Stories about urdu literature

“Go bid the wretched of my earth to awake”: Celebrating Iqbal’s Lenin on his 150th birthday

The figure of Vladimir Lenin – born 150 years ago today –  continues to exercise a talismanic hold on revolutionaries across the world. The year 2017 was celebrated as the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution, leading to the establishment of the first socialist state presided over by Lenin, and marking an important moment in history. Likewise, Urdu literature is also rich in writings about the Bolshevik Revolution. However, writings on Lenin, whether poems or fiction, are few and far between. Readers may be surprised to know that despite a long progressive tradition in Urdu literature inspired by the events of 1917, ...

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Revisiting Ghalib’s “Thousands of Desires” on his 151st death anniversary

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869) is unique in the annals of Urdu literature. Not for nothing is he referred to as the bard of Urdu literature, to be compared with a universal tradition of literary figures representative of any national culture. Therefore he is the closest in our subcontinental tradition to what William Shakespeare is in the English, albeit dramatic, tradition. His works in both Urdu and Persian have left an indelible impact on the region, which is why his writings continue to be celebrated and widely read, not just in the subcontinent but across the globe. Today marks the 151st ...

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Mohammad Khalid Akhtar’s witty, pithy advice for the New Year

Mohammad Khalid Akhtar (1920-2002) was one of the greatest, albeit marginalised and neglected, Urdu satirists of the 20th century. Despite hailing from Bahawalpur, he broke the monopoly of the so-called ‘Urdu-wallahs’ over literature and wrote some memorable novels, short-stories and sketches to join the immortal writers of Urdu literature. Hence, the short and sharp extract on the New Year presented below, taken from his longer, satirical Scientific Primer: For Slightly Older Adults, which forms part of his 1968 Adamjee Prize-winning essay collection ‘Khoya Hua Ufaq’ (The Lost Horizon), is not only the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of yet another ...

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“A Moses without manifestation, a Christ without a cross”: Karl Marx as remembered by Wamiq Jaunpuri

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” – Karl Marx Europe in the 19th century gave birth to two thinkers who changed everything about how we see the world. One was Charles Darwin. The other was Karl Marx, who was born 201 years ago today. Darwin discovered the law of evolution of plants and animals (the law of natural selection and survival of the fittest), while Marx sought the law of evolution of human history. Darwin’s discoveries sparked a revolution in the scientific world, while Marx’s discoveries illuminated the pathways to ...

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From one revolutionary to another: Vladimir Lenin as remembered by Habib Jalib

The figure of Vladimir Lenin exercises a talismanic hold on revolutionaries everywhere, across time and space. The year 2017 was celebrated as the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution, leading to the establishment of the first socialist state presided over by Lenin and marking an important moment in history. Likewise, Urdu literature is also rich in writings about the Bolshevik Revolution. However, writings on Lenin, especially poems, are few and far between. Perhaps the most celebrated poem on the founder of the Russian revolutionary state was Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s Lenin, Khuda ke Huzoor Mein (Lenin in God’s presence) written soon after the revolution ...

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Sex Aur Samaaj: Because a dialogue is important

Sex: that taboo word. Not only is it deemed sinful to discuss openly in more conservative societies, it is also about our own reflection and a repressed understanding of it. There is a compelling need to talk about sexuality as a normalised topic but due to rigid moral codes defined by religion or culture, an objective debate on this issue is not socially possible. In fact, there is an artificial silence about it because it is perceived as something dirty and sinful; a discourse to be refrained from unless one is legally recognised as a married person. Sex, indeed, is an ...

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Who let the Kuttay out?

What’s nearly as good as reading an Urdu poem? Simple! Hearing it sung. This might sound ridiculous to many of you out there, and if the poet in question is the legendary Faiz Ahmed Faiz, even blasphemous, but here me out. When was the last time you allowed yourself to indulge in written Urdu kalaam? Get my point? So, when we get to hear relatively obscure work of these literary maestros, since we seem to be so averse to the idea of actually reading them, I believe it’s something to be valued rather than being ridiculed. This brings me to ‘Kuttay‘, ...

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Does the “Urdu problem” lie with Mah-e-Mir or us?

This Mother’s Day I took my mother out on a date to watch Pakistani cinema’s latest flick Mah-e-Mir. Luckily, it has not been banned as yet. I am not a movie buff per say, but I do end up going to the cinema every other week to take a break from reality. So, I hardly ever read movie reviews before watching movies. I like to watch a movie with a blank mind, having nothing to compare it with and judge it based on the entertainment value. I went in judging from the title that Mah-e-Mir would probably be based on the ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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