Monday, December 04, 2006

The Lord's Prayer in Urdu

I have to admit, I have always thought that the opening lines of the "The Lord's Prayer" often repeated by a lot of Christians (or is just a Catholic thing?) have a very elegant sound to them--especially when chanted gently and in unison by a bunch of people--kinda like the "Ameen" one hears at the end of the Fatiha in congregations with enough Malikis in it (who tend to say it out loud, unlike most Urdu speakers, who usually follow the Hanafi school of Islamic practise):
Holy Father, who art in heaven
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On Earth
As it is in heaven...
So, don't ask me how, but I stumbled on this a littel while ago and have been meaning to post it here; it's a page with the The Lord's Prayer in Urdu, together with a translation of "Ave Maria", the Catholic prayer to Bibi Maryam, The Virgin Mary, the formulation of the Trinity, and a couple of other things:

Here's the prayer itself:

I have never actually heard it being chanted in Urdu. I wonder if it sounds anywhere near as sonorous; Urdu is a rather mellifluous language generally, so maybe it does...maybe some of the folks who were pillorying me on a list I am on for (they thought) being averse to any mention of Christianity and Pakistan in the same breath can help with that...

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Giving One's Life in the Holy Land - ...هم مدينے مين تنحا نكل جائينگے

Just thought I would share a post on my blog centered around a very small news story in an Saudi Paper and it's evoking a spiritual poem from "back home"...
hum madinay main tanha nikal jayaingay
aur galiyon main qasdhan b-hatak jay'eingay

hum wahaan jaa kay waapas naheen aayaingay
d-hoondthay d-hoondthay loag th-hak ja'eingay
in quick-and-dirty translation:
we will venture out into The City (of Madina) all alone
and lose our way in the streets, on purpose

we go to that land, and will not return
try and try as they might, folks will tire of trying to find us
The post is at:

Main Blog at:

If you are in Pakistan or elsewhere where you have difficulty accessing the Blogspot domain due to censorship, etc., please use

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Are you sure... Qabil Ajmeri - مگر كبهي دل كي دهركنون مين ... قابل اجميري

Unaiza Nasim has a new (or at least new to me) blog where she seems to just be collecting good, really good, Urdu poetry. Here's one that had a very special place in our hearts back in college:

It's by Qabil Ajmeri...someone whose life story itself, we are told is the stuff of literature.

(And yes, I know I have used a "ray" () where I should have used a "Ray", so to speak, in the subject line/heading. But I am on a Apple OS X computer and don't have any keyboard options that type the right character. I will fix it later.)

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

rumi-o-hafiz-o-khayyam ka dhaik-ha hai kalaam

Also posted on the iFaqeer blog, with the title "Rumi. And Hafez. And Khayyam. And Of Whence They Spake.".
All the positive feedback on my post yesterday has been very gratifying.

Readers might also want to read this.

It is my desire to bring the poets and qawwals of South Asia to as wide an audience as "Rumi-o-Hafiz-o-Khayyam". We all read these these elders, and we all need to. But especially in this day and age we (all of us; Muslims and not, Sufi-leaning or not, Westerners and not) need to reconnect with the living tradition they represent--especially in South Asia. We need to connect with the zawiya, or angle, facet, of Islam that was, and still is, rooted so deep in the lands from where all we hear nowadays is "Deobandi", "Taliban", "Maududi", "Terrorism", and on and on.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee! !حاءے كمبخت تو نے پي هى نهين

Strong Disclaimer: This post is written purely "for myself". I know some will be touched by it--in whatever way--but if you're put off by either metaphysics, tasawwuf (Sufism), abstractions, or weird, personal transliteration schemes, PLEASE, PLEASE, do not read on. I really don't want to get into detailed discussions of any kind.
There are moments when one just wants to let go; to be lost in something. Something deep. When that happens, I often find myself gravitating to Qawwali, the Muslim mystic musical art form of "Sama" in its South Asian incarnation.

There's one piece, in particular, that I have been promising myself I will translate, render, if you will, into English and post, but just haven't had the energy and bandwidth to sit down and apply myself to the task.

