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Literature is more powerful than history: Arfa Syeda Zehra

February 13, 2012

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.”