Bano Qudsia, affectionately known as Bano aapa among her peers and lovers, was a woman of many talents. Her biggest quality was that she could love with all her heart. And not just her kids or her husband, every single person who walked into her house, Daastan Saraye, was welcome; nobody was a stranger in that house.
I still remember, I was 11 or 12 years old when I first went to her house.
Ashfaq Ahmed, Baba ji, was addressing a mehfil in their drawing room. It was full to the brim with people from all walks of life sitting together on the floor, listening intently to what Baba ji had to say.
We went a few weeks later, as well, after hearing that Baba ji is unwell. We walked in, without anyone asking us anything other than ‘kisko milne aaye hain?’. And with that, we were let in, only to be greeted by Bano aapa herself, asking us to sit down. Baba ji was resting, but as soon as he heard there were people there to see him, he asked us to come and sit in his room. I still remember the smell of that room: musk infused with medicine. He was wearing a white shalwaar kameez, wrinkled from being slept in. Bano aapa came and sat next to him, and they exchanged a look I’ve never seen before. Without even touching each other, they were wrapped in each others’ existence.
Bano Qudsia gave us a whole new perspective on love.
Whether it was love for your mehboob or your mother, Bano aapa made us feel a kind of love that we’ve never felt before. And now that she’s no more, she’s left behind a whole generation weeping; mourning the loss of not just one human being, but a whole legacy.
Here are my favorite quotes from her work (while her work can never be reduced down to a few quotes, but this only goes to show how unaware we are of this legend of Urdu Literature that we’ve been gifted with):
1. When she told us what falling in love was like
2. When love became more about satisfying your significant other’s ego than love, itself.
3. When she told us how love is a constant journey
4. When love trumped everything else in the world
5. But asking for love is really not how it goes
6. When love lost was greater than love gained
7. When she knew that when love is unattainable, that is when it’s most desired
8. When the absence of a loved one hollowed you out from the inside
9. When the loyalty of one’s mehboob came under scrutiny
10. When she described the difference between how men and women love
11. And even when someone didn’t turn out to be faithful, that only made you stronger
Rest in eternal peace, aapa.