A non-Muslim poet’s collection of Naat

The collection of ‘Naat’s by Urdu poet Shiv Bahadur Singh ‘Dilbar’ has received wide acclaim within months of the publication.

Though non-Muslim Urdu poets have written Naats (poetry in praise of Prophet Muhammad), such collections have become a rarity in recent times. However, the collection ‘Aqeedat ke Phool’ has drawn the attention of Urdu-lovers.

It is a tough genre in the sense that there is very delicate balance that the poet needs to strike between divinity and prophethood, in order to write a Naat. It is a form of poetry where even a minor slip is not permissible.

Even Ghalib had to say:

Ghalib sanaa-e-Khwaaja ba-yazdaaN guzaashtam
kaaN zaat paak martaba-daan-e-Muhammad ast

However, Dilbar, who retired fro Army, has shown his devotion in the collection. The collection also has the Naats in devanagari script for the benefit of those who are not familiar with Perso-Arabic script. The 276-page ‘Aqeedat ke Phool’ is available for Rs 100 from 9, Chandar Nagar, Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh (UP) 229001



Gulzar Dehlvi turns 82

Renowned Urdu poet Anand Mohan Zutshi Gulzar Dehlvi has turned 82 and a function was organised to mark the event at Daryaganj in Delhi.

The veteran poet was felicitated for his services to the Urdu world. Former UP Minister Zafar Ali Naqvi, Syed Shahid Mehdi, Khwaja Ahmad Nizami, Matin Amrohvi and a host of Urdu writers were present.

Recalling Gulzar’s contribution, Nazmi Sikandarabadi said that after partition, he continued the tradition of Urdu poetry, mushairas and ‘nashists’ (literarty meets) in Delhi, and in process groomed hundreds of poets.

Gulzar’s association Anjuman Tamir-e-Urdu has completed sixty years and is probably the most active literary organisation in Urdu. Aslam Javed recalled his 50 year long association with the Anjuman but regretted that after the bulldozers moved in around Jama Masjid during the emergency, an entire culture was killed. ‘Not every thing can be learnt in class rooms and traditions like mushairas and nashists enrich the society as a whole’.


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.


Legendary Urdu scholar Gian Chand Jain dies

Legendary Urdu litterateur Gian Chand Jain died at Porterville (California) in America on Saturday night. He was 85.

An authority on Ghalib and a linguist par excellence, Jain was born in Seohara town in Bijnore district in 1923. He had written his first ghazal under the pen name ‘Ghaafil’ in 1937.

Jain’s latest book ‘Ek Bhasha, Do Likhawat’ had invited the collective ire of Urdu world. Urdu writers and readers were hurt with Jain’s sudden outburst and especially the charges of bias againt non-Muslim writers in Urdu. All his life he got tremendous respect from across the Urud world.

Another Urdu legend Shamsur Rahman Farooqi had written a scholarly piece, exposing the frivolous nature of charges. However, many scholars felt that Jain, who was ailing, had been used by vested elements, in his old age to create the unsavoury literary controversy. Such errors (found in the book) were not expected of an erudite person like him.

Gyan Chand Jain was a recepient of umpteen Urdu awards. He was Head of Department, Urdu, at Hamidia College. Later he taught at Jammu, Allahabad and Hyderabad. He shifted to Lucknow and later to USA.


Sadaa-e-Urdu: A literary journal from Bhopal

At the turn of millennium when Urdu publications were gasping for breath in Central India, a literary journal Sadaa-e-Urdu began its publication.

Eminent Urdu litterateur Naeem Kausar needs to be congratulated for the success of his magazine. The fortnightly has successfully completed six years and carved a niche for itself amongst Urdu magazines.

I have the latest issue in my hands. The front page has the lead story about the ongoing controversy surrounding Gyan Chand Jain’s book, Khalid Mahmood’s verse on Shaam-e-Awadh, a rare letter written by Dr Jagannath Azad to Ram Lal, report about the demise of the only person in the country who used to write in Urdu, Persian, English, Sanskrit and Hindi simultaneously.


Inside, the tabloid-size magazine has short stories, articles, a collection of 100 most quotable Urdu couplets, several ghazals and Nazms apart from many other features. It is mainly a literary journal but also focuses on socio-political and movie world. And it is priced at just Rs 8. The subscriber can get 13 issues for just Rs 100.

Naeem Kausar is the son of Renowned Urdu novelist the late Kausar Chandpuri. And he has demonstrated how an Urdu journal can succeed even in this era. Of course, Karwan-e-Adab and Intesab are amongst the other Urdu magazines that are doing well.


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.