Accompanied by Intizar Hussain, Asif Farrukkhi reads out a tale from his Urdu translation of the Jatakas at T2F on Tuesday evening.–Photo by White Star

KARACHI: Eminent writer Intizar Hussain and literary critic Asif Farrukhi took their audience at T2F on a road less travelled and introduced them to the Jatakas — tales of Mahatma Buddha’s previous lives as narrated by Buddha to his followers.

Mr Farrukhi also retold selected translation of the stories from his forthcoming book.

Reading out the book’s preface, Mr Hussain lamented that Jataka tales had been sorely neglected in Urdu literature, and that society was more influenced by the West.

He said there was a popular critique that such stories could not be associated with Buddha, but argued that while researchers demanded proof for everything, it was difficult to provide irrefutable proof for events of ancient history.

“For us Mahatma Buddha is what has been passed down over the years; no one knows what he really was like,” he said, adding, “The stories are a part of Buddha, who was legendary as well as mythical, which researchers do not understand.”

He said that these tales highlighted the lesser-known aspect of Mahatma Buddha’s life as a storyteller and asserted that these stories carried in themselves lessons for children and adults alike.

Referring to Buddha as a “cosmic man”, he said that each story depicted the former as a saviour, be it in the form of an animal or a human being and that one could derive various meanings from these stories; one being that all creatures were equal and therefore had a responsibility towards each other. He said that the beauty of these tales was that they encompassed every creature of this universe and that the Buddha identified with all of them.

Replying to a query, Mr Hussain said: “As a nation we are often influenced by what impresses the West, and since the West has noticed the Jatakas and started translating these, there is hope that we will also begin to give these tales due attention.”

Mr Farrukhi began by first expressing his appreciation for Noor Inayat Khan, the writer whose narration of 20 Jataka stories in English inspired him to translate them in Urdu. Also known as Nora Baker, she was a descendant of Tipu Sultan, and according to Mr Farrukhi, “no less an intriguing character than any Jataka story”, and that it’s difficult to trace how she developed interest in stories often buried deep in our part of the world.

Updated Jul 04, 2012 08:19pm

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