Munsif TV: Urdu News channel from Deccan

Almost a decade after ETV Urdu was launched, another TV channel in Urdu has been launched from Hyderabad, which is one of the most important centres of Urdu.

After ETV Urdu, which is a complete infotainment channel, other channels were also launched. Among them, DD Urdu has achieved some success despite cable operators’ lack of enthusiasm towards the channel.

Zee group’s Zee Salaam and Aalami Sahara have been launched recently. Salaam is more about religion and Islamic devotional programmes and poetry while Aalami Sahara focuses on news.

With the the launch of Munsif TV, the fifth Urdu channel in India, there will be healthy competition and the audience will also get to see better coverage as the Urdu market grows despite negative predictions in the past.

Siasat and Munsif are established newspapers in Hyderabad. Though belated, it has been a laudable step. The channel can be seen also at the website though the reception is not too good.

There is need to improve the standard of language used in the channel and so is the presentation that is not as professional initially. An example is ‘Aap zikr kiye’ rather than ‘Aapne zikr kiya‘.

Just a couple of brief training sessions can iron out the hitches. Of course, Dakhani has a distinct style and everything can’t be viewed from the perception of a North Indian Urdu speaker.

For the moment it’s good news for Urdu speaking populace that has come once again from South India. The owners claim it is available in 80 countries through satellite.



Two more Urdu monthly digests stop publication

The closure of two more monthly Urdu digests has not been noticed in mainstream Urdu press, as they were magazines that catered to popular interest.

The two Urdu digests, “Sadha Rang’ and ‘Talash’ ceased publication. Earlier, Chahar Rang, Hazar Rang, Aalami Digest, Aatish-e-Gul and Nikhat-e-Gul disappered from the market due to decline in readership.

Now Huma remains the only digest along with Pakiza Anchal of the same group. Two other women-oriented digests Mashriqi Anchal and Mashiriq Dulhan are still publishing. But the trends suggest that their days are also numbered.

In the 80s, suddenly digests had appeared in the market and due to the collection of international stories that were translated in Urdu, they achieved success. In the past there were Shabistan and Mehrab among other digests.

Critics may not take these magazines and digests seriously but it is Jaraem, Pakiza Anchal, Khtoon-e-Mashriq, Biswin Sadi and similar popular magazines that are the first step of reader towards acquiring the literary taste.

Even literary magazines are gasping for breath. Among the few surviving are Ajkal, Aiwan-e-Urdu, Shair, Insha, Kitabnuma, Naya Daur, Naya Waraq and Zehn-e-Jadid. Though Sahara group’s ventures and the publication of Arindam Chaudhary’s The Sunday Indian in Urdu have brought fresh hopes.

But the sad truth is that unless there is a commercial viability, nobody is going to publish Urdu magazines. The cost of paper is rising and advertisements re hard to get for Urdu periodicals/newspapers. With fewer Indians (read Muslims) familiar with Urdu script and the figures dwindling fast, the future is not at all bright for Urdu publications.


Remembering Qurratulain Hyder (1927-2007)


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.


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.


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.


The Sunday Indian magazine in Urdu

At last, a national weekly magazine has come out with an Urdu edition. The Planman Media that brings out The Sunday Indian, has launched the Urdu edition of the weekly.


Arindam Chaudhuri is the editor-in-chief of the magazine. The English edition was launched in mid-2006 along with some other language editions. Now the magazine has been launched in another 8 languages. Urdu is one of the languages.

For a long period the need for a national Urdu news magazine was felt. However, apart from Sahara group, no other national media group found Urdu publication, a profitable venture.


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:


Aaina: An Urdu web magazine

Aaina, an Urdu web magazine, which I recently discovered on the net, adds to the growing presence of Urdu media, especially from India, on the world wide web.


Yaadash bakhair! Oldies would remember that nearly five decades back, the Shama group had come up with a lifestyle magazine Aaina that was much ahead of its times.

And at the dawn of the twenty first century we have the new Aaina, a standard e-zine, which we hope would surely achieve success and have a long run. You can check the website here.

Tahsin Usmani is the editor of the webzine. The site doesn’t tell much about the publication and how long it has been on net, but the contents are interesting. Importantly, fonts are soothing to eye. (The Rashtriya Sahara group has made a mess of its website with fonts).

Aaina has several sections including News, International Affairs, National Issues, Cultural Activities and the poetry section. The best part is that it has a kids’ section, which is often neglected in Urdu papers and magazines.

The mushaira link on the site has nearly two dozen poets’ couplets/ghazals. Do they have an archive section, I wonder! Also, I felt that the site took slightly extra time to load. However, Mr Tahsin Usmani and his team needs to be congratulated for the effort for this bi-lingual webzine. Our best wishes for them.