By Fazal Baloch
In its editorial note, the newly launched quarterly literary journal Darangaaz throws out an important question to avid readers of Balochi literature: Why aren’t we composing much prose in Balochi literature? It is one of the critical questions often raised on different occasions, especially by editors. Such questions should have been translated into literary discourses Since we don’t inherit any strong culture of literary discussions, this important question, like several others, goes unattended.
It is a matter of great concern that after the lapse of more than sixty odd years since Balochi prose made its formal appearance, it still lags far behind Balochi poetry. Though poetry stands as an essential component of literature, it is also a widely acknowledged fact that prose, especially fiction, reflects the progress of any literature in the world.
Additionally, most of the world classic literature comprises of fiction such as War and Peace, Mother, One hundred years of solitude and the Plague, to mention a few. Even today novel remains the most sold genre in the world of literature.
There are manifold reasons behind the snail’s pace progress of prose in Balochi language. Over the years, the Baloch nation has exhibited a natural inclination towards poetry which resulted in the popularity of poetry in the society.Poetry has been an inseparable part of the social life through which poets chronicled various events mainly intertribal wars and romantic bonds.
The history of folk tales, which are believed to be the initial evidences of Balochi prose, especially fiction, is as old as that of classical poetry but the ancient Baloch society is more reflected in the poetry than in folk tales. This testifies the popularity of poetry in the Baloch society.
The Balochi poetry traces its roots way back to the 15th century during the reign of Mir Chakar Rind. Since then up to the second half of the 20th century, poetry remained unrivaled in our society with no hints of fiction. In the early 1950s when Balochi poetry entered into its third and modern phase, prose (read fiction) commemorates its first phase.
This period also marks the beginning of literary journalism in Balochi language. When we look at the last sixty years, we find Balochi poetry outshining the fiction in more than one way. In these years, ranging from political awareness to social discourses modern Balochi poetry covered many new grounds. More importantly, in these last sixty years Balochi produced its most popular names of modern poetry like Gul Khan Naseer, Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi, Atta Shad, Akbar Barakzai, Karim Dashti, Bashir Bedaar, G.R. Mulla, Mubarak Qazi, Allah Bux Bozdar, Munir Momin and Manzoor Bismil to mention a few. On the other side, the overall scenario of fiction of the same period cuts a sorry figure. Though many writers emerged this time around, with few exceptions, the realm of fiction is still ill-represented.
Dr. Hanif Sharif, a well known Balochi fiction writer and film maker, believes that the lack of in depth knowledge is the one roadblock in the way of progress of Balochi prose. According to him, prose merits deep knowledge of a society, human behavior and wide observation of life what is, unfortunately, not in the possession of most of our writers. By the end of the day, most of the writers switch to poetry.
Moreover, the readership ratio of any language and literature can be gauged through the statistics of its prose readers. As luck would have it, the prose readership ratio among the Balochi readers is far behind than that of poetry. The more the people read fiction, the more thrives the language. Besides, every reader of fiction can be a good reader of poetry too but every reader of poetry even can’t be an average reader of the fiction. As unlike poetry, fiction requires serious readers.
Now the question is, how can the natural inclination of readers be directed from poetry to fiction? First of all, Balochi fiction needs to be acknowledged in our society as it has been terribly failed to gain the recognition it duly deserves. In this regard, regular story-reading sessions, seminars and discussions can remarkably help in cultivating more work in fiction.
Recently, Zahida Raees Raji, the admin of the popular Balochi website Baask.com took a commendable initiative by asking writers to pen down a short story on a given untitled picture. Amazingly, this initiative attracted a wide range of writers and within a period of two weeks the site was flooded with short stories on the given picture. This bodes very well for Balochi prose. Similarly, story-writing competition in social media can also explore the hidden possibilities of Balochi fiction. So it is the right time to get on with it.