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The discussion, hosted by renowned poetess Fatima Hassan, centred on the use of Urdu language and literature. Arfa Sayeda Zehra reiterates the need of having Urdu as the medium of instruction for children. – Photo by Suhail Yusuf /

KARACHI: The second day of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) saw the audience get mesmerised by scholar Arfa Sayeda Zehra in a discussion titled “Kaargaah-e-Sheesha Gari” or the craft of glass-making.

The discussion, hosted by renowned poetess Fatima Hassan, centred on the use of Urdu language and literature.

In her usually witty style, Zehra strongly opposed the emergence of Urdu language as a medium of communication between troops, which is a common perception.

“Urdu is not a lashkari language or the language of armies; the beauty and delicacy of this language cannot be defined by a group of combative people.”

Zehra was of the view that children, in Pakistan, are reluctant to read in Urdu and called it a ‘terrible trend.’

“It is a universal truth to first teach the child in his or her own mother tongue,” Zehra said.

Lamenting the lack of ‘ownership’ for the language, Zehra pointed out that we don’t appreciate Urdu because we not proud of the heritage attached to it.

Talking about the canvas of Urdu literature, Arfa said pointed out that Urdu literature is equally comparable, or sometimes even more powerful than the literature in some of the other parts of the world.

To support her opinion, Zehra recited a couplet by Ghalib and challenged the audience to find a similar thought in any language of the world.


Mat Pooch Ke Kia Haal He Mera Tere Peeche

Tu Dekh Ke kia Rang He Tera Mere Aagey

 On the subject of Urdu prose, Zehra spoke about the novel “Aag ka darya,” saying that a reader must be aware of Indo-Pak history to be able to understand this novel.

Denying the notion that ‘writers are not producing quality literature,’ Arfa said that Pakistani poets and writers are making a valuable contribution to literature.

“Literature is a binding force between the people and more powerful than history, as it absorbs history and turns it into something bigger.”

Comments (8) Closed

Neelesh Feb 13, 2012 05:12pm
I has wished to write an article on literature and this article has provided me an other direction to think in. And i totally agree with madam Zehra that we can't compare Urdu language as combative, because it is very beautiful and heart touching language can't be used for fighting but for creating and enhancing love and prosperity.
Palvasha von Hassell Feb 13, 2012 10:02pm
The problem when I was growing up was that "Urdu medium" was synonymous with poor quality, backward education, and "English medium" with modern and progressive. The key is to link Urdu with both tradition and modernity. Agree completely, it is a beautiful language, and love Ghalib. Not familiar with modern Urdu prose, though. Can anyone recommend a novel or short story compilation?
Ercelan Feb 14, 2012 01:12am
Were I younger, I would be at her feet day and night! Entrancing is an inadequate word to describe the way she held our hearts and minds at the session. May I live to hear her another day.
A.Bajwa Feb 14, 2012 05:45am
Urdu is no doubt a beautiful language.One of the best. I listened other day to Kaifi Azmi and was was stunned by his thought processes. We should introduce it to the world, at least its literature. We have to own the culture behind this language.The present day culture in Pakistan is too unromantic.My father encouraged me to study Arabic. He thought Urdu and Farsi are too romantic.For that reason he did't allow us to see Indian movies.Being martial races we are too stoic. The poor in any case get married too early to have time for romance.Even educated middle class is too religious. Urdu litrature should be taught as a part of B.Litt degree.
samad Feb 14, 2012 03:17pm
no doubt , urdu is beautiful language .but we must respect other languages of tis land too. and we should not impose urdu on other as mother language when they got their own beautiful language
Tahmina Feb 15, 2012 04:41pm
I fully agree, first teach children in their mother tongue, local languages - Bring it on. I want to teach my children in Punjabi similarly every mother should have a right to do so. We should not be arguing for imposing urdu on those children whose mother tongue is not urdu. Just loved the idea.
MorePowerfulThan Feb 22, 2012 10:29am
Very interesting and informative article!
Cyrus Howell May 06, 2012 02:48pm
"Literature is more powerful than history" --- Nations are groups of people who lie collectively about their history.