Thursday, May 19, 2005

A commentary on Allama Iqbal's Nazm - Himalay

For lovers of Urdu script, this is a commentary on Allama Iqbal's nazm - Himalay, by Dr. Ludmila Vassilyeva -

Dr. Ludmila is a reasearher of Indian Literature in Institue of Oriental Studies, Moscow.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Post about "Urdu Blossoming on the Internet"

I am pretty hyped about all that is going on in this community of ours that seems to be developing around blogging in and about Urdu and the affiliated Wikis, etc. So I decided to tell the world. (Bear with me, I am not being pretentious--well, maybe a little.) I have posted the following on my own blog ( and will be talking to a magazine/newspaper or three about publishing articles on this, and am also working on presenting the process of how to do all this and engage with this phenomenon (or just write e-mail to your mother in Urdu) at some Urdu classes and as part of a technical lecture series here in the Bay Area.

And now that I am doing or planning to do all that, I thought I would come back here and report back to those that are actually making all this happen. (I know this is being picked up by Urdu Planet and suchlike, so folks will see it. And y'all are using Firefox's RSS Feed live linking feature, right? right?) Now to the post.

----[First published on iFaqeer's blog.]

For those not familiar with it, Urdu is the language associated with the Muslims of South Asia--fully almost half of the world's Muslims. It is the language in which the madrassas of Pakistan and India operate. The official language of Pakistan, a country that needs no introduction to most readers in this day and age, it is also the language in which a great volume of literature, especially poetry, has been written--a lot of it with Sufistic content or undertones.

On the Internet, Urdu has had a presence for a while. But up to now, it has been in the form of content created using specialized software (like the ubiquitous "InPage") and then converted to a graphic format (like GIF or JPG) and then placed on a website. The content itself has usually been in the form of poetry, literature, or news and current affairs that has been created for another medium--or in another time-- and "re-purposed" for the Web. Original content creation specifically for the Internet has been very tentative; though we have had some poets use the Web as their first or main outlet and some news sites, etc. have come up.

But all that is changing. In the last few months or so, I am tracking a blossoming of Urdu language for blogging and other live discussions, and original content being developed for, and often on the web.

Blogs, of course, are where everything "is at" nowadays. And blogging in Urdu seems to have been triggered by the direct support for Urdu script that is available in Windows XP and the phonetic keyboard developed by the CRULP (the Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing at the National University of Science and Technology in Pakistan). A follow-up piece to this one will lay out the how-tos of this. Please watch this space and feel free to get in touch with the author/editor of this piece.

By way of background, this phenomenon has been preceded by the explosion of blogging in Farsi. And yes, I use that word advisedly; if what is happening in Urdu now is a "blossoming", then what has happened in Farsi is an "explosion". Farsi is reputedly now the third most popular language for online journals, and Farsi blogs are to the political scene in Iran what printed pamphlets were to revolutions in the early 20th century. But I digress. You can follow the links earlier in this paragraph to catch up on that discussion. Back to Urdu.

Here's a short round-up of things that will provide you a lay of the land, so to speak.

There is now a list of Urdu blogs:

The above link is to a post is from "Urdu ke Naam", a collaborative blog that includes contributions by the current author, and announces that blog's being included in the list. A closer look at that blog entry will also point to a page--on, what else? a blog--that describes how to start blogging in Urdu. And one that provides templates for setting one up.

The comments on that post above also mention "Urdu Planet", a site that aggregates the content of a lot of Urdu and Urdu-related blogs in one place:

The list of blogs that page points to is hosted on the "Urdu Wiki":

For readers not familiar with them, "wikis" are a wondeful new class of websites which are great for colloboratively creating content and gathering infromation. The "Urdu Wiki" has become a good place for the community forming around this whole phenomenon of Urdu on the Web. Among other things, it has pages where the community is starting to do some of the work on developing and fine-tuning the terminology for computer usage, for example. To use another link from Urdu ke Naam, see:

South Asian readers will remember that, till very recently, this kind of list was sent around as a joke, with satirical translations of Windows features into Urdu, Punjabi, or what-have-you. Now we are working on the real thing. And I do mean "we"--anyone can participate. I wish everybody would.

