Tag Archives: Between Clay and Dust

‘The War On Terror Hasn’t Affected Urdu Writing Yet’

MusharrafPakistani-Canadian writer and translator, Musharraf Ali Farooqi is the author of Between Clay And Dust (2012) which was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. His translation of Dastaan-e-Amir Hamza is highly acclaimed and he is also a noted children’s author.

How did the Partition impact you and your family?
The Partition called into question a whole set of values, and the societal consensus among our elders that we could live together and have a normal relationship with people of another faith; a consensus that Hindus and Muslims and people of other religions had for a long time. Once you unlearn the idea on which you formulated society, many other ideas also fall apart. We are paying the price for that in Pakistan today. Its impact will be felt for decades to come.

Tell us something about your Urdu Project.
The Urdu Project is an online project. It is an effort to build basic resources like dictionaries and a thesaurus for proverbs, dictions and idioms in the Urdu language and linking them with classical texts like Dastaan-e-Amir Hamzaor Tilism-e-Hoshruba or classical poetry. Parts of Urdu literature have become inaccessible because we cannot understand the language. If you link each word or phrase with a reference link, then it becomes easier to read the text.

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The literary and the sentimental

I resisted reading this book for a long time because I have no interest in pehalwans or akharas. Then one day the electricity went for several hours during the heat of a Delhi afternoon and I was not able to work at my computer.

So, grudgingly, I picked up this novel to read. It would not be an exaggeration to say that as soon as I started reading, the inverter-run fan became an air-conditioner, the heat of summer became the verdancy of spring, and the sweat of Delhi became the water of life. What a novel! Between Clay and Dust weaves its magical prose while moving between Ustad Ramzi, the almost-retired head of a wrestling clan, Gohar Jan, the almost-retired courtesan of the largest kotha in the inner-city, and Tamami, Ramzi’s younger brother and would-be successor to the highest wrestling honours. Sparsely written and densely imagined, it is a finely-sketched, brilliantly written novel set in a time and place we cannot pinpoint — sometime between Partition and the present, in an inner city somewhere in the erstwhile Hindustan of North India and Pakistan. This suspension in time and space is an inspired choice that beautifully echoes the emptiness of the novel and its characters.

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