So I just got home about 11 pm tonight (technically yesterday at this point) after attending, I guess, what you'd call a political meeting. After the meeting, I got into a rather refreshingly intelligent conversation with a relatively new friend. By the time I got home, and had checked in on the kids, and sat down to dinner, like I said, I was in a mood that was definitely leaning towards mu'arfa, irfan, tasawwuf, the metaphysical, or whatever you want to call it. So I turned to one of the only two bookmarks I have in the Real Player on my Mac at home.

And the first through, I just got lost listening to this piece. By the end of it, I was definitely close to a "haal", the Sufi version of what our US brothers and sisters would call "being in the zone", "the flow", and so on. And I am not even a formal Sufi. For a traditional "desi" like me (a South Asian), that is a title reserved for some attainment in the metaphysical realm. I am just someone who, I will admit, has an inclination in that direction and, frankly, have been too chicken to formally step on the "tareeq", or Way.

The piece just captures the mood I am in perfectly; the frustration with Naseh, The Preachy Folks, and their obsession with preaching and obsessing with enjoining moral conduct; the reference to the Wine of Truth's greatest bartenders (others use the word "cup bearers", but let's get with the 21st of Our Lord, The Prophet of Divine Love, shall we?) being exactly in Karbala, Najaf, and Samarra; and, of course, the frustration with folks who interpret the references to Wine, and Love in "our" language as moonshine (how else do I translate "t-harra"?) and carnal lust...

So then I looped back and transcribed the parts of it that I think really should be brought to the Rumi- and Hafiz- and Khayyam-in-English-reading public. I am going to try and do the translation some time later. But if you care to, and understand Urdu and/or the languages around it in the linguistic geography (like Hindi and Dakkani and Awadhi and...), do take a read to the following...and/or just watch this space for a translation.

The piece is almost universally referred to as "ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee!" (Oh! You Unfortunate Wretch! You have not Imbibed!) Here are my selected excerpts. First the prologue, itself one the most deliciously intense tongue twisters in the Urdu language:
samajh samajhna samajh kay samjhoe
samajh samajhna bhee aik samajh hai

samajh samajh kay bhee joe na samjhai
mairee samajh main woe na samajh hai
and then the Qawwali itself, sung at the link above by the person who people who connect with the art on a very unvarnished, unapologetic level, as about the greatest proponent of that form in the 20th Century; Aziz Mian:
lutf-e-mai tujh say kya kahoon, nadaaN
(aray) ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee!

x x

bathla'ey dhatha hoon thujhay maikhaanon ka patha
batha-o-kazmain, khurasan, saamara

khurshid mudha'a maira burj-e-sharaf main hai
aik saaqi karbala main maira, aik najaf main hai

x x

mairay shairon kay haqeeqath main na maanee samjha
badha-e-haq koe thoo angoor ka paanee samjha

thoo nahee jaantha arbab-e-thariqath kay usool
thayray bayhoodha sawaalaath sar-a-sar hain fizool

thoo nahee jaantha paymana kisay kehthay hain
thoo nahee jaantha maykhana kisay kehthay hain

isthaylaahaath-e-thasawwuf kee nahee thujh koe khabar
faqr kee raah main jahaan miltha hai jahaan kaif-e-nazar

kot-chashmi say thujhai k-hotee k-haree lagthee hai
mai-e-irfan bhee thujhay laal paree lagthee hai

ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee!

x x

ahl-e-daanish nay thairay zehen ko kaisa samj-ha
baadha-e-shair koe jis dhum thoonay t-harra samjha

mai-e-tauheed kee main thoe wazahath kee th-hee
thoo na samj-hay aray nadaan yay qismath thairee

rumi-o-hafiz-o-khayyam ka dhaik-ha hai kalaam
jaam-o-meena kay libadha main thareeqath th-hee thamaam

naseha thuj-hai naseehath kay siwaa kaam nahee
jaam main gharq na kardhoon thoe maira naam nahee!

x x

(yay) Allah ki inayath hai kay main saif zubaaan hoon
Aur naasay, thairay liyay main koh-e-garaan hoon
I should put that last couplet in my email signature...once I have a translation, I guess...

