If it is possible to reduce him to a single tendency, Muhammad Khalid Akhtar comes out as a humanist in these Ghalibesque letters which are cheeky literary devices to say what wouldn’t have been possible otherwise on this scale. His scathing literary criticism, the atoxic irony, friendly affection, ethical humanism and amazing linguistic creativity make this collection a colorful mosaic which can be read and reread.
Through these letters, Khalid Akhtar laughs on others; but he uses them more to laughs on himself.
Some of them are timeless classics such as the one written to a young boy Yaqoob, his daughter Sara and Baba Ghulam Muhammad; others such as the ones written to Mahirul Qadri and Mukhtar Masood could have been classical critical reviews if expanded further.
Then there are those which are simply hilarious and may serve as great correctives for young and old wanderers of the literary universe. I couldn’t stop laughing at my old young self who was in love with the paranormal adventures of Raees Amrohvi in college days of end 80s, for instance.
How silly we were in our gullibility to misconstrue every written word as a fact!
In one of the letters, Khalid Akhtar Sahab amusingly predicts the date of his death. I am so happy he was off by a margin of decade. I am no critic but he is perhaps one of those rare Urdu voices who are truly cosmopolitan in their literary breadth.
Rather it is more apt to say that he is; after all, he still continues to speak.