Which brings us to the next topic. A real encyclopedia in the language. The Wikipedia community has set up an encyclopedia in Urdu. Everyone can and should participate; it is a wonderful way to engage the Urdu-speaking community and Urdu lovers with the Internet, while helping the collection and growth of knowledge in Urdu. The address to get to it directly is:

By way of background, here's a link to an earlier post by the current author on this topic:

One could see a conflict, or redundancy between the above two projects--but I dont. Here's why: One is a place for collaboratively developing content about Urdu and related topics, while the other is a real encyclopedia about anything and everything (or aims to be, anyhow) in Urdu. A project that, to my knowledge has not successfully been carried out since before colonial times.

To give you an example of the kind of discussions that are starting to happen as the use of the language starts to mature in its use on this medium, see the following posts on "Urdu ke Naam":

Before I close, a few specific observations:

The community I am talking about spans India and Pakistan. Which, IMHO (in my humble opinion), is a good thing. It is good for the health of the language and intellectual strength of the community using it, as well as for world peace. The interesting thing is, the only tensions that arise in this online community do not arise out of national differences, but about things like the strong feeling amongst some users that the Urdu script should be the only one used for such discussion. (See the comments under the main post at and then the current author's own post at:

Secondly, from where I sit, the discussion of just a couple of years ago about whether Urdu is on its way out in India (see, for example, the 2003 article on Chowk that has been making the rounds on e-mail again recently) is moot. Some of the most passionate members of this community are currently based in Hyderabad, one of the historical "homes" of the language.

Another interesting thing is that the diaspora of Urdu speakers and lovers around the rest of the world is the furthest behind in this regard. Most people one talks to around Silicon Valley, for example, start the discussion with a "but I can write Urdu now, in InPage (a software for desktop publishing in Urdu)". When, after a few minutes of explaining that what is being talked about is exactly that one now does not need specialised DTP software and can employ the Urdu script anywhere in their day-to-day computer use, you can practically see the lightbulb go off above people's heads. What follows is requests for "how to" and so on.

And lastly, an expression of humility. I write this piece not to take credit for any of this, but to pay homage. The people in the trenches, doing the real work, are people like Asif Iqbal, father of the Urdu Wiki mentioned above; Danial, a blogger in Karachi; Umair Salaam, who makes a rather credible claim to have started the first blog in Urdu; Qais Mujeeb and Manzoor Khan, founders of "Urdu ke Naam"; Qadeer Ahmad Rana, the 19-year old student in Multan, Pakistan who finally scolded and shamed the current author into learning how to write in Urdu. (Wish him luck, he's in the middle of exams now.) Heartfelt khiraaj-e-thehseen and nazrana-e-aqeedhath to them. For these are the "Asathaza", the founding fathers, as "hamaari zubaan" moves into a new medium.

PS: Shapar86, my apologies for writing another piece in English, but I really wanted to reach an audience outside those that are already set up to read and write in Urdu.

On Being "Saahib-e-ZubaaN"

I posted the following:

after I created a tag on the English Wikipedia to identify users who are "Native Speakers" of Urdu. That drew at least one very appropriate comment, one that leads to a very interesting discussion about the phrase I used in Urdu for native speakers: "Saahib-e-Zubaan-e-Urdu". Here's what I replied to a comment on that post:

This is ... only specifically for users of the English-language edition of the Wikipedia, (a free and open encyclopedia). Just that one version of that one project.

Secondly, we need to get out of the ethnic designation and all the chauvinism associated with it. The purpose of this label and all the others like it that are listed at the link I proivded is to help identify the level of competency of various users with the languages they know. But even if you do want to address the wider issue, and this is as good a time and as good a forum as any to do that, the most appropriate meaning of "Saahib-e-Zabaan" (and, when you think about it, the literal meaning) is about the same as the meaning that the Wikpedia itself has for a "Native Speaker" of any language (not just Urdu, any language):

"if you're a native speaker or have a grasp of the language comparable to a native speaker".

For example, I consider myself just such a native speaker of English. In fact, if you really got down to brass tacks, my competency with English is higher my skill with Urdu. On the other hand, if you stayed with the chauvinistic ethnic classification, I could very well be smug in my links to Lucknow and Allahabad and call myself much more Saahib-e-Zabaan than say, Faiz Ahmed Faiz or Ahmed Faraz--or even Iqbal. (Allah mu'aaf karay for even entertaining the thought!)


PS: Please see: for a discussion of the actual Wikipedia project in Urdu.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Delve into the Diwan-e-Ghalib

A colleague mailed me the following link:

This site apparently has translation and commentary of Ghalib's verses from his famed Diwaan-e-Ghalib. The interesting part is the explanation of the verses that is provided, along with the meaning of Urdu words used.