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Monday, October 30, 2006

آزاد کراچی ریڈیو پروگرام شمار ۵ - Program 5, October 29, 2006

آزاد کراچی ریڈیو کے پروگرام شمار ۵ میں آئی فقیر نے گفتگو کا آغاز "آزاد کراچی ریڈیو" کی وجہ تسمیہ سے کیا۔ سمندطور نے بلاگ کی دنیا، حاکمیت جمہور کی دنیا کے عنوان سے ایک مختصر تحریر پڑھی۔ پھرآئی فقیر نے وادئ سلیکن میں پاکستانیوں کی ایک تنظیم اوپن کے حالیہ اجلاس کا کچھ حال سامعین کو سنایا۔ سمندطور نے امریکہ کی جنوبی سرحد پہ کھڑی کی جانے والی مجوزہ دیوار کے بارے میں رائے زنی کی۔ آئی فقیر نے حجاب کے متعلق اپنے کچھ مشاہد ات پیش کیے۔ پھر سمندطور نے جیک اسٹرا اور برقعہ کے عنوان سے اپنا ایک مختصر مضمون پیش کیا۔ آئی فقیر نے پروگرام کا اختتام اكبر اله بادي کے چند خيالات سے کیا اور سامعین کو پروگرام پہ تنقید کی دعوت دی۔

iFaqeer starts Program 5 a discussion of the provenance of the program's name. Cemendtaur then presents a piece titled "World of Blogs; World of Democracy", discussing blogs, democracy and globalization. iFaqeer then provides an update of an event by OPEN in Silicon Valley on the anniversary of the earthquake in South Asia and goes on to discuss some aspects of the topic of community and community building that the event focused on. Cemendtaur then discusses the proposed wall on the United States' southern border. iFaqeer then discusses his thoughts on the concept of Hijab and it's modern manifestation and Cemendtaur follows up with a short essay titled "Jack Straw and the Burka". iFaqeer concludes the program with quotes from Urdu poet/satirist Akbar Allahabadi.

Program 005 of Azad Karachi Radio is available at:

If you are in Pakistan or elsewhere where you have difficulty accessing the Blogspot domain due to censorship, etc., please use:

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.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

سمندطور کی اردو دنیا/Cemendtaur ki Urdu Duniya - New Urdu Blog

After almost a couple of years of nudging--hopefully all of it polite--Cemendtaur has launched a blog in Urdu. Do check it out and interact with it. Cemendtaur is a writer with very unique and deep thoughts, a style all his own and, of course, a group good grasp of the language. I really feel it is a very necessary and positive step to have him join the conversation online interactively in Urdu:


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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Az Karachi asth, Radioyay Azad; Relaunching Azad Karachi Radio

About a year ago, I had started podcasting. I, we, rather, started two podcasts. One was in English and was, well, podcast, via the RSS feed for this blog while the other was in Urdu and podcast as "Azad Karachi Radio".

To which a lot of people go..."Say what?!" Are you talking about the political independence of Karachi, a la Singapore?

Well, let's explain.

Both of the members of the team working on the podcast count the city of Karachi as our emotional, intellectual and social wellspring. And thus the idea is to have an Azad--the word, say, Gandhi would have used, for "free"--voice that has a Karachi accent and speaks with the spirit of that brave city.

Thus the title of this post: Az Karachi asth, Radioyay Azad.

That phrase is my uneducated way of saying "From the heart of Karachi, this is Azad Radio". PaRhay lik-hay koe Farsi kya hai, پڑھے لِکھے کو فارسے کیا ہے؟ , as the old line of poetry went; educated people should be able to grasp complicated ideas in literary language--which, before Europe became ascendant, was Farsi, from Istanbul to Rangoon, if not further.

Another reason--and this might be a very personal eccenticity of mine--the phrase from Persian pops into my head is that, growing up abroad, my father used to listen BBC Urdu (as well as English and Hindi) regularly. And if you didn't turn the radio off fast enough at the end of most Urdu broadcasts, the next thing you heard on that wavelength was "Az London asth, Radioyay BBC" (From London, this is BBC Radio). So in my head, Urdu, Radio and the traditional roots of Urdu come together in that one sentence. And it took me decades to actually learn what the words exactly meant.

