Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview: The Urdu professor of Uzbekistan

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TASHKENT: In the middle of Central Asia, a professor has studied and taught Urdu for over half a century.
Professor Dr Tash Mirza is as passionate about the language now as he was in 1961, when he completed his doctorate in Urdu from Moscow University. His studies have taken him as far as Delhi, though his home for almost all his life has been Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
Mirza frequently visits Pakistan and India to attend seminars and conferences on Urdu literature. Now 75, he teaches Urdu at the city’s State Institute of Oriental Studies.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Mirza says that Pakistan is his second home. From 1983 to 1987 he was the director of the Soviet Culture Centre in Karachi; he retains a strong attachment to the city.
Recognising his long service to the Urdu language in Central Asia, the Pakistani government honoured him with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2011.
“I used to go to Pakistan two or three times a year. Recently, I attended the concluding functions and seminars regarding Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s centenary celebrations.” Faiz and Allama Iqbal, Mirza says, are the two totems of Urdu literature, although his admiration extends to many classical poets.
“Iqbal has a special place. There is a translation of his poetry in the Uzbek language, in which research has also been conducted. On December 22 we are going to organize a grand function on Allama Iqbal here in Tashkent.” Faiz’s poetry has also been translated into Uzbek, Mirza says, by a student in his department.
Mirza is concerned about the different trajectories Urdu is taking. “I feel it is going on two different platforms, and becoming a different language in Pakistan and Hindustan (India). I have been researching the characteristics of Pakistani Urdu and Indian Urdu, what is common and what is different between them.”
He has also written a compact Urdu-Uzbek dictionary, and he translates in both directions. Recently he published Urdu translations of several poems by Ali Sher Naovi, a renowned Uzbek poet.
However, disappointment can be glimpsed in his eyes when Mirza talks about the lack of interest from the Pakistani government in his Urdu Department in Tashkent. “Urdu has been taught here since 1947, but no single teacher from Pakistan has come here, which is really disappointing, though I know Urdu teachers from Pakistan go to different countries,” he says.
“Everywhere you will see professors from Pakistan but I don’t know why we have not been honoured with any teacher from Pakistan.”
There are more than 50 students currently learning Urdu at the institute – and all of them, Mirza says, want to visit Pakistan. Despite their enthusiasm, they face difficulties. “Despite the great wishes of our students to visit Pakistan, no such opportunity has been given to them yet.”
Mirza’s great ambition is to write a Urdu-Russian dictionary, and he has already started work on this project. “Publishing this dictionary is my mission now. I have to seek a publisher in Pakistan to publish it for the sake of the Urdu language. It will be a real asset for Russian students of Urdu.”
Concerning his award from the Pakistan government, he is delighted and modest. “I wonder if I am worthy of such a great honour or not. On August 15, one of my friends in Pakistan called me and congratulated me. At first, I was thinking it is because of Independence Day so I also congratulated him in return. But he said, ‘No, your name is in the list of Sitara-e-Imtiaz’. At first, I took it as a joke but then I read it in newspapers.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2011.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Live! Urdu Sha'eri and Discussions on Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging service that is used pretty extensively around the world--and by Urdu-speakers and -lovers everywhere. And a lot of people post poetry on Twitter. And there's some very interesting baetbai fun and translation work on there as well. We are placing an RSS feed of what happens on Twitter below on this page.


And remember; hit reload to get new material:

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Dr. Zeenat Sajida - RIP

Dr. Zeenar Sajida, who was a well know Urdu scholar from Hyderabad, India, died on December 4th, 2008.

May her soul rest in piece.

Click here for the obits:

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Yahaan Hamaaree Kya Zaroorath Hai?

There's a line in one of the greatest "Bollywood" classics, written by the scions of a couple of the greatest South Asian literary families--sons of Urdu poets, to be precise--and delivered by a minor but unforgettable character, "Surma Bhopali" that goes "Yahaan hamaaree kya zaroorath hai; yahaan tho waisay hee aap kay naam ka warrant nikla huwa hai." [Who needs me? There's already a warrant out for your arrest.]

And that's the thought that's being going through my head as South Asia spirals downwards, some folks caution against jumping to conclusions, and others rally for peace. And I include the arguments over "Islamists did it. No, wait! Let's not jump to conclusions; it could be home grown!..." in that

How is it realistic to look at everything as either-or? The mess South Asia is in--not to mention the rest of the world--there's enough blame to go around. Neo-purist fanatics (our Islamist/Jihadists; their Sanghis; our--speaking from North America--Christian and Jewish fanatics); civilizing imperialists; ethnic militants (Sena, MQM, racists of white and other hue); everybody's jingoistic nationalists; everybody's military-industrial-intelligence complexes...all feed off each other. In some cases, they work with each other. Just for example, Is it too much of a stretch to believe that what is happening in Karachi (in case either of you missed it) is being helped along by Indian Intelligence (and who knows who else) as a counterpoint to what they see as Pakistani Intelligence "doing Mumbai"? From where I sit, what's happening in the NW of Pakistan also has elements of a turf battle.

And as we all participate in this circular firing squad--including the agonizing over Muslims being targeted or profiled--the folks I list above make leaps and bounds in the struggle for the hearts and minds of their respective target constituencies...

And PS: how many noticed there were riots in the prettiest town in Africa's largest nation, too? Rally anyone?

Cross-posted on the iFaqeer, Wadiblog,, Pak Tea House, Urdu ke Naam, Doodpatti, by Tohfay, blogs.
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ahmad Faraz, RIP; حق مغفِرت کرے، اجب ازاد مرد تہا

If there was every a time to to invoke the old line "Haq maghfirath karay, ajab azaad mard th-haa", it is today, as we mourn the passing of a titan.

From The News:
Legendary poet Ahmed Faraz passes away
Updated at: 1720 PST, Thursday, July 17, 2008

CHICAGO: Renowned poet and literary figure of Pakistan Ahmed Faraz died of kidneys failure here at a local hospital on Thursday.

He was under treatment at a hospital in Chicago.
Update: The news report was inaccurate. The rumours of his death, to quote another great writer, were greatly exaggerated. Please see here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Azad Karachi Radio Program 010, February 20, 2008 - آزاد کراچی ریڈیو پروگرام شمار ۱۰

Program 10 of Azad Karachi Radio is now online, the first of 2008 has guest Mehdi Hasnain join iFaqeer and Cemendtaur to discuss the American Elections, the Pakistani situation and events with Ayesha Siddiqa in California as well as a media item.

The program mentions, amongst other things:
Program 10 of Azad Karachi Radio is available here:

Formally speaking, Azad Karachi Radio is produced out of Silicon Valley and is a service of Azad South Asia, a collaborative media effort initiated by yours truly and Cemendtaur. You can reach the team at or leave comments on either this blog or at Azad Karachi Radio.

Again, please leave comments, feedback, suggestions, and other input by posting comments on our blog pages or via email at

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Poetry of Revolution

Before I forget or get distracted. I just found a post by Zaheer "Zak" Kidvai on his blog that is just a jewel for lovers of Urdu and Urdu poetry. You have just got to read it:

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