In this era of information technology, those old days are swiftly fading away, when children would restlessly wait for the time when their parents would tell them fascinating stories. Those stories used to be vital means of means of educating and entertaining the young generation. But regrettably, this primary activity of learning at home is losing its fame because of abandoning the habit of reading specially the Urdu literature including the great Urdu storytellers.
One of the finest storytellers of Urdu language was Ashfaq Ahmed (Aug 1925 -Sept. 2004), whose seventh death anniversary was observed with reverence on Wednesday. But the great story teller is still alive in the memories of many because of his enthralling tales with great morals which are often repeated by parents and grandparents as bedtime stories for the children.
“I clearly remember the characters and the storyline of Aik Muhabbat Sau Afsanay and Zaviya because my mother would often read these books to me. Later I developed a profound interest in the books of Ashfaq sahab, as most of them were presents from my parents” said Ali Kareem fondly remembering his past life. Pointing out the generation gap and the fading habit of reading, he added that: “I would love to read those brilliant stories to my children, but my kids are more inspired by computer games and cell phones features than valuable books”.
Some of Ashfaq Ahmed’s notable works, such as Zaviya, Aik Muhabbat Sau Afsanay, Gadaria, Talqeen Shah, Man Chalay Ka Sauda, Hairat Kadah, Safar dar Safar, Tota Kahani, Baba Sahiba. His stories not only brought out the double standards in our society and insincere nature of people but were also a means of education and entertainment for the youth. The common man, indeed, can relate to the characters that Ashfaq Ahmed has woven in his wonderful stories. At the same time, the young readers, with their wonderful capacity to absorb good literature can learn a great deal from his books.
Notable short-story writer and playwright, Ashfaq Ahmed was a great source of inspiration for the youngsters, who received public recognition after he started his radio programme Talqeen Shah which featured a man with double mask, signifying the hypocrisy in our society. His TV programme ‘Zavia’ was consider as a programme imparting informative knowledge, while his TV plays, Aik Muhabbat Sau Afsanay won him a large number of aficionados. With impressive writing style and humble appearance on TV, Ashfaq Ahmed, remained a popular personality of his time, among people of all ages.
He was a recipient of the President’s Pride of Performance and Sitara-i-Imtiaz for meritorious services in the field of literature and broadcasting. According to writer and critic Ashfaque Naqvi, “Ashfaq Ahmed was regarded by many as the best Urdu short-story writer after Saadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chughtai and Krishan Chandar following the publication of his Gaddarya.”