Bano Qudsiya's Raja Gidh
Updated: May 24
One of the most iconic names in Pakistani and Urdu Literature
Suppose you live in Pakistan and are affiliated with Pakistani literature in any way. In that case, you must have probably heard the name "Raja Gidh" countless times, and someone must have certainly recommended this book to you at some point.
Born on 28 November 1928, Bano Qudsia was born in Firozpur, India. She later migrated to Lahore during the partition with her Parents and brother Pervaiz Chattha, a Painter.
She is mainly referred to as Bari Appa meaning “Elderly sister”, out of respect by most people. Bano Qudsia is one of Pakistan's most prominent and celebrated female writers. She is considered a literary giant in the world of Urdu literature. She graduated from Kinnaird College and got her Master’s in Urdu degree from Government College University, Lahore, in 1951. At the same university, she met Ashfaq Ahmed, a famous novelist, with whom she later married and had three sons.
Bano Qudsia was in 5th grade when stories started visiting her, and she couldn’t help but pen them down. She mostly wrote afsaaney (short stories) during her early years, which played an important role in shaping her writing. Even after rising to splendid fame by writing many novels and plays, she didn’t dissociate herself from writing afsaaney.
Upon being asked the difference between writing dramas and afsaaney she answered:
Drama is heavy rain in which lightning strikes and clouds roar, it starts hailing and there is a fear of the windows breaking down. But light rain, moon, and the rise of sun…. this is an afsaana.
When an interviewer asked Bano Qudsia why all of her characters are so exaggerated and extreme, she answered:
I start writing about my characters when they have reached their peak. I don’t know if their childhood and youth were peaceful. But when a man is on the verge of murdering his own daughter, only then I start writing and present it to my readers.
Bano Qudsia wrote many novels and plays, including Aatish-i-zer-i-paa, Aik Din, Asay Pasay, Chahar Chaman, Chhotaa Sheher Baray Log, Footpath ki Ghaas, Haasil Ghaat and Hawa Kay Naam.
Although her work is eminent, “Raja Gidh” is the most unforgettable.
It focuses on the theme of deewangi “madness” and what impels it. The story revolves around Qayyum. The book focuses on how Unrequited love, the hunger for curiosity, rizq-e-haraam (unlawful earning) and the awareness of death can sometimes drive the human mind into a whirlpool of madness. Qayyum is the lead character from a rural background and has a very disturbing past and family history. His childhood trauma, witnessing of disturbing events, and the ruination of his village lead him to commit acts that pave the path for his self-destruction. Seemi comes from an elite bureaucratic background having troubled relations with her parents. Because of her deprivation of love, she starts searching for it outside. Qayyum falls hopelessly in love with Seemi, but she already loves someone else. Her untimely and sudden death makes Qayyum go through all four stages of madness mentioned above and a strenuous journey of self-discovery. Bano Qudsia also portrays a scenario where all the birds in the forest gather and declare man mad upon inventing nuclear weapons that will wipe out his own species. They also declare that vultures must be banished from the jungle hence, they also suffer from insanity, and they fear that a day will come when they may also banish the bird species. Throughout the book, the author has managed to showcase events that will leave you shivering and make you feel cold to the bone but which are genuinely, and unfortunately, the reality of the society we live in.
This haunting tale raises many questions in our minds, and Bano Qudsia has managed to make us understand what drives a man insane by helping us travel through the minds of characters that she has so brilliantly portrayed. This is bold writing, particularly since it was written during Zia’s strict regime. In all its glory and splendor, this must be one of the best masterpieces written in Urdu, without which our literature must have been incomplete.
Another fact about this book is that some critics have claimed that this book was originally written by Ashfaq Ahmad or some chunks of it were written by him, which depicts the hybridity of our society that a woman can’t think to this much depth and isn’t able to write such an exceptional piece of work….
In 1983, Bano Qudsia was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz (The star of Excellence) by the Government of Pakistan she was awarded many other labels as well.
She left us all grieving on the Unfortunate day of 4th February 2017. She left a void in the literary world that can never be filled, but her words still keep breathing life.
This blog has been penned by Miss Rida Fareed.