A very good resource for Urdu lovers, and particularly for all Deewaaney of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib.

~~Manzoor Khan

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Urdu-Speaking Wikipedia Users

Urdu-speaking users of the English Wikipedia can now identify themselves with a "Babel tag", a User language template that puts standard text on their user page saying:

urThis user is a native speaker of Urdu.
یہ شخص صاحِبِ زبانِ اردو ہے

All you have to do is put the following text on your User Page:

{{user ur}}

See the following page for details:

and my own user page for an example:

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"آپ اردو میں کیوں نہیں لِکھتے؟"

یہ سوال بار بار آتا ہے.

اگر سارے جہاں میں دھوم ہونی ہے تو سب اردو یی میں تو نہیں ہو گی؟ بھٔیّا امریکا میں مُقیم ہوں اور رومی کا زِکر سُن سُن کے کان کُچ پک سے گیٔے ہیں،گوروں کو غالِب و اِقبال و میر و داغ سے شناسأی دلوانا بھی مقصود ہے

اور پھِر ہر اِنسان آپکے طرحا مملِکتِ خُداداد میں نہیں پلا بڑھا یے ۔ ہم میں سے کُچ لوگوں کو خاسے چنے چبانے پڑے ہیں اردو لِکھنا پڑھنا سیکھنے کے لیٔے!


وُہ تیرے نصیب کی باریشیں۔۔۔

I apologise to English readers for the pure Urdu heading, but this is too profound...

Often because of the role they have played in one's life at some stage, some pieces of literature, especially poetry, have such strong resonance in one's life, that whenever they reappear, they have a very strong effect. This just happened to me when I realized that just such a "musalsal ghazal" is now available as an e-card:

You can go to to send e-cards in Urdu—including this one.

I will try to do a translation as soon as I can. Just let me recover from finding this online. I have forgotten the poet; who is it?

PS, May 12: The ghazal is from Amjad Islam Amjad.

Genres of Urdu Poetry

The popularity of Urdu owes to Urdu poetry because of which it became the language which rules over hearts of multitudes of people in past and present generation. Urdu poetry has a lot of forms. The major genres of poetry found in Urdu are Ghazal, Nazm, Qaseeda, Sehra, Rubai, Masnavi, Hamd, Naat, Manqabat, Noha, Shehr Aashob, Qata and Doha.

Here, I would like to talk about "Ghazal"

Ghazal is one of the most popular forms of Urdu poetry. The word "ghazal" is derived from, Arabic word, "taghazzul" which means - conversation with ladies or expression of love for women. The literal meaning of the term "ghazal" is to talk to women or to talk about them or to express love to them through the description of the state of one's heart.

A Ghazal is nothing but a small number of Urdu couplets put together. These couplets may be independent poems or may concentrate on a single topic. Another binding feature of a Ghazal is that there should be something which should connect all the couplets. This connection is ensured by Beher, Kafiyaa and Radif. In short, Beher means the meter of the couplets which should be equal in all the couplets. Kafiyaa and Radif ensure the rhyme towards the end of every line of a ghazal.

Technically speaking, Ghazal is a collection of Urdu couplets, in which there is atleast one Matla , one Maqta and all the couplets are of same Beher and have the same Kaafiyaa and Radif. Matla is the opening couplet whereas Maqta is closing couplet which ideally has the poet's "Takhallus" (pseudonym or nom de plume).

An example of a Ghazal:

koi ummid bar nahin aati
koi surat nazar nahin aati

aage aati thi haale dil par hasi
ab kisi baat par nahin aati

hum wahan hain, jahan se humko bhi
kucch hamaari khabar nahin aati

kaabaa kis muh se jaaoge 'Ghalib'
sharm tumko magar nahin aati

In this ghazal, the words "nahi aati" form the Radif which should be present in both lines of opening couplet (Matla) and second line of all the following couplets. The words "nazar", "par", "khabar" and "magar" represent Kafiyaa. The meter (Beher) of this ghazal is small or single. The last couplet (Maqta) has the pseudonym "Ghalib" as this ghazal is one of the masterpieces of Mirza AsadUllah Khan 'Ghalib'.

P.S. The above ghazal may not be called a perfect example of a ghazal as I learnt that a perfect ghazal should have a minimum of 5 couplets (ashaar). I wish Mirza Ghalib would have added one more couplet (sher) somewhere to make it a perfect example of a ghazal. :-)

~ Qais

Monday, May 09, 2005

Technical Terminology in Urdu

Just noticed that the Urdu Wiki has put together a list of Urdu translations/equivalents of the words we use in the course of our interaction with technology
(انگریزی اصطلاحات کا اردو ترجمہ)

A must-read! I hope Asif Iqbal (father of the Urdu Wiki) will keep this keep this live and evolving. And take input.

