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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ather Farouqui

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To be honest, I haven’t enjoyed writing for a long time now for reasons beyond my control. I enjoy reading mainly contemporary texts in English. I also read a lot of Urdu poetry, mainly classical poets and poets of modern sensibility, including the modernist poets of the Progressive Writers Movement.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

 My latest translation is of The Life and Poetry of  Bahdaur Shah Zafar written by Aslam Parvez. My endeavour was to make a wonderful book that has for long been confined to a narrow Urdu readership available to the wider English-speaking world.  Continue reading

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The significant other

By Tabish Khair

nameless3

A collection of Urdu stories that question implicit generalisations about writings from small towns

An anthology of Urdu short stories translated into English is rare enough these days. An anthology of 20th century Urdu short stories written by writers mostly based in Bihar and translated into English is almost unheard of. That is why Nameless Lanes, translated and edited by Syed Sarwar Hussain, deserves attention.

Nameless Lanes contains 18 stories by Urdu writers based for much or all of their life in places like Patna, Kako, Gaya and Bhagalpur. Of these, I knew one well and had heard of two. All the others are new even to me, a writer from Bihar. It redounds to Syed Sarwar Hussain’s and his Singapore-based publisher’s credit that such an anthology has been published at all, along with the required introductions to the authors and their works.

Like all anthologies, this is a mixed bag of stories, some of which appeal more than others. They also range from stories that are closer to the traditional dastaan form in sensibility and stories that are entirely modernist in ethos, as well as many in between. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta begins in Delhi

By Supriya Sharma

In the season of spring and literary festivals, this perhaps is the sweetest offering and the biggest of its kind. The third edition of Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta (JeR) opened this Friday and over the weekend, scholars, writers, poets, singers, artists and admirers of the language will gather at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in Delhi to celebrate Urdu in all its forms. The roster of the two-and-a-half-day festival includes panel discussions, dastangoi (storytelling) sessions, mushairas, qawwalis, ghazals, baitbaazi, street plays – to be held simultaneously across four venues – as well as a book exhibition, a calligraphy workshop, the Urdu Bazaar (presenting the antiquities and handicrafts of Old Delhi), a food festival, and more.

“This year, we’re trying to revive baitbaazi, which is like antakshari but with Urdu poetry, by showcasing it at the bigger venue, the stage lawn,” explains Sanjiv Saraf, festival director and founder of the Rekhta Foundation. “We’re also having a number of mushairas this year: a grand mushaira, one for women poets, one for the youth and another focusing on humour and satire.”

The festival will host over a 100 eminent speakers from the world of cinema, arts and culture, including lyricist-poet Gulzar, screenwriter and playwright Javed Siddiqui, adman and lyricist Prasoon Joshi, Urdu poet Wasim Barelvi, actor-director Saurabh Shukla, actor Nadira Babbar, journalist Saeed Naqvi, food critic and historian Pushpesh Pant, actor Sharmila Tagore, advocate-littérateur Saif Mahmood, poet-politician Kumar Vishwas and actor-radio host Annu Kapoor. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times


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Call for Papers: Conference on the Popular Culture of Urdu to be held in New Delhi

Tasveer-e Urdu and the Centre for Indian Languages (SLLCS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), plan to hold a two-day conference on the popular culture of Urdu language on 8-9 September 2017 in New Delhi. The organisers seek proposals of presentations that can lead to engaging discussions on the theme, outlined in the concept note shared below.

For submissions, a short abstract (not more than one page) should be sent in Urdu or English, with a short bio of the presenter’s past work, latest by 10 April 2017 to conference@tasveereurdu.in.

Once the submitted abstract/concept is selected for participation, the selected submissions will have to send the full paper (5000 to 8000 words, in Urdu or English) by August 10, 2017.

For more details visit: www.tasveereurdu.in

Concept Note:

While Urdu is typically celebrated as a language of romance and classical poetry by Ghalib, Mir, and Faiz etc., its lesser-acknowledged popular culture of movie songs, detective fiction, ghazal gayeki, poetry inscribed behind vehicles, mushairas, and qawwalis, has probably kept the language alive and kicking among the masses even as its more virtuous practitioners lament that Urdu is dying in India. So what are these popular forms that continue to thrive in the underbelly of classical Urdu and how different they are from its elite cultural life? More importantly, where does one draw a line between popular and classical in Urdu? Although some examples mentioned above are part of what we call ‘popular culture’, these were never really disconnected from what can be called ‘classical’. Urdu is not a monolithic entity in time and space – it has been changing over centuries in its vocabulary, usage, demographics and poetics. There have been multiple dilutions within Urdu that have redefined the notions of ‘Classical’ and ‘Popular’, not to mention the local or regional differences in Urdu’s use.

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Rekindle Your Love For Books

If the idea of surrounding yourself with books gives you a throwback feel and comfort, then the ongoing New Delhi World Book Fair is where you should be. People trotted around with a baggage of books purchased from the fair, including several titles by evergreen authors. Many of them expressed their happiness at the arrangements made at the festival. “We had less cash with us but it was a relief to see that almost all the stalls are accepting cards. There is also a mobile ATM van and I think sufficient arrangements have been made for a hassle-free fair,” said Ankush Bhatia, a visitor.

