Stories about urdu literature

A conversation between Ghalib and Iqbal

Once upon a time, a Pakistani who also happened to be an Urdu literature lover, was travelling from one city to another somewhere in the northern areas of Pakistan. Throughout his journey, only two books were his companion – Deewan-e-Ghalib and Kalaam-e- Iqbal. During a long bus journey, his tired and weary yet over-imaginative mind was in a half-sleeping and half-dreaming state. In this trance, he found Ghalib and Iqbal sitting in the seats right next to him talking to each other, completely oblivious of his presence. This is the conversation that ensued between these two great Urdu poets: Iqbal “Aah! Look at those beautiful mountains and ...

Read Full Post

Is this the death of the Urdu language?

After reading Raza Rumi’s ‘Delhi by Heart’, I came across a touching phrase by Khurshid Afsar Bisrani, “Ab urdu kya hai, ek kothay ki tawaif hai, mazaa har ek leta hai, mohabbat kam kartey hain.” (What is Urdu, but a prostitute of a brothel, everyone takes advantage, but only few truly love her.) This prompted me to pen down my feelings regarding the state of Urdu in daily life. The way our young generation has distanced itself from Urdu, especially Urdu literature, is something to lament. Thanks to my upbringing, with both my parents being fond of reading Urdu, I have lived in an environment ...

Read Full Post

The last cloud of a storm

Mansha Yaad, who had been writing short stories, surprisingly passed away in Islamabad this week. Here in Lahore the next day, Hameed Akhtar, fed up with his painful ailment, too, decided that he had had enough of this world. Mansha Yaad was in the mid-spring of his writing. He had published a lot of short stories that earned him plaudits from lay readers as well as critics. Emboldened by the approval, his pen appeared to have grown more fluent. But who can rein death? All of a sudden it ambushed Mansha. Call it providence and be resigned to it. Everybody who ...

Read Full Post

Aalmi Mushaira 2011: Just another oldies affair?

In a candid interview with Pakistan and Gulf Economist in 2002, Azhar Abbas Hashmi claimed that the tradition of the Aalmi Mushaira in Karachi started as a means of improving the city’s image of genocide and lawlessness. Over the years, people of different nationalities, religions and political persuasions connect on an intellectual level and obtain what composite dialogue can never wholly impart: a feeling of unimpeded unity. The Aalmi Mushaira 2011 commenced with similar expectations at the Karachi Expo Centre under the auspices of the Sakinan-e-Shehar Quaid Karachi. The event was held against the backdrop of political tension and violence. And yet, ...

Read Full Post

Selling Faiz to the rich for Rs1,000

Lahore’s mall road was as crowded as always. Beyond the zooming vehicles and amongst the old silent trees, I saw him walking slowly on a footpath. There was something dramatic about the old man’s appearance. He reminded me of realist Soviet paintings; ragged dusty clothes, long gray hair, wrinkled face and clutching a small piece of scarlet, a little red flag. He was heading towards the Alhamra Art Complex which was covered with life sized posters of the legendary socialist poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The poet’s centenary celebrations were about to begin and the parking lot was almost full. The old man stood ...

Read Full Post

Works on Faiz and other books

Were he alive today, Ahmad Nadim Qasmi would have found the current fervour and growing unanimity of acclaim for Faiz Ahmad Faiz quite intriguing since he thought that his own sidelining as a secondary figure of contemporary Urdu poetry during the latter’s lifetime had something to do with class and lifestyle. With class and lifestyle gone with the man, now what remains, Qasmi Sahib would have wondered, but his poetry and his memory? Is that worth making so much fuss about? In the realm of the arts, relative greatness cannot be determined with a measuring tape. Faiz Sahib himself made no such ...

Read Full Post

Remembering the old Coffee House

Not a day goes by without somebody in the media asking me about the goings on at the Coffee House or the afternoons and evenings at the Tea House. But everybody seems to be interested only in the patrons. Wonder if anybody at all is interested in the people who waited on them and how they survived and thrived in the midst of writers, intellectuals, artists and journalists. For I am reminded today of a Coffee House waiter. Once India Coffee House closed down, Munshi Ji, moved on to Zelin’s Coffee House. After Zelin’s too had closed down I once asked ...

Read Full Post

Wayward verses

Let us talk today about a wayward creature. Waywardness, of course, is not a preserve of the humankind. There are countless verses in Urdu that merit the tag including some very high standard stuff. One hears and reads verses that would be credit to whoever they were attributed to and yet like some unfortunate orphans or our urban poor they remain ‘homeless’. I mean you don’t see them in a famous poet’s work or in a celebrated anthology of poetry. And yet, they are not quite unfortunate either. Given that you don’t see them in a renowned collection, they have a secure place ...

Read Full Post

Dedicated writers: The bright side

The days of calm and peace lie so distant in our past as to be a fading dream. What we have is chaos and anarchy, loot and extortion, theft and robbery, violence, murder and terrorism. Not many days go by without another blast killing many and causing wives to be widowed and children to be orphaned. It is natural for people in times like these not to take life for granted and for the feeling of transience to be heightened. Such are our circumstances but sometimes one comes across something that makes one wonder how it is that there are ...

Read Full Post

Talking about blasphemy in English, over dessert

If you wish to have a peaceful meal always avoid broaching subjects like the blasphemy laws at the dinner table. Be extra careful if steak has been served where sharp knives are at hand. In fact it is best to remain perfectly silent until dessert is served. Once knives are replaced by small, curved silver spoons you can go ahead and exercise your freedom of speech as per your kind pleasure. (You may want to ensure your body guard is around though.) If you truly wish to remain a dominant member of the dinner-table chatter, always speak in English. Remember: 1. ...

Read Full Post