The women of waseb – Muhammad Sheeraz Dasti

womNarratives of three female characters in the Urdu novel, Adh Adhooray Log frame self assertion as the basic principle of existence

Muhammad Hafeez Khan’s Urdu novel Adh Adhooray Log is primarily a requiem for the tragic heroes of Bahawalpur State who fought for their identity following its merger into One Unit. It exposes the meanness of the political elite, shames the corrupt and cruel police and analyses the exploitation of the common people by the State. It is also a tale of love, loyalty and loss. Fayyaz, the protagonist, is a dreamer who, throughout his life, romances the idea of winning his lost identity through a constant principled struggle. Like all great works of fiction, this novel carries in it a world of pleasures, of pain, of dreams, of realities, of light and of darkness. However, the most intriguing aspect of the novel is its reflections of the agency of women of the Saraiki Waseb.

Unlike traditional narratives capturing women’s lives in societies like

ours, Adh Adhooray Log does not limit itself merely to lamenting the oppression of women at the hands of men or other women. Instead, it offers some very well-developed female characters, Tulsi, Mehraan and Salma Badruddin, who shatter the ‘good-victim’ stereotype and make us reimagine Wasebi womanhood.

Tulsi is Hakim Ram Laal’s beautiful daughter. She is engaged to the cowardly Vishnu Das. She is not allowed to continue her education beyond fifth grade as her would-be father-in-law believes it would be difficult for Vishnu to handle her if she received more education. However, this forced dropout cannot keep Tulsi ignorant of the fact that the lazy, lifeless Vishnu is no match for her youthful exuberance.

Not finding the right man remains her biggest worry, until one day she runs into Fayyaz and regains her faith in the possibility of a compatible match for everyone. However, while her heart and mind can tread any path, her body is bound by a strict discipline that after Partition in 1947 suddenly becomes a geographical border. She violates her ideological bind. For her, the simple act of holding hands momentarily with Fayyaz in front of her mother is a note of dissent and pronouncement of a bond that she believes she deserves.

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