Conversation in and about Urdu


Published on 19 September, 2014 in Mint

A series of book reading and discussion sessions, New Urdu Writings begins in the Capital

Among the many casualties of the Partition of 1947, Urdu too has suffered. Many mistakenly believe that Urdu was the language of a particular community only. Urdu has shrunk in importance in India, becoming a language of the ghazal and the musical soirée.

Rakhshanda Jalil
Rakhshanda Jalil

In an attempt to revive what’s lost, writer and literary historian Rakhshanda Jalil is initiating a monthly book-based series called “New Urdu Writings”, which will focus on fresh writings in Urdu literature. Launched in collaboration with Oxford bookstore and Jalil’s organization Hindustani Awaaz, the series will start in the Capital on 23 September.

“There is more to the language than just ghazal and there is more to the ghazal than shama-parwana-bulbul. I want people to uncover the range of subjects and the eclectic nature of Urdu writings and writers. The idea is to introduce new Urdu literature to the audiences,” says Jalil. The first session of the series will see Jalil moderating a conversation between noted poet Farhat Ehsas and modernist writer and novelist Khalid Jawed, who specializes in magic realism writing in Urdu. The discussion will be centred on Jawed’s new novel, Nematkhana, followed by a reading from the book by writer-artiste Mahmood Farooqui.

Today, the number of people who read Urdu is shrinking and mostly people access Urdu through translations in English or transliterations into the Devnagiri script. But Jalil believes translations are necessary evil. “Much of what we consider world classics have come to us through translations: the Greek epics, the works of Russian masters, the complex stories of Márquez and Proust have all come to us because they were written in other languages. The world of literature would be a lesser place if it were not for translations. Of course, there is an inevitable loss in translation but sometimes the quality of the original work is such that, in the hands of a skilled translator, it soars intact and reaches across to the reader in another language,” she says.

Hindustani Awaaz has been working towards the popularization of Urdu-Hindi culture, language and literature since 2002. With this new series on Urdu writings, Jalil hopes to lift the curtain of neglect, of ignorance and misconceptions about the language.

New Urdu Writings is on 23 September, 6.30pm, at the Oxford Bookstore, Connaught Place, New Delhi. For details, call 9818853266.

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