So, to paraphrase the call sign of BBC's Persian Service, az Karachi asth, radioyay azad. Cemendtaur and I are reviving Azad Karachi Radio with Program 4, a year after the last one went online.

This program restarts the discussion with Cemendtaur joining the team live and in studio. This program congratulates celebrants on Ramzan, Eid and Diwali, with some thoughts on the spirit of the season; discusses the first anniversary of the earthquake in South Asia and the role of the blogosphere in helping remember those in need; and throws out some political thoughts on matters of social concern, also discussing the
recent exchange between a seminarian (madarasa student) and Gen. Pervez Musharraf that made the rounds on the Internet.

The audio file for directly downloading and listening to the fourth program is here. You can now also stream the podcast using the Odeo (odeo/5e510de8d8638707) player from any Azad Karachi Radio blog page.
Just take a look at the top righthand corner of the page!

The new edition of the podcast is at:

And the main Blog is at:

The podcast is aslo available on Yahoo! Podcasts at:

and on Odeo at:

Though the directories might need a little time to register the new edition--they hadn't at the time of writing this.

You can subscribe to either the text version of this blog or the Podcast using the following the following URL/link for our RSS feed:

and copy-pasting that address where the software you use to subscribe to PodCasts (for example iTunes from Apple, iPodder, etc.) asks you to put addresses of Podcasts you are subscribing to manually.

If you are in Pakistan or elsewhere where you have difficulty accessing the Blogspot domain due to censorship, etc., please use:

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

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Pictures of Ghalib's Tomb and Khwaja Nizamuddin's Mausoleum

Just noticed this at Jahane Rumi

Na kaheen mazaar hoe tha...

Click on the picture to go the post and see more pictures.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

First Urdu Radio Station launched in India

After the launch of Doordarshan's Round-the-clock Urdu channel, now it is the turn of a 24 hour Urdu Radio Station.

On 7th September 2006, Worldspace Radio, India launched the first-ever exclusive Urdu Radio Station. It is named Falak, meaning "Sky".

Shishir Lall, Managing Director of WorldSpace India said at the launch,
"We are delighted to launch the country's first exclusive Urdu radio station and look forward to celebrating the mystery and beauty of the language of a bygone era with listeners across the country."
"Falak will now enable music lovers to go back in time and indulge in the lyrical sounds of Urdu."

Some Programs on Falak:
Taareekh Key Jharokhey Sey – An interesting peep into the times gone by, Radio Falak takes a look into the history of various important cities, places of interest, monuments etc., sharing interesting and unknown anecdotes.

Filmy Saughaat – The show showcases film songs featuring Urdu lyrics, from India and Pakistan. Sabiha Fazal, a specialist presenter who excels in his knowledge of Hindustani and Pakistani film music, shares anecdotes about singers, composers, songwriters, and film producers on this entertaining show.

Aqwaal-E-Zareen – Catch social messages by great philosophers from all over the globe that have been translated and adapted in Urdu to imbibe modesty, humility and good human values.

Bazm-E-Khanam – A special program for the ladies, the show features tips on good health, house keeping, family relations, culinary delights from Indian, Mughlai, Irani, Uzbeki, Arabic and Afghani platter – their history, the little known tricks and techniques of their preparation.

Sufiyana Kalaam – A special program featuring Sufi Qawalis, Mersias, Nohas and Baints

Ghazal Usne Chhedi – Tune in for a fascinating program featuring theme based shows on Urdu poetry

Sham-E-Farozan – Catch the very best ghazals by renowned Urdu poets on this enchanting show.

If you are looking at recapture the culture and ethos of a bygone era, tune in to Radio Falak and revel in the soothing yet powerful voices of legends like Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Iqbal Bano, Tahira Saiyad, Farida Khanam, Reshma, Abida Parveen and the legendry Nusrat Saheb.

1. Times of India

2. Agencyfaqs

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

DD Urdu: Der Aaye, Durust Aaye

UkN had earlier mentioned about Doordarshan's plan of starting a 24 hour Urdu news channel in India. And finally, the channel has been unveiled.

On the eve of India's 59th independence day, the country's Punjabi/Urdu speaking (as he's a migrant from Pakistan) prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, officially announced the launch of DD Urdu, the 24 hour Urdu news channel.

