Khalid Hasan, great journalist, great man
Editorial of Daily Times
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Khalid Hasan (1937-2009) has died in Washington DC on Friday where he began living in 2000 and became correspondent for The Friday Times (TFT) and Daily Times (DT) in 2002. People who have known him personally will mourn him deeply because of his generosity and an ever-ready willingness to help friends in trouble. He was hardworking, with a nose for the story of the day, sending in half a dozen reports daily plus extremely readable and popular weekly columns for TFT and DT. He was easily the most readable Pakistani journalist around with the best writing style — flawless copy without the blemish of a misprint — and displaying sufficient amounts of self-deprecating sense of humour not to become too big for his boots. On the same yardstick, he was inclined to judge those whose ambition looked to him obscene in relation to their ability. In the final analysis, his boots were not big enough for the big man he was.
The Pakistani community in Washington loved him for his willingness to help out. His lunches at the DC press club were remarkable for their ability to attract a broad ideological spectrum from a fragmented diaspora. No one ever thought that he was arrogant, but to the officious and the pompous he knew how to pay back in the same coin. In fact he perfected a genre in English sketch-writing — competing with a very popular but at times poorly practised Urdu khaka — where he celebrated the society’s underdog. His profiles have immortalised a large number of Lahore’s layabouts who were ostracised for their eccentricities but who contained an inner nugget of goodness in them. One such was Urdu’s great stylist and short story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto, a fellow Kashmiri whom Pakistan’s increasingly “pious” society was wont to dismiss as a blaspheming drunkard.
Out of the 41 books on whose title his name appears as writer, translator and editor, the most remarkable are the volumes devoted to the translation of Manto’s short stories. In Mottled Dawn, Khalid emerged as the greatest populariser of Manto outside Pakistan. He was certainly the best thing that happened to Manto. The Manto-Khalid chemistry lay in the serendipity of style. Khalid Hasan wrote one of the best rhythmical-conversational styles in English. As a translator, he carefully wedded his own stylistic gift to the rhythm of Manto’s prose. Anyone who has read the late and revered Indian scholar Mushirul Hassan’s translation of Manto’s Siyah Hashiyay will know that he carries the substance but not that other elusive nemesis of the translator, the rhythm of the line. Khalid had that gift.
He did the big books like Raja Anwar’s on Murtaza Bhutto; he also did journalist Inam Aziz’s just-published historically important Urdu memoir. He translated his equally gifted sister’s memoir of Fatima Jinnah and had a couple of other books in the pipeline that his death has interrupted. At the age of 72, he was an unusually vibrant man whose sudden and tragic death has left hundreds of orphans in its wake.
LETTERS PAYING TRIBUTE TO KHALID HASAN
Remembering Khalid Hasan — I
Sir: I have received the news of my old friend Khalid Hasan’s demise with a heavy heart. He had great merit as a writer, and although I have no intention of comparing my written pieces with those he wrote, let me say that we started together, in March 1964, when the late Hamid Jalal, a gifted writer, hired us to write pieces for the Artisan at Work Exhibition held at Alhamra Garden the same year.
Khalid was then an officer in the government’s accounts department but did not like the job. He always wanted to be a great writer. No one would grudge the fact that he was one of the greatest in Pakistani English literature. One only has to remember his English translations of Saadat Hasan Manto’s works, and the present collection of translations of Urdu short stories that he published this year.
Since we met in Lahore in 1964, I have not missed any of his columns. I began to miss his columns these past two weeks and I was on the verge of writing to you about his absence when I heard this sad news about the passing away of a dear friend. In a column he wrote in The Friday Times, he called me ‘an old friend’. I am proud of being listed among his friends.
Remembering Khalid Hasan — II
Sir: I am very sad and grieved at the passing away of Khalid Hasan. He was very close to our family. My later father, Colonel Waqar Naseer Ahmed, often spoke of the times when Uncle Khalid lived with him in his BOQ in Lahore. My father was then a captain, and they formed a great friendship based on their mutual love of poetry and literature.
Uncle Khalid was a close friend of my mother, Kanwal Naseer, as well, and I fondly remember the evenings at his house talking of books, politicians, world affairs, poetry and life. He had a most humble demeanour, and I’ll never forget his animated reactions when he would hear of something extraordinary happening in Pakistan.
His writing style was exemplary. He mixed wit with wisdom, cynicism with colloquial genius. His sentences were short and sweet, and bitterness was expressed with amusement.
I lost my father on December 15, 2008, and now a dear family friend on February 6, 2009. This truly has been a winter of discontent and loss.
Khalid Hasan has left another vacuum, just like my father’s death has done for us. These were men of honour, passion, dedication and resilience; men who lived in a golden age of morals, scruples, merit and high standards; men who had the fortitude to write honestly, to speak honestly, and to die humbly.
The tears my mother shed today were because of an immense loss that we as a family, and his countless other admirers, have suffered. May the Almighty bless Uncle Khalid, a truly great man of letters and humanity, and may He give fortitude and patience to his family.
ALI NASEER AHMED
Remembering Khalid Hasan — III
Sir: I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Khalid Hasan. He was such a good friend, a wonderful and insightful writer, and a credit to the profession of journalism. He took great interest in the careers of those younger than himself and was always there to help and look after them.
We are lucky he leaves behind such a fine body of work and so many good memories for those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him. God rest his soul and bring comfort to his family and loved ones in this difficult time.
WAJID ALI SYED
Remembering Khalid Hasan — IV
Sir: I would like to offer my condolences on the passing of Khalid Hasan, who had been with Daily Times and The Friday Times for many years. He will be missed by all who worked with him, knew him, or read his work. And I am glad that The Friday Times afforded me the opportunity to get to know him, if only as an acquaintance.