A kaleidoscopic view of Urdu literary landscape

This collection of short fiction is a good entry point for the uninitiated

GN Bureau | March 18, 2024


#Fiction   #Urdu   #Literature   #History  
(GN Photo)
(GN Photo)

Urdu: The Best Stories of Our Times
Edited and translated by Rakhshanda Jalil
HarperCollins, 200 pages, Rs 399

Urdu is a jubaan in a class of itself. In strict linguistic analysis, it shares a hyphenated identity with Hindi. Grammatically speaking, the only difference between the two is in lexicon, and yet words make all the difference. Socially speaking, it is altogether another world. Most would think it is the language of a particular community, even if some of the most respected authors now considered to be of Hindi literature wrote in Urdu script.

“Urdu: The Best Stories of Our Times”, edited and translated by Rakhshanda Jalil, showcases and celebrates all these multiples identities of the language. It presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the current literary landscape by bringing together some of the finest contemporary writers of short fiction in this language.

“This is a selection of the finest modern writings from India,” Dr Jalil, also a writer and literary historian, says. “When I began work on this book, I was clear that we mustn’t go by what has been most anthologized assuming that it is, necessarily, the finest – either among the genre of the Urdu short story itself or the oeuvre of a particular writer. No, instead the criteria for a collection such as this is good prose, a range of concerns, divergent points of view that, taken together, reflect the currents that ripple through modern India.”

The volume offers short stories of wide-ranging tones: compassionate, questioning, philosophical, whimsical, tragic, but always thrilling and enchanting in equal measure. They highlight the numerous histories, identities and themes that have been celebrated or challenged in the last few decades. It also seeks to dismantle many stereotypes and offers an exhilarating glimpse into Urdu literature today.

Since perceptions also build a part of the reality and Urdu is identified with (north Indian) Muslim community, some of the more recent stories in this collection help the rest of us look at the world around us from a less appreciated viewpoint as well. Dr Jalil, though, maintains, “Just as Urdu is not the language of India’s Muslims alone, these stories are not about Muslims only; instead, they reflect a mood, an outlook, a catholicity of concerns among Urdu writers.’

A case in point is parable-like “The Stone Age” by Gulzar, which has a universal canvass. But, then, there is also “What Happened on the Ship” by Anwar Qamar, which is closer to the headlines, and what remains hidden behind them.

There have been several ‘best-of’ short fiction collections from regional languages from various publishers, expanding the literary horizons of Indian readers. By definition, any selection is bound to be subjective, and bound to triggers discussions of inclusions and exclusions. In this case, the absence of Naiyer Masud is conspicuous, especially because his work would have added a shade rarely seen in Indian literature.
 

Comments

 

Other News

‘World’s biggest festival of democracy’ begins

The much-awaited General Elections of 2024, billed as the world’s biggest festival of democracy, began on Friday with Phase 1 of polling in 102 Parliamentary Constituencies (the highest among all seven phases) in 21 States/ UTs and 92 Assembly Constituencies in the State Assembly Elections in Arunach

A sustainability warrior’s heartfelt stories of life’s fleeting moments

Fit In, Stand Out, Walk: Stories from a Pushed Away Hill By Shailini Sheth Amin Notion Press, Rs 399

What EU’s AI Act means for the world

The recent European Union (EU) policy on artificial intelligence (AI) will be a game-changer and likely to become the de-facto standard not only for the conduct of businesses but also for the way consumers think about AI tools. Governments across the globe have been grappling with the rapid rise of AI tool

Indian Railways celebrates 171 years of its pioneering journey

The Indian Railways is celebrating 171 glorious years of its existence. Going back in time, the first train in India (and Asia) ran between Mumbai and Thane on April 16, 1853. It was flagged off from Boribunder (where CSMT stands today). As the years passed, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway which ran the

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: How to connect businesses with people

7 Chakras of Management: Wisdom from Indic Scriptures By Ashutosh Garg Rupa Publications, 282 pages, Rs 595

ECI walks extra mile to reach out to elderly, PwD voters

In a path-breaking initiative, the Election Commission of India (ECI), for the first time in a Lok Sabha Election, has provided the facility of home voting for the elderly and Persons with Disabilities in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Voters above 85 years of age and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) with 4

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook Twitter Google Plus Linkedin Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter