Urdu Poetry: 200 Ghazals and Nazms

Urdu poetry transcends geographical boundaries and is understood and loved by millions who can’t read a word written in Urdu script. I am happy that my other blog now has a collection of 200 selected ghazals and Nazms, each in Urdu, Hindi and Roman English scripts, for the benefit of readers. Read.

Due to the linguistic politics, Urdu unfortunately got identified as a language of Muslims in India, and the script of the langauge suffered as a result. However, the poetry remained as popular as it was in the past.

When you intend to put the gems of Urdu poetry on the web, you can’t ignore that a vast majority of readers can’t read Urdu script (especially Indians). While Roman script was used for writing Urdu even in Indian Army, it has certain restrictions.

Though devanagari script is quite scientific, it also has some limitations. When I started blogging I aimed at publishing the best of Urdu poetry. I soon learnt that one has to use all the three scripts as most of the readers understand Roman but are not too comfortable with the transliteration.

So I decided to write each ghazal or Nazm in English, Urdu and Hindi scripts. Roman and Hindi supplement each other. For example, if a person can’t understand a word in Roman, he can read it in devanagari and be able to pronounce it clearly.

Of course, those who can read Urdu, will have no problem. But they will also get help in pronounciation of difficult or confusing words by reading the Roman text. The result is that now there are over 200 Ghazals and Nazms which you can read at this website. Click

From classical masters like Mir, Ghalib, Momin, Dard and Dagh to progressive poets and the modernist stream, we have tried to incorporate the best verses of each generation.

Nazms are often neglected but on this site you will get to read poetry of Akhtarul Iman, Faiz, Majaz, Ibn-e-Insha, Sahir, Nida and many others. The number of posts is now well over 200 and it will keep growing.

The beauty of Urdu poetry, especially ghazal, lies in the fact that though it has at least five to six couplets, each couplet can be separately used and quoted. The quotability makes Urdu poetry unique and the ‘sher’ reverberate from pan kiosks to parliament of India.

Click to read Urdu poetry.

By Indscribe [www.anindianmuslim.com]

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Ghaus Ansari’s autobiography in Urdu


No autobiography in Urdu in recent times has hooked readers to the extent as Professor Ghaus Ansari’s ‘Umr-e-Rafta’, which tells the fascinating journey of the writer, his early days in Lucknow, his struggle and subsequent migration to Europe.

Such is his eye for minute details and his memory that the reader becomes a fellow traveller with him in his sojourns. Ansari, was born in 1929 in Firangi Mahal in Lucknow. He recounts how the caste-system was prevalent among Muslims to the extent that even in Madarsa, the students sat as per their caste and the son of a sanitary worker had to sit outside at the place where footwear were kept and had only the privilege to listen to the lessons and learn whatever he could hear.

Perhaps, these experiences played an important role in his life and he turned to leftist ideas, even joining Communist Party and going to jail after Independence. The account of his early life and teenged years make interesting reading. He was in the school when he started writing stories that were published in reputed magazines and he also brought out a couple of periodicals, one for children and the other was a semi-literary magazine on film industry.

Along with the events of his life, Dr Ansari’s detailed analysis of the communal polarisation and the politics in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the first half of 20th century give valuable insight to readers about the freedom movement. More so, his own association with leaders of freedom movement, interesting incidents and anecdotes make this autobiography unique.

However, the hopes were dashed after independence. Ghous Ansari was also disillusioned with the culture of sycophancy, bribery and the communalisation. A humanist to the core, Ansari who had umpteen close Hindu and Sikh friends, recounts the experiences of dealing with bureaucracy and later decides to leave for England.

His life in London where he stuggled hard to eke out his living and later his stay in Vienna (Austria) for his doctorate on Casteism in Indian Muslims, is truly inspiring. And makes the two volumes of Umar-e-Rafta, a must-read for any teenager or youth. An anthropoligist, Prof Ansari had stopped writing in Urdu after leaving India but when he wrote the autobiography recently, one can only marvel at his grasp of Urdu idiom. You can see the Lucknow of yore, alive in this khud-navisht (autobiography).

Besides, his long stay in Iraq where he taught in University and later in Kuwait, are also recounted in the second volume. His wife Vadia, hails from Baghdad. Ansari has also written about the politics of oil and the turbulent era in Middle-East.


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Faruqi’s Urdu novel ‘Kai Chand the Sar-e-Aasman’

Hardly any novel in Urdu has generated so much heat in recent years as renowned litterateur Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s ‘Kaii Chaand thay Sar-e-Aasmaan’, which is probably the first literary work in Urdu published by Penguin.

Faruqi’s literary standing is such that Urdu world naturally expected a magnum opus from him. The fact that he is a critic, a poet, a linguist and former publisher of the now-defunct Shabkhoon, apart from having received awards like Saraswati Samman, it is not unjust that we expected the novel to be truly outstanding.

Shamsur Rehman Faruqi

At the function to release the novel sometime back, encomiums were poured on the novel, which Ahmad Mahfooz termed as a ‘Jadeed Aab-e-Hayat’. Syed Hamid said that it will help the reader in understanding the Indo-Islamic culture.

The central characters of the novel are Yusuf Saadakar, his daughter Wazeer Khanum and their family. It starts from Yusuf’s grandfather Makhsus Ullah and the last generation is Wazeer Khanum’s grandson Waseem Jafar.

The novel starts from Kishangarh where Makhsus Ullah, an artist lived, and one day he draws the picture of a woman ‘Bani Thani’ (bedecked woman), which has a strange resemblance with the daughter of the Maharawal. It remains a mystery how the painting has such resemblance with the photograph of Manmohini.

The family is forced out of the princely state and they move from Uttar Pradesh to Kashmir. The story continues with Makhsus Ullah’s son Yahya Badgami and later his sons Dawood and Yaqoob. Circa 1803, British take upon themselves the task to rescue Emperor Shah Alam from the ‘captivity’ of Marathas and the brothers fight on the side of the English.

The families of Dawood and Yaqub are killed and only the latter’s son Yusuf, who is a 10-year-old survives the war. A tawaif, Akbari, brings him up and marries her daughter Asghari to him. Asghari’s daughters, Anwari, Umda Khanam and Chhoti Begam, take the story forward.

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The eldest gets married to Maulvi Nazir. Nawab Syed Yusuf Ali Khan Bahadur liked Umda Khanam and she went to live with him without marriage. The youngest of the three, turned out to be a rebel. Due to the death of her mother, she was closer to her grandmother and this naturally influenced her ways. She says to her sister, ‘Jo mard aayega, chakhungi, pasand aaya to rakhungi’.

She starts living with an Englishman Morriston Black. They plan to marry in 1829 but he dies in a riot. She returns from Jaipur to Delhi and is sought by Resident William Fraser and also Nawab Shamsuddin. She goes with the latter and they have a son Nawab Mirza. After Shamsuddin is exectured for suspicion of killing Fraser, she gets married to Mirza Fakhru, who had his upbringing in the Qila-e-Moalla in the era of Bahadur Shah Zafar…

Faruqui is unquestionably the biggest name in Urdu linguistics and the ease with which he has brought the language used in 18th and 19th century to the pages of the novel written in 21st century, is simply amazing. The depiction of the era especially the exploitation of Indian peasantry and masses during British rule, is remarkable.

Such is his mastery in depicting the sexual encounters and love scenes that if the novel was written in modern Urdu, it would have sold by lakhs, says Haider Qureshi, an eminent poet. As it is a novel about Indo-Islamic culture and Mughals, the finest couplets of Urdu and Persian poetry abound in the book.

In fact, the novel enlivens the entire culture and the bygone era in front of the reader. The book is published in Pakistan also where it has attracted the Urdu lovers. ‘Kai Chaand the Sare Asman’ is a novel worth buying. You can get it from Shabkhoon Kitabghar, Post Box Number 13, 313, Ranimandi, Allahabad 211003 (Uttar Pradesh) India.

