations in life are never devoid of basic human values.

Khalid Hussian who is an incorrigible optimist, staunch votary of humanism, brother hood and communal harmony, has so far penned down more than 120 short stories. His published anthologies of short stories in Punjabi include: Te Jehlum Wagda Reha, Gori Fasal Di Sodagar, Doonge Panian Da Dukh, Baldi Baraf Da Saik and Gwachi Jhanjhar Di Cheek—a novelet, Noori Rishman—autobiography of Prophet Mohammad pbum and articles under the title ‘Khalid Hussain Da Katha Jagat’.

His collections of Urdu short stories published so far are Thandi Kangri Ka Dhooan, Ishtiharon Wali Haveli and Satisar Ka Suraj. He is presently writing his autobiography titled ‘Clerk se Collector Tak’.