Listed at Urdu Blogs Directory

We are now listed at the Urdu Wiki's list of Urdu Blogs:

Thanks Urdu Wiki team!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Iqbal's Patriotic Anthem Completes a Century

When Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to travel to space, was asked by the then Indian Prime Minister - Mrs. Indira Gandhi: "Upar se Bharat kaisa dikhta hain" (How does India look from the space), the astronaut was quick to reply "Saare jahan se achcha, Hindustaan hamara" (India is best among all the nations).

This was the fantastic appeal and widespread popularity of Tarana-I-Hind, an anthem composed by the great poet Muhammad Iqbal. For decades, it has been successfully igniting the patriotic zeal among millions of Indian, the world over.

And, recently, the anthem completed 100 years. For the whole century, this anthem has instilled the sense of confidence and belief among Indians about their motherland. I am sure the anthem has enough auras for keeping the enthusiastic devotion among Indians for the country in high spirits for the next 1000 years, and even more.

An immortal anthem from an extraordinary poet!

The following piece appeared in the Islamic Voice, Bangalore:

Saare Jahan Se Achcha turns 100

Mumbai: Saare Jahan Se Achcha, Dr Allama Iqbal’s unique tribute to India, which is today an inseparable part of the national consciousness, has turned 100. On April 21, Iqbal’s death anniversary, Mumbai-based Urdu scholar Abdus Sattar Dalvi and his associates had organized special centenary celebrations for the song at the V P Naik Bhavan at Mumbai University’s Kalina campus.

In 1904, Iqbal, then a young lecturer at the Government College, Lahore, was invited by his favorite student Lala Hardayal - a patriot who established the Gadar Party in the US. Iqbal sang Saare Jahan Se Achcha with gusto. When poet Dr Allama Iqbal sang Saare Jahan Se Achchha, the audience was stunned; no one had heard anything like it before. Simple and alluring, the song became a rallying point for freedom fighters.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Good Dictionary

This one seems good:

I saw another one the other day which was pretty lame...

From the Mother's Heart

"Sub kuch Khuda se maang liye, tujh ko maang karr;
Phir haath mere utth na sake, eis dua ke baad!"

Don't know if the poet had his mother's love for him in mind, when he composed these lines; but, I have heard the most loving mother reciting this for her son.

A blessed son indeed, to find such a mother!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Yes, that's the label for "Google Search" button in the Urdu Google page.

It's really wonderful. Check out Google in Urdu:

The other button on the home page: "Main Khush-kismat hoon" for "I'm Feeling Lucky" :-).

Go Google in Urdu!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

NCPUL: Serving the Cause

Though I have mentioned it before – in one of the earlier articles, I believe NCPUL deserves more visibility and attention, for the good work it’s doing in the cause of Urdu.

National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, or NCUPL, is a government body under Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India.

The Council is involved in various activities like: Seminars, Book-fairs, Grants, Urdu education, etc. It is doing a good amount of Research and Development, too. And, it also has big names with it as its Resource Personnel, including scholars and govt. officials.

Keeping up with the technological advances, the Council is taking pains in making Urdu an IT-compatible and IT-friendly language. The program is called Urdu Technological Mission. This effort, I am sure, will go a long way in keeping the language popular and active in the coming days, when a good amount of communication would take place electronically. Also, the language will gain more visibility over the ubiquitous Internet.

All this, just for Urdu – we call it Urdu ke naam :-).

For more information, check out the website:

Monday, May 02, 2005

زندگی سے ڈر تے ہیں - ٓAfraid to live ...

I was at a "ghazal" session with Habib Wali Muhammad Saturday night and the following couplet from Khumaar Barabankvi (I think it is) is still ringing in my mind, especially in a Silicon Valley context:
عِلم و فن کے دیوانے عاشِقی سے ڈرتے ہیں
زنداگی کے خواحاں ہیں اور زندگی سے ڈرتے ہیں

ilm-o-fun kay dheewanay, aashiqee say darthay haiN
zindhagee kay khwahaaN haiN, aur zindhagee say darthay haiN


(these) lovers of knowledge and art, are afeared of (passionate) love
they desire life; but are afraid of life (or afraid to live?)

Not a literal translation, yes; more how I understood it.