Book Review: Uljhay Suljhay Anwer

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Writing a biography on Anwar Maqsood would be a daunting task for any writer. Anwar Maqsood is a living legend. His sharp wit, unwitting sense of humor and unparalleled command over Urdu language make him one of the finest writers of all times. Yet, despite being one of the most recognized faces in Pakistan, there is a sense of enigma and mystery about Anwar Maqsood. His is a carefully guarded persona with very clearly set boundaries, which only few would dare cross.

It is perhaps most befitting then that Anwar’s life story is narrated by none other than his life long partner and companion, Imrana Maqsood. More than his wife, Imrana is friend and a confidante to Anwar, the constant anchor in his life. She is, in her own words, ‘an artist’s wife’. Perhaps, the only person who not only fully understands Anwar Maqsood’s personality but gives him the space to be himself.

Uljhay Suljhay Anwar is anything but a typical biography. Instead of giving a linear historical account of Anwar’s life, Imrana takes us through a myriad of stories and anecdotes that give us a very personal glimpse of an Anwar Maqsood who is usually well hidden from the public face. Who would’ve known, for example, that behind this somber face and serious expressions lies a prankster of the highest order who once faked a call to his boss and made him travel overseas, just to get a day off! Similarly, very few people would know that aside from being a renowned writer and a celebrated painter, Anwar Maqsood is also a self-proclaimed culinary genius who loves to cook for his friends and family, particularly for his grandchildren.

The many stories that Imrana narrates range from Anwar’s carefree teenage days to his struggles as a young man and some of his most celebrated achievements. The book also explores different personal and professional relationships in Anwar’s life and how they helped shape him as a person. Imrana also brings another very fascinating aspect to the book by giving the readers a unique opportunity to view Anwar Masood’s life from the lens of his wife. This makes Anwar seem less of a celebrity and more human, and thus, more relatable for the readers.

One thing that immediately stands out in the book is Imrana’s storytelling technique. She has a very colloquial style of writing but at the same time doesn’t let it become too informal. A couple of chapters into the book and it is almost like you are having a conversation with her. In her own words, Imrana Maqsood says “mujhey hamesha se likhte huey jhulney ki aadat hai” and this is exactly reflected in her writing. As she takes the reader through a story, sometimes digressing from the topic, (but picking the thread again a couple of pages down the line) you find yourself getting more and more deeply immersed in her writing to the point where your emotions are almost completely in sync with her. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

Another interesting facet that the book unintentionally explores is Imrana and Anwar’s relationship. While in many ways they are a typical husband and wife, there are certain aspects to their relationship which are truly unique. Most readers would find it endearing and fascinating at the same time that one of Pakistan’s all time greatest writers who can brew a storm with his words, is often at a loss of words when it comes to expressing himself to his wife. But, despite everything, their relationship comes across as something that they both deeply cherish in their own unique ways.

The book also offers treats like a beautiful preface written by Hasina Moin and several of Anwar’s essays included in the end. There is also a chapter dedicated to Moin Akhtar – the one person who according to Imrana truly understood each and everyone of Anwar’s words.

Uljhay Suljhay Anwar is a book that is recommended for people from all walks of life and from all backgrounds. Beneath all the stories and anecdotes from Anwar’s life, Uljhay Suljjay Anwar offers its readers the unique opportunity to discover and learn from the life of a dreamer, who lives life on his own terms and in the process became larger than life itself.

Author: Imrana Maqsood
Price: Rs. 750
Published by: Pakistan Publishing House
Available at: Liberty Bookstore

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