Review: New Urdu Writings from India and Pakistan edited by Rakshanda Jalil
A remarkable collection of short stories translated from Urdu that are both thought-provoking and enduring: The Hindu
Centuries ago, Urdu was born in the streets and markets of Delhi and became a language of middle-class North Indians. But, in the post-Partition India, it was replaced by Hindi and English. Ironically, it was adopted by Pakistan where the majority of people don’t speak Urdu. In India, though, it survived in Hindi film songs and in poetry symposia. The last few years have seen a renewed interest in this beautiful language but, alas, a majority of youngsters can’t read Urdu in the original Nastaliq script, as they are more comfortable with English. This anthology targets those Indian readers. What I liked most about this collection was the absence of Chugtai and Manto. These two writers have been translated and talked about so often that most non-Urdu speakers think that Urdu has produced just two short story writers.
This collection comprises 15 stories each from India and Pakistan and the editor has taken great care in choosing them. It has an electic mix of veteran writers and young voices. From Indian side, the collection opens with Joginder Paul’s short stories about happiness, war, death and miseries of existence. In ‘Kargil’, “a simple-hearted thief finds two corpses. One was an Indian soldier and the other a Pakistani mujahid. The thief discovers a letter written by a kid in the Pakistani’s pocket and a photograph of a little girl in the Indian’s and is wonderstruck at how the photograph of the mujahid’s daughter gets in to the Indian soldier’s pocket?”