Fatima Surayya Bajia

Fatima Surayya Bajia, فاطمہ ثریا بجیا‎, 1 September 1930 – 10 February 2016 was an Urdu novelist, playwright and drama writer of Pakistan. She was awarded various awards at home and abroad including Japan’s highest civil award in recognition of her works. She also remained Advisor to the Chief Minister of Sindh province in Pakistan. She was also member of managing committee of Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi. She died on 10 February 2016 in Karachi, Pakistan, aged 85.

A well-known personality in social welfare, literary Radio, TV and Stage, she wrote for PTV Centres Islamabad and Lahore since the launch of those TV channels. She wrote her first long play Mehman. She also contributed for the literary programmes like Auraaq, and beauty care programmes under the title Aaraish-e-Khaam-e-Kakal and she also produced some children programmes.

Native of Hyderabad, India, she was born near “Panj Bibi Mountain”, in the town of Raichur in the present state of Karnataka. She migrated to Pakistan soon after independence, along with her family. She never attended a formal school, all her education took place at home, but instead she is ranked an eminent intellectual, reader and writer.

“I never attended a formal school. The elders of the family decided that all my education should take place at home. The teacher lived in our home where we were taught discipline along with our education. My family was settled in Hyderabad Deccan, which was then a paramount cultural center in undivided India. Although there were a few prominent schools e.g. Saint Josephs School, although my grandfather could afford the fee (which was Rs. 20), he still preferred to educate us at home. These schools were primarily attended by pampered girls from the elite families of nawabs and jagirdars. From the beginning we were taught self-sufficiency, although we employed 60 to 70 servants, we were not allowed to ask anyone of them for water. There was a huge difference between girls of the elite families and us. My grandfather felt that if we attended such schools, we would suffer from an inferiority complex, but since proper upbringing is not possible without coaching, he decided to carry out our education at home. Nevertheless, we were taught all the subjects that were taught in the formal Hyderabad schools with separate teachers for every subject e.g. calligraphy and math.”

One of ten children, her other siblings include: Anwar Maqsood, Zehra Nigah, Zubaida Tariq (a cook), and Mrs. Kazmi (a dress designer).

Bajia first got involved with PTV in 1960s when her flight to Karachi had been delayed and she came to PTV Islamabad station for a visit. Director Agha Nasir hired her and Bajia made her debut in 1966 by acting in one of his plays. She began writing afterwards. Nasir said about her that

“During Zia ul Haq’s time when the ‘dupatta policy’ was implemented and women were forced to behave a certain way, Bajia wrote about characters from Baghdad and Granada. This was brilliant because these places were supposedly Islamic societies and no one could say anything about them.”

He further added that when writing a play, Bajia would literally move with her belongings to the TV station and then become an authority by default.

“Anyone who had a problem would go to Bajia, not to the chief of the organisation.”

Most of her dramas like Shama, Afshan, Aroosa, Ana, Tasveer had large ensemble casts and portrayed huge families and their problems. She produced great number of Women programmes, especially she is founder of Khwateen key Meilaad.

Bajia won numerous awards, including the Pride of Performance Award in 1996 for her services to the performing arts in Pakistan. It is one of the highest civil awards conferred by the Pakistan Government and abroad including Japan’s highest civil award in recognition of her works. She also remained Advisor to the Chief Minister of Sindh province in Pakistan. Most recently she appeared in The Big Show on CNBC alongside another legendary writer Haseena Moin. In 2012, she was awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz by President of Pakistan.

On 22 May 2012, the biography of Bajia titled Apki Bajia (Yours Bajia) written by Syeda Iffat Hasan Rizvi after six years of research was released.

Bajia died on 10 February 2016 in Karachi, at the age of 85 from throat cancer.

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