hi INDiA Copyright 2022
New Delhi, June 26 (IANS) He quotes Mirza Ghalib and says that an author is prompted by the whispering of the angels. “What it means is that it is not somewhere acquired; either one is born with the talent-urge to be more humble-or you are not. During the process of writing or rather the ecstasy of writing, words just seem to pour onto the page,” says Pakistani author Ali Rohila, whose collection of short stories ‘The Whispering Chinar’ (Penguin Random House India) recently hit the stands.
Stressing that the book is a narrative that was the result of more than two decades of reading philosophy, history, religion and literature, Rohila, a banker, who had previously written ‘Read No Evil’, a collection of essays published in 2015 is the son of well-known poet Partau Rohila, also famous for his translations of all the Persian letters of Mirza Ghalib into Urdu.
“Growing up with the books of my father was quite an experience. From an early age, I learned to appreciate poetry and other art forms. And there were times when my father tutored me in learning and appreciating poetry. The seeds of literature were sown early,” he tells IANS.
With several contemporary authors of Pakistani origin making waves worldwide for more than a decade and a half – Nadeem Aslam, Kamila Shamshie, Ali Akbar Natiq, Daniyal Mueenuddin, he feels that it is not just the stories from the soil but several other factors that have give them an edge. “Now, we grew up appreciating English classics despite the fact they were about people who had nothing in common with us. It is not just about stories but also the craft.”
Talk to him about the fact that books by most Pakistani authors tend to do well in India and he asserts that it is the shared history, culture and interest to know about the ‘other’ that drives that interest. “It is just like a relative settling down in a foreign land whom we love to find out about. While boundaries have been conceived on the maps to divide people, longing for each other cannot be smothered artificially. It is always the writer and the artist who has the courage to rise above petty issues and embrace the entire humanity in a tight embrace.
Considering in ‘The Whispering Chinar’, one sees an interplay of multiple themes including feudalism, religion and patriarchy — he feels that all of them play an essential role in the life of anyone growing up in our society.
Stressing that he chose the short-story genre owing to the short attention span of many readers, he adds, “I wanted to cater to the upwardly mobile crowd that wants to read something worthwhile but without investing too much time.”
For Rohila, the Pandemic and consequent lockdown gave him time from his long banking hours to write and complete pending stories. “In fact, the break gave me the required thinking time to conjure up a couple of new stories as well which were not part of the original plan.”
Currently working on a novel set at the height of Gandhara civilization, he concludes, ” I have already completed the characters and the plot is largely defined.”