Book review: Urdu Literature and Journalism – Critical perspectives

The book holds an ample coverage on Ghalib, Firaq, Faiz, Iqbal, Rabindranath Tagore, Munshi Premchand, Manto and Kalam, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Josh.

Updated: February 23, 2015 12:36 pm
urdu-literature-main Urdu Literature and Journalism: Critical perspectives

By Nayeem Showkat Khan

Going beyond the stereotype of Urdu – inordinately influenced by ‘emotionalism’ and ‘protest journalism’, Shafey Kidwai in his book ‘Urdu Literature and Journalism: Critical perspectives’ has given the language a new life in its old age. Kidwai has creatively nurtured the critical analysis of the top critics in the book and has brought it into a brand new light.

He has discussed the growth of the language, its shift from romanticism to progressive to modern day writing, and then rued over Urdu bearing the brunt of partition.

“Jis ahad-e-Siyasat ne yeh zinda zubaan kuchli
Us ahad-e-siyasat ko marhoomon ka gham kyun hai?
Ghalib jise kahte hain Urdu ka hi shayar tha
Urdu par sitam dhaakar Ghalib par karam kyun hai? ”
“Jin shahron mein goonji thi Ghalib ki nava barson
Un shahron mein ab Urdu benaam-o-nishaan thehri
Azadi-e- kamil ka ailaan hua jis din
Matoob zubaan thehri ghaddaar zubaan thehri”

(At death anniversary of Ghalib in Agra, Sahir Ludhianvi: 1969)

First of its kind, Kidwai’s commentary has left no stone unturned to assert how Urdu literature denotes the plurality in interpretations and a long list of writers of the language have a unique ontological orientation.

The book holds an ample coverage on Ghalib, Firaq, Faiz, Iqbal, Rabindranath Tagore, Munshi Premchand, Manto and Kalam, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Josh.

One full essay is dedicated to Noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Kidwai has acknowledged and narrated a detailed summary regarding the influence of Tagore on Urdu writers like Munshi Premchand (The famous ‘Kalam ka Sipahi’) and Josh. Based on some valid accounts by contemporary writers, Kidwai has drawn a crystal clear frame that both Dr Sir Mohammad Iqbal and Tagore influenced each other. In a letter to Abbas Ali Khan Lama Hyderabadi, praising Iqbal’s creative genius, reproduced by Kidwai, Targore wrote: “Being not conversant with the languages in which Iqbal wrote I could not understand the depth of his creativity and I could hardly dare to express my opinion about his poetry. Iqbal’s popularity prompts me to believe that his couplets are jewels that have the effulgence of the eternity of literature.”

As Rabindranath Tagore is worshipped by many as God, the book has highlighted his other side too. Josh Malihabadi in his autobiography ‘Yaadon ki Baraat’ has written about his six months at Santiniketan with Tagore – “He (Tagore) was obsessed with a thing that left me completely annoyed. It was his penchant for publicity. It always filled me with a deep sense of dislike. Whenever a foreigner came for his interview; he would sit at a high-up place after getting himself fully spruced up. Ambergris would light up behind him. Fully surrounded by beautiful girls he would give the interview in such a manner that the interview seeker would get the impression that he was speaking to a divinity.”

Unlike others, Kidwai has praised Jayant Parmar by calling him the first voice of Dalit poetry in Urdu and has provided an ample space to his unique achievements.

Kidwai has placed Ghalib above William Shakespeare in a series of legends. “Dr Abdul Latif’s efforts to compare Ghalib with Shakespeare and some other western poets after critically looking at Ghalib’s English book ‘Ghalib’ were done in order to pin him down,” he notes.

Besides narrating the history of Urdu Journalism, the writer credits Sir Syed Ahmad Khan for being the first Urdu journalist to sow the seeds of Development Journalism. After critically analysing the articles written by Sir Syed in his Aligarh Institute Gazette against the arrogant and self-conceited British officials, for which Syed received warning from the alien government, Kidwai questions branding of Sir Syed as an ally of the British. “Sir Syed’s pen was entirely directed towards alleviating the condition of Indians. How can a person who published spiteful articles against British be described as an apologist for the British rule?” Kidwai laments. With this well researched source of information, the author has turned a new page in the history of Urdu journalism.

The anthology of great thoughts and creative assertions, Shafey Kidwai’s book is a master piece in itself, only one need to keep an English dictionary open in other hand while reading.

(The author is a PhD Student at Aligrah Muslim University, Aligrah)