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Novels as art, poet at heart – Ashraf Shad

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Unique life experiences inspired Ashraf Shad’s diversity of literary work

 By Rekha Rajvanshi

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Novelist, poet, journalist and playwright Ashraf Shad has an impressive portfolio of writing to his name. An accomplished journalist, he worked as the Head of Urdu Service at SBS Radio, and was Australian correspondent for UNI, the Indian News Agency, besides editing and publishing daily and weekly newspapers and academic research magazines in different countries. Ashraf has authored 12 books including novels, collections of his poetry and a short story compilation. His award winning novel ‘Bewatan’ was translated and published in Hindi by a leading Delhi publisher. Ashraf was born in Moradabad, India, migrated to Pakistan after partition, and lived in Hungary, USA, Kuwait and Bahrain among other countries, before migrating to Australia in 1989.

Ashraf recently released 4 books, coincidently at the same time although they were complied at different times. ‘Ákhbar-e-Ishq’ (The Newspaper of Love) is a collection of his latest ghazals; next is a journalistic work, a collection of his interviews with Pakistani leaders like President Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto, Imran Khan and many other leading Pakistani politicians. Ashraf’s third release is the critical evaluation of the work of legendary Urdu poet, Ahmad Faraz. The final book is a compilation of articles by prominent writers and critics, and his interviews published worldwide. It also traces Ashraf’s life history and is very useful for researchers of his work.

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Ashraf shared details on his eventful career as one of the leading lights of literature, here are excerpts of our chat.

Rekha Rajvanshi: When did you start writing poems and who inspired you?

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Ashraf Shad: Well, like most people, we get ourselves involved in some form of creative art during our college/university days. I was inclined towards poetry and soon started representing my college in inter-collegiate poetry competitions, winning trophies and prizes. I had a unique style of reciting my poetry (tarannum) that made my poetry more popular. Poetry took the backseat when I got more involved in my profession as a journalist and activist. I started writing poetry again when I went into self-exile and lived in the Middle East, as it was my only creative expression in those days. ‘Nisab’, the first collection includes poetry written at that time and during my early days in Australia. My creative priorities have changed, but poetry is still my romance and ghazal remains the favourite form of my poetic expression.

RR:  How have you managed to write in different genres of dramas, novels and poetry? What is your favourite medium?

AS: Novel has a big canvas that could fully satisfy my creative urges. I was able to download stories from my days as a journalist, into the form of a novel. I spent many years in many different countries, and my novels reflect my experiences in different lands. ‘Bewatan’ was written in Australian settings, but it also moves around Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan and India; while my second novel ‘Wazir-e-Azam’ (The Prime Minister) has a novelette size chapter on Hungary where I lived for some time.  Similarly, ‘Sadar-e-Mohtaram’ (The President) takes you to New York where I had spent my days in self-exile. Fiction writing dominates my other literary endeavors and I am known outside Australia more as a novelist, than as a poet. Poetry is still close to my heart and reflects my romantic moods. As for drama, I have written plays and have also been teaching scriptwriting to undergraduates at a university in Dubai, but I am not spending any more time on this genre of literary art.

RR: What are you novels about – history, contemporary, romance or tragedy?

AS: I am a storyteller and all my novels have good stories in contemporary surroundings. ‘Bewatan’, as its name suggests, has stories of expatriates struggling to settle down in an alien society. But my other two novels were political fiction and many critics give me credit for being the only Urdu novelist who found courage to expose the intrigues of power mafia, taking readers into the dark world of politics.

RR: What’s your next challenge?

AS: I am writing ‘Judge Sahib’ (The Judge), another political fiction novel that will take you to the world of law and will show how the judicial system is manoeuvred.

The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia

Novels as art, poet at heart – Ashraf Shad

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