The theme of this year is Manushi, focussing on writings on and by women, from ancient times till the present. The Pavilion had an impressive ambience, decked with hoardings and posters of women scholars and writers. “We have a large collection of works by women. Some of them are in Hindi and Urdu, while others are in English. And it came to us as a pleasant surprise that the buyers for these books are not only women but also the men. They all seem interested,” said Sandeep Ahuja from Surachna Publications. Over 600 books on and by women in different genres and in all major Indian languages were on display. Sandeep also told us that panels and posters of major women authors, saint-poets, philosophers, and social reformers belonging to the ancient medieval India as well as modern India will also be displayed.

“Out of all the languages, there has been an increase in sales for Urdu language books. Young students are finding the poetry and the Urdu literature very fascinating. Though compared to other language books, the sales are not very high but there has been an increase for sure,” said Alam Khan from Al-Sayeed Publications. Read more

Source: The Pioneer 


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Santokh Singh Dhir’s delightful short stories are tinged with music and humour

By Moazzam Sheikh

Santokh Singh Dhir’s Merian Saras Kahaniyan is a delightful little book. Through the phrase ‘a delightful little book’, I mean to suggest that the book’s strongest point is its language, which is tinged with music and humour. The rustic and rooted Punjabi of the book belongs to a part of Punjab that the author knows well, where the toll of standardisation or tyranny of Hindi/Urdu has been kept at bay.

At the beginning of the book, Dhir tells the reader that the selected stories in the book are one-third of his total output. It would have helped if the indefatigable Maqsood Saqib, the publisher, had also provided an introduction of Dhir, to place him within the context of modern Punjabi literature, along with a list of his entire corpus.

By and large, all the stories delight the reader not just in encountering Dhir’s thoughts and insights but also when his various characters engage in conversations. To both the initiated and otherwise, comprehending what is written on the paper could be a challenge. But that’s exactly what is pleasurable about his work. Read more

Source: The News on Sunday


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Doha: Celebrating the glorious aspects of Urdu literature

 

By Umer Nangtana

Literature buffs gathered in great numbers to celebrate the second Bazm-e-Sadaf Symposium and award ceremony. In a grand ceremony held at Retaj Residence Al Corniche Hotel, eminent speakers and literary personalities from India shed light on aspects of Urdu literature. For the first time in Doha, the literary event featured a complete session on Dastan Goi (storytelling).

The play was organised by Bazm-e-Sadaf International and was performed by Jawaid Danish from Canada. The skit was very well appreciated by the audience. The 60-minute long play kept them captivated. It involved more than five characters with different dialects of Urdu from different parts of India. Ambassador of India to Qatar P Kumaran was the chief guest at the occasion while M S Bukhari, the chief patron of Bazm-e-Sadaf International, presided over the session.

General secretary Ahmad Ashfaq invited the dignitaries and poets on the stage. Mohd Habibun Nabi, deputy chief patron, welcomed the entire guest. The ambassador of India thanked Bukhari for inviting him to the function and that he was impressed with the level of poetry. “I learned Urdu through Arabic when I was posted in Egypt and am still trying to learn more. I congratulated the entire Bazm-E-Sadaf team for organising such an amazing function,” said the ambassador. Read more

Source: Gulf Times

 


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When it comes to Ismat Chughtai, there’s no way to memorialise the immortal

ishmat

If the premise of death, and certainly of its politics, is to inaugurate finality, to establish in all essentials the grandiose end of thought, then death has eluded Ismat Chughtai.

For the force of her writing, although decades since have squandered, is still to be located in the interstices of the personal and the political, and in all those realms where the two are inseparable. Of what significance, then, is the performance of remembrance; indeed, how are we to remember Ismat Chughtai? Is there a way to memorialise the immortal?

Born to a “liberal” Muslim family of comfortable affluence, Chughtai was a child of modernity, or to borrow from Minault, a “daughter” of reform.

As a discursive subject of the aforesaid reformation, born out of colonialism and the historical encounter with modernity, she began, in appreciable earnestness, to read its chimera of emancipation. Faced with the prospect of wasting away the promising years of her life in Sambhar, where her father was transferred as a judicial magistrate, young Ismat expressed her desire to study in Aligarh, going as far as to threaten her family with the prospect of running away, or even converting to Christianity. Read more


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Modern Urdu writing has a multiplicity of voices, a range of concerns and motifs

R jalilMany years ago, I had edited a collection of Urdu stories called simply, Urdu Stories. My intention then, was to present a sampler from the “greats” of Urdu literature. That collection had begun, quite rightly, with Premchand and carried on till modern times. Almost a decade later, I set myself an altogether different task. This time I consciously went looking for the new and the relatively unknown. I called this collection New Urdu Writings: From India and Pakistan.

There were, of course, the stalwarts such as Joginder Paul, Zahida Hina, Intizar Husain and Jeelani Bano. They had to be included precisely because though they had been writing for a fairly long time, they were active writers and had influenced the nai kahani (or the “new story” as it is called by critics) through their efforts. Living in a post-colonised world, they continue to negotiate the demands of their own literary concerns and those of their younger, newer readers. Their work shows how a purity of language can be maintained to a rigorous, almost classical degree and how this language can be moulded to convey new and altogether “modern” concerns.

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Pakistan: Generations saddened as Udaas Naslain’s Hussain departs

Tens of thousands of fans and followers have been left saddened after the demise of a towering personality in Urdu literature, Abdullah Hussain, the writer commonly known for his masterpiece “Udaas Naslain”, a novel which is still relevant for many after fifty years of its publishing.

Pakistan Today talked to some critics and colleagues of Hussain who rated him as “one of the best novelists in Urdu literature”.

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