Mukhtar Masud’s Awaz-e-Dost and Love for Literature and History

A literary social autobiography that is poetry in prose; beauty in words and imagery; each sentence contains a world of meaning, ideas, conflicts illustrated through metaphors, and references to deep historical events, people, places, contrasts, arts, architecture, insights, classics, writers, leaders, historical figures…. A book that gives a personal view of Pakistan history through hopes, aspirations, longings, feelings, inspirations of a person who was there in Aligarh when Khalida Adeeb Khanum was speaking and flowers were raining down on her in the auditorium, when Quaid e Azam’s carriage was being hauled by the students from the station, when Iqbal came and spoke,…. . Extremely poignant vignettes of Raja Sb Mehmoodabad, Zafar Ali Khan, Toynbee, Bahadur Yar Jung, Majaz…… Takes you to that time and that world and that era when history was being made. And later in the 1950-60s when the leaders who made Pakistan were being sidelined. Makes you feel as they felt. Makes you wonder why people can’t feel it that way again. My father was there in Aligarh during those times. This book depicts many of his feelings.

Mukhtar Maud (M). Irfan Hyder (L), Omar (R). June 2008

Through the descriptions in this book, I try to picture what my father who was in Aligarh during the 1930s, would have felt and imagined. My father did not much talk about those times. He was among those who could not express his disillusionment with the course taken by Pakistan after its inception with its continuous slide in ethics and morality; taken over by rulers who had no idea of what partition was, why it came into being, what were the reasons. Rulers who felt no association with the founding fathers and their aspirations and ideals. Ideals that have been thrown away. Ideology that is trampled every day. Manzil unhain mili jo shareek e safa na thay.

Awaz e Dost. What a book, what a writer! First read this book in 1980, and was taken to a different world. I can still feel the disappointment when I finished it. Wanted to know more about the people and places. Frantically searched for other books that he may have written related to Pakistan history. Had read Awaz e Dost several times since. Each reading is rewarding as it takes you to a different dimension and a higher level. I had read portions of the books many more times. Mukhtar Masud’s Safar Naseeb does a similar thing with imagery, beauty, aesthetics, nature, and arts encountered in his travels. The only time I felt that I should have been joined the civil service to enjoy the privileges of travel on government expense.

My most pleasurable time was the one spent doing joint reading with my two elder sons. We read one paragraph a day in the morning before the breakfast during the mid 2000s. Took several months to complete. Used to discuss the hidden meanings in each sentence, phrase and word. I feel the urge of learning Persian to appreciate his frequent references to Persian couplets of Iqbal and other poets. However, fortunately my Urdu reading experience is such that I can enjoy the wonders of his mastery of language. Currently, a similar reading is taking place with my third son. Each subsequent reading makes me aware of the meanings that I could not fathom in my previous reading. It makes me aware of what I don’t know and need to.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mukhtar Masud sb at his home on Canal Road in June 2008. Had an interesting one hour discussion about the book. Took several copies of the book and got them personalized for my nephews and sons. I mentioned that there is a need to write a “sharah” (explanation) of his book with footnotes detailing all the references. He said that he has written the book. This explanation should be written by others. A project that I would love to do in future.

The autographed book refers to my two elder sons; Hassaan Hyder and Azzaam Hyder .

My most cherished segment of the book is the following. See how in one sentence he moves across centuries and historical events and then uses the lessons drawn to explain our current state and crisis. The metaphorical beauty of relating the physical distance between Alamgir Mosque in Lahore and Minar e Pakistan with Sikh era’s Gurdwara and the British era’s building and connecting it with Sikh rule and British rule in between the Mughal rule and the Pakistani rule. In this capacity, he can be compared with Qurratul Ain Hyder. They make you travel across time and space in a single sweep of sentence and make you appreciate social changes, cultural changes, rise and falls of nations. They can contrast one grand historical figure with another, compare a nation in the north with another in the south, compare races across millennia, highlight the conflicts in emotions, and take you across civilizations. This comes with a deep grasp of history, reflection and understanding of people.

Example of a Grand Sweep of History
Connecting history with physical layout of this historical area and
diagnosis of the malaise afflicting Pakistan

I learned about the greatest historian of 20th century; Toynbee and how just talking and reading about history is not enough. He is best known for his 12-volume A Study of History (1934–1961). On my visit to British Council I found a pictorial abridged A Study of History in a single volume that I issued and read. A few years ago I got the same pictorial history book from Frere Hall books stalls. The book stimulated my interest in history and historical figures.

What I learned from the book:

  • How beautiful can prose be. 
  • How one can travel across eras and times in a single sweep of a sentence. 
  • Appreciation of paintings. 
  • Developed interest in history. 
  • Unveiled hidden aspects of personalities of historical figures. 
  • Made me aware of my lack of knowledge. 
  • Reflection on great ideas. 
  • Explore and learn more about people, ideas, places. 



  1. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  2. This was a wonderful post. I have ordered this book on my teacher's reccomendation and now i am really excited to read it asap.. looking forward to your reference project

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