Made of the Same Clay - By Professor Dr. Saadat Saeed


Explaining the nature of the creative process, Sartre, the Guru of modern Western man, once wrote, "Through the various subjects which it produces or reproduces, the creative act aims at a total renewal of the world. Each painting, each book, is a recovery of the totality of being". He further declares that each piece of art executes this whole to the freedom of the audience. The final goal of art for him is to recover this world in the situation of human freedom.

Khalid Sohail, an Urdu poet, writer and psychiatrist from Pakistan presently based in Canada, has tried to examine the state of creativity in literature in his book, Literary Encounters, a collection of interviews with Urdu writers living in the West. After defining the nature of the creative process, Sohail scans the theories of creativity propounded by Joseph Wallace, Catherine Patrick, Sigmund Freud, Silvano Arieti, Pinchas Noy, Carl Jung, Phyllis Greenacre and AlfredAdler. He concludes that their ideas illustrate that the creative process strikes cohesion between the inner and the outer worlds of the artist and the writer.

Khalid Sohail also discusses the phenomenon of "waiting for creative moments".

Khalid Sohail is a prolific writer with more than twenty books to his credit. His Urdu poetic collections entitled Talash (Search), Taza Hava Ka Jhonka (Fresh Breeze) and Azad Fizain (Free Horizons) present the dimensions of his existential sensitivity. His poetry plays a significant role in giving identity to his existence. His fiction is also existential in spirit. A collection of his short stories has been published under the title of Zindgi Mein Khala (Vacuum in Life). It is an enquiry into the dreadful physical and metaphysical emptiness of life. Another collection of his short stories bears the title, Do Kishtion mein Sawar (Sailing in two boats). His basic argument in this collection can be summarized in one sentence: a man who is living his life under the shadow of two diametrically different cultures simultaneously finds it hard to achieve his goals.

Khalid Sohail is a genuine humanist, a fighter for human dignity over the years. He is not among those writers who have isolated themselves from the developments taking place in the intellectual life of their communities. Authors who fail to be aware of current socio-political realities can become irrelevant. His literary works reflect shades of deep anguish and relentless determination and are deeply rooted in the political realities of his age. Khalid Sohail, in his informative book Literary Encounters, seems to be a crusader for identification. Several of his questions imply that writers should refrain from cut and dried socioeconomic formulas in. They should fearlessly reflect their own tastes and unbiased attitudes. The interviewees seem categorically opposed to the tactics turning human beings into marketable goods.

He uses metaphors of rain, rivers and wells for different forms of creative expression. Poets wait for the rain, short story writers find their material in the existing river of facts, and novelists "dig wells in their backyards".

Khalid Sohail has interviewed Ikram Brelvi (Canada), Munib-ur-Rehman (Canada), Faruq Hassan (Canada), Baidar Bakht (Canada), Ashfaq Hussain (Canada), Abrar Hassan (Canada), Iftikhar Arif (U.K), Nasim Syed (Canada), Jawaid Danish (Canada) and Humaria Rahman (USA). With the exception of Iftikhar Arif who has returned to his motherland, all these Urdu writers are living abroad and experiencing various shades of alienation and loneliness.

As a psychiatrist, Khalid Sohail analyses the personal idiosyncrasies which have affected their writings. These writers are portraying the socio-political realities of an alien land. After leaving their homeland, they have experienced an identity crisis for which they seek some sense of resolution through their writing. Shaheen says, "A writer's work is never complete". Living in the heart of Western culture, Faruq Hassan feels, "Sometimes the wait becomes too long and unbearable." Some of them have tried to bridge the distance between East and West. But the intrinsic tones of these interviews suggest that living on a foreign soil is pitiless and unbearable. They know they have burnt their boats. It is an open secret to them that the languages and cultures of poor countries have no value in the eyes of the intellectuals belonging to prosperous societies. Jawaid Danish whispers in existentialist fashion, "Every freedom has its own price". Humaira Rahman is in search of balance in relationships.

A couple of these writers are fellow travelers in the movement for human rights and freedom of speech. It is interesting to note that these valiant souls are striving to communicate in an atmosphere completely alien to their native cultures. Their answers to Sohail's crucial questions with respect to their broken personalities are based on their subjective truths. They have answered his queries in a frank and explicit manner without mincing any words.

In Sohailís interviews, these writers have discussed their personal aspirations, psychic attitudes, national identity, creative goals and concrete problems. They have also responded to inquiries relating to the use of language in the context of their imagery, metaphors and diction.

Sohail asks Iftikhar Arif, "What do you foresee in the next few years?" Iftikhar answers, "I am living in the West but I am not a Western writer. I am a Pakistani writer. I dream as a Pakistani and I reflect Pakistani ethos. When I use the word Matti, I don't imply the clay. Matti is my history, my ideology, my beliefs and values, my dreams and aspirations and my memories. That one word describes it all. I am a Pakistani that way. My terms and references are Pakistani.

I consider Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, and Boluchi as national languages. All good literature created in these national languages should be respected equally. We have to interact with each other to produce great literature and then offer it to the Western world. I am sure it would reap respect and prestige for our country."