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Remembering Qurratulain Hyder (1927-2007)

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For several centuries Urdu was a language of poetry. We had great poets like Meer, Ghalib and Iqbal, but we had no major work of prose to be kept alongside the novels of West. Ainee changed this forever and Urdu world will always be indebted to her for penning ‘Aag ka Darya’.

Her name meant ‘the delight of eyes’. The daughter of an illustrious couple, Sajjad Hyder Yaldaram and Nazar Zehra, brought Urdu fiction at par with writings in other major languages of the world.

I don’t buy the charges that she was arrogant, temperamental and sympathetic to the feudal system. Qurratulain Haider was beautiful and extraordinarily intelligent from her childhood. And she knew that she was special.

She could write about the upper class and the feudal system beause she was part of it. Though she could see the hollowness of feudal society, nostalgia remains the essence of her writing. (Yaldaram’s ancestal jagir was taken away by British for the family’s role in 1857). And this nostalgia took her back to 2500 years of Indian history.

Afaq Ahmed writes that Ainy was born in a broad-minded family. Her father Sajjad Hyder had told his wife to drop purdah in 1918 when Mustafa Kamal Ata Turk ended the custom in Turkey.

Yildaram was one of the triumvirate that founded the modern Urdu short story writers, the other two being Dhanpat Rai (Prem Chand) and Sultan Haider Josh.

Afaq Ahmed writes that she had a deep insight into the third world issues and knew its intricacies. She was fond of eastern high values and Indians’ innate goodness.

I liked Rahat Indori’s comment that ‘if Prem Chand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Rajinder Singh Bedi are considered four pillars of Urdu prose (story)’ then Ainee was the entrance to this structure. She was modern, had seen the world, more than any other contemporary Urdu writer of her times.

And Jawaharlal Nehru was a personal friend. But the stories that she just rejected a proposal because the high ranking officer ate biscuits dipped in tea, are simply ridiculous. She knew she was special and like a great writer when she didn’t get the mental compatibility needed for a person to spend life with, she decided against marrying. One can see its reflection when Kamal returns to India and asks Champa why she didn’t marry.

She became a disciple of Sufi Arif Miyan at Majgavan Sharif near Lucknow. While going from Lucknow to Lakhimpur Khiri, she would walk to the hospice on foot. Such was her devotion to her ‘pir’. Ainee wrote pathbreaking novels that attained huge popularity but couldn’t get a penny out of Aag ka Darya’s royalty.

On the evening of August 21, her Namaaz-e-Janaaza was held and later she was buried at the Jamia Millia Islamia’s Qabristan. She will rest in the same grave yard where Abid Husain, Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari and Sajjad Zaheer are buried.

On Her Demise:

Shamsur Rahman Faruqui (Urdu’s foremost critic, novelist, poet): With her demise, the era of modernism in Urdu ends. She was the only fiction writer in Urdu who successfully portray Western and Oriental sensibilities alike.

Her novel, Aag ka Dariya, even if it is considered a failure, still it would be a great failure, the kind of work we can truly take pride on. She kept writing till her last breath. Her forte was in describing the composite culture of the sub-continent and the role/status of women in the society, which has existed for millennia.

Nida Fazli: With ‘Aag ka Darya’, Qurratul Ain Hyder had opposed the ‘two-nation theory’ and this made it difficult for her to live in Pakistan. She left Pakistan and returned to India.

Zubair Rizvi: Her novel demands a slightly different sensibilities from the reader. She never wrote such literature that could provide momentary delight. Even when she wrote in a popular non-literary magazine like Shama, her standard of writing remained the same.