The launching of this channel will definitely give fresh breaths to this beleaguered language, and will also prove to be élan vital for Urdu media which many thought is dying in India.

Urdu ke Naam wishes DD Urdu all the very best.

Click for news report:

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On importance of Doordarshan's Urdu Channel

"Urdu is an important language of the country with about 52 million people having declared it as their mother tongue."

- P R Dasmunsi (Information & Broadcasting Minister, Government of India)


Urdu to be taught in Himachal schools

Dharamsala, Aug 8 (IANS)


Urdu will be introduced as an optional subject in government schools in Himachal Pradesh.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh announced this here while addressing a gathering of Urdu poets from India and Pakistan.

The schools where Urdu would be taught were being identified, he said. Singh said his government had been extending a warm welcome to Pakistani delegates visiting Himachal Pradesh from time to time.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Doordarshan (India) Launches a New Urdu Channel

A new Urdu channel launched by Doordarshan (the official television channel of the Government of India). Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh launched the new channel on the occasion of the 59th Independence Day of India, August 15, 2006, in New Delhi.



Beginning this Independence Day, an Urdu channel will be offered from Doordarshan's stables. Slated for launch by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday evening, the channel goes on air a good eight-and-a-half months behind schedule.

Keeping a commitment made in Parliament to repeated requests from across the political spectrum for an Urdu channel from the Doordarshan platform, the then Union Information and Broadcasting Minister S. Jaipal Reddy had in June 2005 announced that it would be launched on January 1, 2006. In fact, fund allocation had also been made in the 2005-06 Budget. However, problems in software availability and "general inertia" delayed the launch of the channel.

With the powers that be at Doordarshan deciding that DD-Urdu will be a public service channel, software availability continues to be a problem.

To begin with, DD-Urdu will be on air for seven-and-a-half hours with only two-and-a-half hours of fresh programming in the evening. This will be repeated twice the following day.

The content will be a mixed bag; part entertainment, part news and part information. Daily, the channel will air a news magazine christened `Imroze'. Also, film director Muzaffar Ali has been commissioned to produce a 52-episode programme on Urdu litterateurs.

Besides, the in-house production team has put together a film-based programme, and a cultural round-up has been prepared for the channel by ANI TV. Add to this, B. R. Chopra's serial "Bahadur Shah Zafar" of 1986 vintage. Doordarshan officials said the public broadcaster had floated tenders to acquire more Urdu programmes.

(Report courtesy, The Hindu)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mumbai Blasts; A Shairana Response

DNAIndia has the text of a nazm by Jawed Akhtar about the Mumbai bomb blasts or, more generally, terrorism:

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Qasmi: Kaun kehtha hai kay mauth aayee tho marjaa'oN ga...

[Photo courtesy Urdu Manzil and Syed Saghier Ahmed Jafri]
As we say in Urdu, the man has passed on from the material, ephemeral world. But the poet and his poetry lives on, and helps us live on. Probably one of the most quoted couplets in Urdu about this very matter, one that captures the matter as few have done before, in any cultural and literary tradition, is from Janaab-e-Qasmi himself, who said:
kaun kehtha hai kay mauth aayee tho marjaa'onga
main thoe dharya hoon samandhar main uthar jaa'onga
Who says that when death comes, I will die away?
I am a river and into the ocean will I flow away
The Wikipedia article on Qasmi Saahab can be found at:
Of course, in this day and age, where a lot of us go to express our grief and share our loss is the Internet. There are now quite a few websites where one can find Urdu poetry and pictures of Qasmi Saahab. Here' a selection:

From Amjad Sheikh, we get:

Poetry of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi Marhoom in his own voice. including his famous poem Pathar:
And in Unicode (meaning it is written in Urdu and easier to read, and you can make it bigger, etc. like you would English text), we have:

You can also read selected poetry by Qasmi Shaib at
On a personal note, I just noticed a post on the BBC Urdu blog from Musaddaq Sanwal, someone I knew, as they say, in another life:
And from the UAE, Syed Saghier Ahmed Jafri Saahab and Urdu Manzil send the picture above and the following links for poetry:
and photographs:
The post on Pakistaniat: All Things Pakistancan be found at:
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Monday, May 29, 2006

Urdu Diploma course for Non-Urdu speakers

The Hindu : Karnataka / Bangalore News : `Don't give Urdu a communal colour'

Source: The Hindu, dated May 27, 2006

BANGALORE: The former Additional Chief Secretary Chiranjeevi Singh on Friday called upon people "not to give Urdu language a communal colour."

