"Pascal stood still. She lifted her eyes to look Sannan in the eye"
Romantic Pakistani books are widely read across the subcontinent and the west.
When it comes to romantic literature, Urdu leads the way. What makes Urdu very prominent in books is the sense of romanticism. Many prolific works have been translated into Urdu as well.
Some of the most popular romantic Pakistani books are fiction with a poetic nature. The latter is compact yet, sometimes difficult to apprehend.
But poetry does manage to attract attention to readers who love romance novels.
Many of the successful romantic novels have also been adapted into Pakistani dramas.
DESIblitz.com presents 10 most romantic Pakistani books you must read:
Bano by Razia Butt (1971)
Taking into account the history of Pakistan, Bano did release at a very critical point.
There was an atmosphere of ethnic violence and segregation in East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. Military rule and political upheavals were on the rise.
Razia Butt’s Bano takes the reader to the events of 1947. The partition did give people the home they made so many sacrifices for.
This novel exhibited the painful circumstances that estranged and separated hundreds of thousands from each other.
The novel is very relatable as it highlights some of the real events that occurred during the partition.
But it would be unfair to exclude the sense of romance and love in this novel.
The book clearly defines the moods of two key characters, Rabia and Hassan. The two fall out with each other as Rabia is a guest at Hassan’s home. Describing her inner thoughts, Butt writes:
“It too happens at times; you’re not hurt or wounded but you’re in pain. There is no intensity of the pain.
“Like there’s a sensation of uneasiness. There is no sign of satisfaction and the absolute denial of the absence of satisfaction. Hanging and suspended between these two states.”
The chain of thoughts later leads Rabia to get a newspaper from the room. She goes inside casually only to find out that Hassan was already there. Rabia assumes he had gone. She did want to read but stops midway.
Meanwhile, Hassan feels a sense of embarrassment when seeing her because of the falling out they both had. They are both ashamed and upset.
This chapter unveils the barrier between Hassan and Rabia and how beautifully it collapses, only to unite them again.
Ferozson is the publisher of the book Bano.
Pyar Ka Pehla Shehar by Mustansar Hussain Tarar (1974)
Pyar Ka Pehla Shehar, meaning ‘The First City of Love,’ is written by author and TV host Mustansar Hussain Tarar. Besides the romance, the story is very touching because of the characters.
The novel is about the love story of a Pakistani man and a French woman. The story was first published in 1974. Back in those days, the concept of love and marriage was rather conservative in Pakistan.
This novel defied the odds at its best. It challenged not only the conservative norms, but it also paved the way for a sense of empathy and admiration.
The underlining theme is that for love you do not have to follow any particular culture or way of life.
In the book, even appearances are left behind in the course of love.
Despite the woman Pascal being disabled, Sannan still wants to be with her. With time they fall in love and complete each other.
Highlighting their romance, an excerpt from the book reads:
“Pascal stood still. She lifted her eyes to look Sannan in the eye and noticed the little drops slowly falling on her hair.
“The drops would make their way to her eyelids as the rain continued.
“Her eyes weren’t wet because of the rain.”
Tarar clearly had a way with words. In this novel, there is a magnetic notion of romance, love, and kindness.
Pyar Ka Pehla Shehar is filled with little details and experiences. It is also fascinating to imagine France in the 1960s and 1970s. The culture, mood, and the bond they shared is beautifully depicted in this novel.
The book in the Urdu language holds a compelling grip when it comes to emotions. Whether it is romance, sorrow or anger, the book has it all.
Khushbu By Parveen Shakir (1974)
Parveen Shakir (1952-1994), who has penned Khushbu is one of the most celebrated poets of the sub-continent. Her style of poetry and expression is exceptional.
Khushbu meaning fragrance is filled with romance, along with specific thoughts of Shakir.
Seema Printers were the publishers of this book.
Whether it is her inner thoughts or emotions, she does not hesitate to express herself. The scenes that she describes can catch anyone’s attention.
It is also noteworthy that she happens to be one of the few female poets of her time. While there were many story writers, only a handful of them were female poets.
In the starting lines of a ghazal, Shakir speaks of isolation and how her lover is living without her presence. She mocks him, yet cannot let go of him being miserable without her.
Been ages since I saw him, O people
Changed has he not a bit, O People
The deserts have become dry and thirsty
Come will the rain again, O People
One good aspect that makes Shakir perfect is her simplicity.
Her poetry is written in a simple and elegant manner.
What challenges readers in Urdu poetry is the flow of expression and words. She overcame that so beautifully that her readers are still die-hard fans to this day.
Khushbu remains one of her top works. She may not be among her fans, but the scent of her words are still fresh and strong.
