With an eclectic process of evolution alongside Hindi, to its emergence as a modern Indian language, Urdu has come a long way and is rich in literary offerings that have permeated deep into the Indian culture. Here are a few of these gems.
Dastangoi – Ainee Farooqui
Dastangoi is an art of Urdu story telling. It is a combination of two Persian words: dastan (long stories) and goi (to tell). Dastangoi is an asset of our oral traditions. Dastans were epics which were recited or read aloud and in essence were like medieval romances, telling tales of adventure, magic and warfare. They originated from Arabia and travelled from Persia and reached India in the 16th century. Emperor Akbar was a great patron of this art form and commissioned the famous Hamzanama. Dastangoi were happening both in courts of the emperors as well as in the bazaars. With colonization, dastangoi lost its relevance in the society. Dastanic traditions were labelled as vulgar and ill-refined within the Euro-centric literary traditions. This cultural colonization led even the Urdu literati/reformers to a phase of self-censorship. And in 1928 with the death of Mir Baqar Ali, the last dastango, dastangoi faded away from people’s memory. It was only in 2002 when Mahmood Farooqui, Anusha Rizvi, and Shamsur Rehman Farooqui revived this tradition. Today, we perform traditional dastans – dastans that were produced by the earlier dastangos. Besides the traditional ones, we also have contemporary dastans that are scripted by Mahmood Farooqui. These include a rich variety of dastans – there is a dastan based on Binayak Sen’s farcical trial on the charges of sedition, dastan-e-partition, dastan-e-Karn az Mahabharat, dastan-e-Raagdarbari, among many others. There are also dastans for children, such as one based on Lewis Carrol’s book Alice in Wonderland. Traditionally there were no women dastango. But with the revival of this tradition a lot of women have taken up dastangoi. Presently within our group Team Dastangoi there are five – Poonam Girdhani, Namita, Nusrat Ansari, Meera Rizvi, Amina Sayeda. The producer of Dastangoi: The Rediscovered Art of Urdu Storytelling, Anusha Rizvi, is a woman too.
Ghazal – Dr Kausar Mazhari
The ghazal is the most elegant and popular genre of Urdu poetry. We can take its origin from Amir Khusrau(1253-1325)an Islamic Sufi, philosopher and poet. It was a ghazal by Khusrau made of mixed languages – Persian & Rekhta (Urdu was called then). It has been derived from another genre called ‘Qaseeda’. The first turning point in its development is the ghazal of Wali Daccani. Wali put the essence of life and feeling of love in the ghazal. The age of Meer Taqi Meer, Sauda and Meer Dard is significant. Among these, Meer became the Stalwart of the ghazal, and was admitted as an ‘Ustad’ (Master) by Ghalib and other successors. There is a dynamism and powerful emotions in Meer’s ghazals like love and sorrow. Following this period, Rasikh, Insha, Rangeen, Mushafi, Nasikh, Atish, Momin, Zauq, Bahadur Shah Zafar and Mirza Ghalib came. The journey of the ghazal moves towards Iqbal, Shad Azimabadi, Hasrat Mohani, Gigar Moradabadi and Firaq Gorakhpuri. And then, the progressive writers came on front. Poets such as Majaz, Makhdoom, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Majrooh Sultanpoori and Jan Nisar Akhter got recognition. The modernism genre poets of the ghazal came after 1960. They are Nasir Kazmi, Zafar Iqbal, Hasan Naim, Basheer Badr and so on. Then the post modern poets like Farhat Ehsaas, Asad Badayuni, Jamal Owaisi, Alam Khursheed, Noman Shauq and Mushtaque Sadaf came up.
‘Patta-patta, boota-boota, haal hamara jaane hai,
Jaane-na-jaane, gul hi na jaane, bagh toh saara jaane hai’ – Mir
‘Tum mere paas hote ho goya
Jab koi doosra nahin hota’ – Momin
‘Hazaron khwahishen aisi ki har khwahist pe dam nikle
Bahut nikle mere armaan lekin pir bhi kam nikle’ – Ghalib
URDU SHORT STORY – Dr Ali Ahmed Idrisi
The foundation of modern Urdu Short Story was laid in the pages of “Avadh Panc” (1877). The humorous character sketches of Munshi Sajjad Husen and the descriptions of seasons and of seasonal festivities such as ” Basant ” and “Holi” and of feasts and fairs such as ” Muharram”, “Id” and “Shabe Baraat”, were written in such a style that they constituted character sketches. This is similar to Roger de Coverely’s sketches in the ” Spectator” and the “Tatler” in the 17th c., which aided in the development of the English Novel. The contact with English life and literature brought about the same changes in India as the Renaissance had done in Europe. In fact this period is called, and rightly so, the Renaissance of Urdu.
Literary journalism having the dignity and the seriousness of tone and impersonality demanded by modern standards can be said to have started with the coming out of “Makhzan” under the editorship of Sir Abdul Qadir in 1900. Short stories have appeared in each in the wake of the magazine and the same happened in the case of Urdu. The works of Sayyid Sajjad Haider Yaldram , Khwaja Hasan Nizami, Sultan Haider Josh, and Rashidul khairi were introduced to the public at first through the pages of “Makhzan”. We can say that beginning of twentieth century was the Golden Era for Urdu short story, from Munshi Premchand to Krishna Chandra. Each and every genre of this period played a pivotal role in the development of Urdu Short Story writing. Female writers like Ismat Chugtai, Sultan Jahan, Qurratul Ain Haider were most pioneering in the realm of women empowerment.
Ms. Aine Farooqui – Dastango, Team Dastangoi
Dr Kausar Mazhari – Department of Urdu, Jamia Millia Islamia
Dr Ali Ahmad – Department of Urdu,University of Delhi