DESPITE the apparent thaw in the Indo-Pak relations, the movement of intellectuals and writers across the border is as restricted as it was: many Pakistani scholars could not get visa to attend the conference on ‘200 Years of Urdu Journalism’, arranged by Delhi’s National Council for Promotion of the Urdu Language.
The council had invited a dozen or so intellectuals, academics and journalists from Pakistan. Though Dr Tehseen Firaqi and a few others got visa and were able to attend the conference held in the first week of February 2016, Dr Rafaqat Ali Shahid and other scholars kept waiting for the visa until the last day, but it never arrived. Interestingly, Rafaqat Ali Shahid, a well-known scholar from Lahore, has been to India on several occasions before but was denied visa, though a publisher from Lahore and a little-known, young woman academic were able to make it.
Luckily, books from India somehow find their way through the border, with or without visa, and one can ignore other irritants. Arriving mostly through the postal services, these books keep one abreast of what is being written across the border. So here is a brief intro to the new books arrived from India.
- Urdu mein murass’a nasr ki rivayet
Urdu prose has always had a tendency to be ornamental and flowery, though in the modern times it is somewhat frowned upon. Dr Mumtaz Ahmed Khan, the author, has traced the tradition of Urdu’s ornamental prose right from beginning, evaluating its morphological, syntactical and linguistic features. Published by Delhi’s Educational Publishing House in 2015, the book signposts the history of ornate Urdu prose up to the recent times, but it does not mention any Pakistani Urdu prose writers in the post-independence era. In the thumbnail summary, the author says that despite some of its drawbacks, the ornamental prose has enriched Urdu literature and lexicon.
- Rani ketki ki kahani aur us ka takhleeq kar
Insha Allah Khan Insha’s ‘Rani Ketki ki kahani’ is a tale written with a purpose: to use a vocabulary that is purely ‘local’, that is, without any Arabic, Persian or Turkish words. Written in “the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century”, as scholars put it, the book could not be published till 1852. Dr Muhammad Ismail Azad Fatehpuri has now come up with a research work on the story and its author.
Dr Azad Fatehpuri describes Insha’s life, his other works and evaluates the famous tale. He tries to determine the year in which the tale was created, which, according to him, could be between 1788 and 1790. A glossary has added to the value of the work. Dr Azad thinks that ‘Rani Ketki’ was written in “Hindi” and Insha was a “pioneer of the Hindi literature”, though scholars, including Gian Chand Jain, generally agree that ‘Rani Ketki’ is a work in Urdu. Delhi’s Educational Publishing House had published the book in 2014.
- Mera safar-i-Haj
Syed Subhanallah Azeem Gorakhpuri (1882-1941) was a nationalist leader who struggled against the British Raj. He had been an active member of All India Muslim Educational Conference since 1904, though joined Inayatullah Mashriqi’s Khaksar Movement a few years before his death.
A lover of books and knowledge, Syed Subhanallah had collected many rare manuscripts, which he donated to Patna’s Khuda Bakhsh Public Library and the rest of his invaluable collection of books went to Aligarh Muslim University. A poet, journalist and prose writer as well, Syed Subhanallah penned a travelogue when he performed Haj in 1903. This travelogue, titled Mera safar-i-Haj has now been edited by Prof Asgher Abbas. Published by Aligarh’s Educational Book House in 2015, the book has a detailed preface, which somehow compensates for the briefness of the 50-page travelogue. Karachi’s Idara-i-Yadgar-i-Ghalib is planning to publish its Pakistani edition — as the compiler has given the consent — since it is a true picture of early 20th-century Makkah.
- Print culture
Another research work by Prof Asgher Abbas, a scholar from Aligarh, the book is a critical study of Aligarh Institute Gazette, the magazine published by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan during 1866-1897. The book helps understand Sir Syed’s role in the promotion of Urdu journalism as well as his views on different political, literary and linguistic issues. Published by Delhi’s Primus Books in 2015, the book is a must read for the scholars and students of subcontinent’s history.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2016