Aek Lamha Soach Ka : A Novel by Anis Nagi - By Professor Dr. Saadat Saeed


Anis Nagi's new exploration as a novelist has recently come out for sale in the literary carnival under the title of Aek Lamha Soach Ka" A moment of thinking). It may be read as an epilogue to his early novel "Aek Garm Mausum Ki Kahani" (Story of a hot season) which delineated a political upheaval of the natives against the British at Lahore Cantt. The main character of this novel Rehman, a post graduate student of Govt College wanted to write a thesis for his MA history exams. On the subject of the 1857 war of independence as Carl Marx had put it in his book "The first Indian war of independence".

After facing several unwanted situations in connection with gathering his research material he goes to Lawrence Garden to relax. From there he starts his journey' into darkness and reaches the newly built Delhi Railway Station in 1868. As Ghalib says

"Being still in a dream I am awakened from a dream"

Rehman also awakens in a dream and living in the twentieth century lives the situation of 1867. It could be said that he simultaneously had experienced several situations related to both the centuries. Anis Nagi has used entirely a new technique of relating events in his novel. We cannot associate this technique by any means to the techniques used in the stream of consciousness, the expression of collective unconsciousness, association of ideas or psychoanalytical themes in fictions.

Anis Nagi seems to be obsessed with the occupation of the subcontinent by the British which is becoming a consistent theme in his novels. His bold attempts to interpret our past history could also be seen in his books of criticism such as Nazir Ahmad Ki Navel Nigari" (Nazir Ahmad as a novelist). Mr Nagi claims that our fiction writers so far have neglected particularly the events of 1857. One of his character in his novel under discussion says "there are two significant events in our national history, one depicts the outright occupation of India by the British in 1857 and the other is the birth of Pakistan as a free nation after its withdrawal from India.

These events have not been analysed satisfactorily by our intellectuals. Only few emotional reactions have been shown. People like Khawaja Hasan Nizami and Mian Shafi tried to encompass it in their fiction. Anis Nagi has proclaimed that he has seen the meaningful events related to the tragedy of 1857 with a new approach. Still these two themes are major events which should be reflected upon accurately by our writers and intellectuals. Anis Nagi is to be complemented on the good presentation of a part of these themes. He has pinpointed the trial of Haji Mughal, a rebel of 1857. And has also been included in his novel its main text which so far has not been brought to light for the Urdu reading public. There are certain important facts and events which have not been projected by our local historians properly due to the fear of their embarrassment.

Anis Nagi explored the topic of war crimes and exposed the cruel despotic attitudes of new British autocracy in India 'during and after 1857. In this novel ruthless attitudes of English officers have been powerfully reflected. So it has rightly tarnished the image of the British Empire, which is falsely famous for its fair deal, justice and higher civilisation.

Anis Nagi is of the view that the atrocities of British soldiers were not less than that of Halaku and Changez Khan.

His character Sultan Beg anticipated that under or outside the British rule the Hindu and Muslims would never live as a nation. Mirza Sultan Beg, a professor of Arabic and philosophy in Delhi College seemed doubtful about his own integrity. He prepared the Urdu text of trial of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadar Shah Zafar and in reward was given the post of lecturer in the Delhi College.

No doubt with a sequence of five Urdu novels, Anis Nagi has emerged as the only major novelist in Urdu who has deep sense of history as well as of contemporary life. His novels should be translated into foreign languages to show that Urdu novel is not lagging behind Western fiction which nowadays is in a state of decline.