Nuskha Haye Wafa by Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1989)
Nuskha Haye Wafa is a collection of ghazals and poems. The words Nuskha Haye Wafa roughly translates as ‘Cure for Faith.’
The writer Faiz Ahmad Faiz is famous one of the greatest revolutionary poet of Pakistan.
Being a revolutionary his sense of romance, admiration was unique and bold. Faiz faced hardships all his life and his poetry reflects strong sentiments.
There is love, longing, emotions, all connected with both a political and personal mood.
In a famous ghazal from the book, Faiz addresses his lover. From the depth and vividness of the eyes to society, he composes everything beautifully in this ghazal. He expresses:
Ask not of me of my first love.
Thought I, that because of you, life is real
It is a call for change (socially speaking).
Faiz masters the translation of human emotions into poetry. This book is read by revolutionaries, lovers, academics and all sorts of literary fans.
Aik Muhabbat Sau Afsane by Ishfaq Ahmed (1998)
Aik Muhabbat Sau Afsane is written by Ashfaq Ahmed (1925-2007), one of the most prominent contemporary writers of Pakistani literature.
His ability to write about human nature is unique and surpasses many other authors.
‘Aik Muhabbat’ literally stands for one and ‘Sau Afsane’ means a hundred tales. This is a compilation of twenty short stories.
Within these short stories, there are various characters. Each character has their own traits and flaws. These stories are about love, relationship, romance, but most importantly tragedy.
Known as an advocate of Sufism, this book sets a very different tone. There are not any warm or happy endings. It is almost as if every one of these characters is a vision of Ahmed himself.
The chapter ‘Muskan’ from the book tells the story of the narrator and his lover. The narrator goes back in his past remembering his lover.
Ashfaq states in the book:
“The night is long. I should be going now. The journey is long and this life is far from being over.
“I remember I brought Daffodils for you. Yellow buttons on the saffron sweater.”
“Should leave them on this damp and wet pasture. The night is dark. This village is a stranger to me. It is terribly long and I should be going now.”
In this book, the characters are from all over Pakistan. They include smokers, young adults, women and men from both rural and urban areas.
What is specifically common among all these characters is a consistent struggle.
Needless to say, just when the reader thinks things can get better, they collapse. The shattered dreams make this book even more interesting to read.
The novel was adapted into a classic PTV drama series.
Dil, Diya, Dehleez by Riffat Siraj (1999)
Dil, Diya, Dehleez translates to heart, oil lamp, threshold. Khazana Ilm O Adab from Karachi are publishers of this book. It was first published in a digest series.
What makes this novel very interesting is not just the presence of romance, but the deep roots of societal values. It is almost as if you are reading a form of lifestyle.
This lifestyle echoes of two generations and makes a whole lot of difference. But the story is not just about the protagonist, Zaitoon Bano. As the novel progresses, the story unveils many characters.
The characters are both flawed and perfect in their own way. Most importantly, they are good enough to catch your attention.
The book reveals the marriage of Laal Khan’marriage. The crowd is wild and wants to catch a glimpse of Mrs Khan. It just happens so that she gets unconscious and the situation turns into a crazy scene.
The relatives of Laal Khan take the mickey out of his wife for being too fragile. With the situation intensifying, the couple leaves to have some privacy. Laal Khan tries to lighten up the mood for his bride.
But she is too anxious about the situation as the writer Riffat Siraj describes:
“Within one sip she gulped down the water. She felt relieved. In fact, Laal Khan stepped back a little.
“Although when she was drinking, his arms were around her.
“It felt like she was not in his arms but in a circle of blazing hell.”
The bride was clearly not happy as she felt worn out and anxious. She insists on sleeping but that did not happen.
Despite the romance, there are times when it feels as if everything is being forced. This part of the book exhibits a rural scenario.
Humsafar by Farhat Ishtiaq (2007)
The novel Humsafar by Farhat Ishtiaq did gain popularity as it was first published in digests and magazines before being adapted into a popular drama series, featuring Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan.
The popular TV show Humsafar (2011-2012) can be viewed on Netflix.
The novel revolves around the life of a couple (Ashar and Khirad) and their daughter (Hareem). It describes a very dysfunctional couple and how they manage to coexist.
Their daughter plays a vital part in ensuring their existence as parents and a couple. The mood of the novel is repressive at times and sentimental.
The book touches on a time when Khirad waits for Ashar.
“She was waiting for Ashar. She may have hated him for just about everything but despite their differences, she was desperate for him to come home at that time.
“It is nothing but a sign that she trusts him. That she believes in him.”
What makes this novel so good is the narration. The first half of the novel is represented by the husband, Ashar. Without realising himself, his point of view is vile, and relentless at times.