Abrar Rahmani:

She was one Urdu writer who was interviewed the most and these interviews are enlightening. Talking to a critic of the standing of Faruqi, she gets slightly aggressive and says, ‘Critics feel that they are kingmakers of literature’. Even Shamim Hanafi, gets a curt reply to a question,’hamaare aksar naqqad lakeer ke faqeer hi rahnege’. To Zubair Rizvi, she says, ‘most critics don’t understand fiction’. She complains to Asif Farrukhi that women writers have been ignored.

Afaq Ahmed:

It would not be correct to call her just an Urdu writer. She was actually an Indian writer whose work measures up to international standards. She was our last great fiction writer and her style died with her.

Read more about her works at my BLOG here.

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Ibn-e-Safi’s novels are gems of Urdu literature

This was a long overdue post and was delayed due to unavoidable reasons. The seminar on Ibn-e-Safi was held in Delhi sometime back.

Eminent Urdu scholar from Germany, Christina Oesterheld said that the characters of Ibn-e-Safi’s novels live a Western lifestyle but are quintessentially Oriental when it comes to their behaviour towards women.

The main characters Imran and Faridi don’t look at women as an object of sex, rather for them a woman is a symbol of purity and dignity. They treat her as equal in all regards. Dr Christina, who is the senior lecturer at Institute of South Asian Studies, Heidelberg, Germany regretted that Ibn-e-Safi’s writing was not given enough attention in comparison to so-called serious literature.

Ibn-e-Safi

The Sahitya Akademi president Dr Gopi Chand Narang questioned why ‘Jasoosi Adab’ is not considered literature and if it is not literature then why the word ‘adab’ (literature) is attached to it, during such seminars. He said that Ibn-e-Safi was published in Devanagari and Bengali as well, and rather than ignoring his works, there is need to change our own attitude.

Professor Akhtarul Wasey said that Ibn-e-Safi not only taught Urdu to a generation but also taught us nuances of language, story plot and an understanding of the world, especially the third world countries. He said that Ibn-i-Safi B.A. had indicated several things in the 60s and 70s which we are witnessing today.

The participants said that the novels of Ibn Safi are gems of Urdu literature. Often in serious literature the readers is left detched and searching for answers, which is not the case in his novels. And they are serious nonetheless on another plane as the satire is unmistakeable.

Another famous litterateur, Izhar Asar, who has written hundreds of novels and considered a pillar of ‘popular literature’, attended the seminar, which was held under the aegis of Urdu Acdemy. Yunus Dehlvi, Khalid Mahmood, Dr Sadiq, Shabana Nazeer, Najma Rahmani, Kifayat Dehliv, Sheen Kaf Nizam, MR Qasmi, Abu Bakr Abbas, M Arif Iqbal, Arujumand Ara, Maula Bakhsh, Seemab Sultanpuri and Moin Shadab were amongst the other participants.

Interestingly, later at a seminar in Mumbai, legendary Urdu writer Intizar Husain, who apparently tried to shock the audience with the comment that he ‘had neither read Ibn Safi nor felt he was important enough‘, invited flak for his comments. There was severe criticism of the comment on the stage itself. Several litterateurs reminded Intezar Hussain that though one may be entitled to his personal views, and his literary status apart, Ibn Safi can’t be simply dismissed as just another writer.

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Sahitya Academy awards to Makhmoor Saeedi

Makhmoor Saeedi

The Sahitya Academy president Dr Gopi Chand Narang presented awards to writers of 22 Indian languages at a function in New Delhi.

Urdu poet Makhmoor Saeedi was amongst the recepient of the award for Urdu. He is a veteran poet. Personally I am no great fan of Makhmoor but he does represent a tradition as flagbearer of the Tonk school 9dabistan) of Urdu poetry.

Makhmur, a ‘kohna-mashq’ shaair, has been a permanent feature at the mushairas and poetic meets in Delhi for decades. Urdu India congratulates Makhmoor Saeedi.

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Fiftieth death anniversary of Majaz

The 50th death anniversary of Majaz Lakhnavi was recently observed. A programme was held in Aligarh where a mushaira was also organised. Here is the report:

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