The second half is narrated by his spouse Khirad. From her perspective, there are elements of jealousy, bitterness and longing for affection.
The success of this novel can be attributed to the description of family dynamics. Everything in the novel is linked, including the couple fighting, taking care of their ill daughter and the disputes between the two.
The story was very easy, linear, and emotional to say the least. It was praised by many Pakistanis for giving an insight into the complications of a married couple.
Kulyat-e-Saghir by Saghir Siddiqui (2011)
The book Kulyat-e-Saghir has been penned by Saghir Siddiqui (1928-1974), one of the least known poets of contemporary Pakistan.
Having spent most of his life on the streets and living almost homeless he had practically nothing.
The poet’s compilation addresses everything he saw from his birth to end times. There are recollections of him falling in love. There is practically everything he had ever thought.
An excerpt from the ghazal ‘Jab Tasawur Mein Jaam Aatay Hain’ takes a look at the youth of Siddiqui.
He explores his long gone days and explains how bitter the experience is of respecting and loving non-deserving people.
He also mentions that only a few manage to care about you in life. Everyone else is there too, but only as spectators.
In the book he writes:
In the tale of life O Saghir
Come only the chapters of unfaithful
A lot of poems in the book discuss unfaithfulness very vividly. Unfaithfulness should be understood first before being subjected to translation. ‘Bewafai’ and ‘bewafa’ have often been used to represent lovers in numerous ways.
For Siddiqui, ‘bewafai’ (unfaithfulness) was more than just a concept.
All the women he wanted to be with left him. He could not stand out for himself across the literary social circles. Yet his words are still known to many who understood him.
There is tragedy everywhere in his works. Despite the unfaithfulness, there is a sense of remarkable love and affection. He leaned onto his tragic life, continuing to live and write.
Many literary fans may not know him or his story. Yet those who are familiar with Saghir appreciate and admire him a lot.
Amrat Kaur by Amjad Javed (2013)
It is remarkable to see how love stays together no matter the distance.
The partition plan of 1947 is evident in many scenarios. But one aspect on an individual and collective level stays forever.
The book shows how love never poses any restrictions. The events of partition did not hinder the feelings.
This novel by Amjad Javed reflects the feelings of a Punjabi woman Amrat Kaur and her lover Noor Muhammad.
The events of the partition come between their closeness. It may have separated their homes and presences, but it failed to change the heart of Amrat Kaur.
An excerpt encounters a scene that takes place between Amrat, her friend, and Noor. Noor is driving his bull cart when Amrat stops him to give them a ride.
The young Amrat is very open, frank, and does not hold anything in her heart. She opens up to him and expresses her love in a very frank manner:
“Noor Muhammad! I like you so much! You’re always in my eyes! Always!”
“What do I do?” said Amrat Kaur as if she did not know what she was saying.
“Noor Muhammad was baffled with eyes wide open. He didn’t know what to say.”
He asks her not to say anything like that ever again. Noor is afraid of the tensions between the different groups at that time.
She says she cannot help it and is not afraid of saying what is in her mind.
Noor tries to convince her but she just wants to be with him.
The story is filled with events of pre and post partition. Amrat Kaur may be old and less energetic, but the wilderness in her heart is still there.
Tum Mere Paas Raho by Durre Saman Bilal (2018)
Tum Mere Paas Raho literally stands for ‘You stay with me.’ This novel is filled with tensions, emotions, along with a family perspective.
The introductory excerpt from the novel reveals everything.
The novel starts with a very depressing mood. The weather is cold and harsh. Zoraiz is holding a picture of the person he once truly and deeply loved. He is dearly missing that person and it can be reflected in the following words:
“When life turns into a traveller, it never finds a way out of sorrow and misery.
“Time works like the lashes of a whip. It leaves scars on the bare back of life and those scars are never healed.
“Zoraiz Aafandi has been trying to find the cure of these wounds for the past 18 years. The person in the picture has the cure.
“The beautiful, loving woman who was once his love and life.”
“But with the cruelty displayed by time, everything is gone.”
The scene ends and jumps to Anoosh and Maheen. Maheen is trying to wake up Anoosh, whilst the latter is trying everything she can to stay in bed.
After getting her out of bed, Maheen cannot help and is reminded of her husband.
Anoosh has always wanted to know more about her father, but Maheen will not allow that at any cost.
While this is just a short list, Urdu has a variety when it comes to romance.
The books above are practically an accurate translation of human emotion. Jealousy, patience, fulfilment, completion and everything is possible in love.
Whether it is married life, relationship or platonic, Urdu literature makes romance true to its core.
These books are romantic to the core with a very realistic approach. These books also carry with them a heritage that every Pakistani can relate to.