"To associate Urdu language with Muslims alone is wrong. Urdu is a language with historical importance and it belongs to all. It represents a cultural synthesis and has no barriers," he said after inaugurating a diploma course in Urdu for non-Urdu learners.

He pointed out that the popularity of ghazal and Urdu poetry had attracted many people towards learning the language.

He urged the Karnataka Urdu Academy, which has started the course in coordination with the National Council for Promotion of Urdu, New Delhi, to give preference to "Deccani Urdu" rather than "Aligarhi" and "Lucknowi Urdu." He also suggested that the Urdu Academy should get textbooks prepared in Deccani Urdu at least up to the primary level.

Encouraging non-Urdu learners to take up the diploma course, Mr. Singh said: "If you follow a Bollywood film or even hum a Hindi song, it shows that you are interested in Urdu. It is a beautiful language. Once you master the language, you can start playing with it."

Tourism and Information Secretary I.M. Vittal Murthy promised support to the academy in popularising the language. Academy chairman M. Nooruddin said the one-year diploma course would commence from June 4. Classes, which will be conducted by specially trained faculty, would be held on Sundays between 9 a.m. and noon. There was no minimum qualification to get admission to the course and the fee for the entire year was Rs. 200, he said.

Interested persons can obtain the admission forms from the academy's office at Kannada Bhavan. Details can be had on +91 80 22213167.

~ Qais

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dhaikhaingay; Lazim Hai kay Hum Bhee Dhaikhaingay

Adil Najam's Pakistan- Based on Faiz Ahmed Faiz's "Hum Daiykain Gay".
6 minutes and 35 seconds
April 24th, 2006

Here's a personal testament from one Pakistani about his country. It's also a very interesting piece of electronic art incorporating one of the most popular pieces of Urdu poetry written in the 20th Century:

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Photo: Urdu University

A front view of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), the sole Urdu University of India - and one of the biggest institutions of Urdu in the Indian Sub Continent. Prof.A.M.Pathan is currently the vice chancellor of the University.

The University is situated in the outskirts of Hyderabad, India.
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Monday, April 03, 2006

Eulogy to an Urdu Lexicographer

The following piece appeared in The Hindu, eulogizing a star persona from the world of Urdu: Shan-ul-Haq; the star that disappeared in the maze of infinite galaxy, but not before giving several eternal gleam to the world of Urdu literature, the most prominent being the compilation of the Oxford English-Urdu dictionary, the bilingual edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

An elegy for a lost friend


A tribute to Shanul Haq, Urdu scholar and linguist.

SHANUL HAQ `Haqqee' died in October 2005, at age 88. For some, he was the grand old man of lexicography; for many, of the Urdu ghazal. For me he was a friend.
The intensity of this loss and grief felt by many like me calls for some elucidation.
Shaul Haq Saheb — that's how I addressed him — spent most of his last years compiling the Oxford English-Urdu dictionary, the bilingual edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the mother of English lexicons. He was particularly pleased that he could include Urdu equivalents of almost 1,25,000 English words and expressions as well as illustrative sentences (with their Urdu translations) to convey the exact meaning of the word or idiom. And that a guide for pronunciation using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) would help overcome a persistent problem that Urdu speakers face.

Wide interests

There is no use listing some of the highest civilian and literary awards he was given, for that would fail to reveal the breadth of his wide interests and learning. Every generation has its grand old men; he belonged to the generation before me. But this gap seemed to vanish every time we met, whether to discuss the column on language that I wrote for a Canadian publication, or to talk about some problem with the word-processing software I had given him. Often we did this while sneaking a cigarette outside his home in Montreal or by going to a bistro for a glass of wine, both of which he preferred to do away from his son's house where he had been living after migrating to Canada. He often lamented the contract for the dictionary that he had signed with OUP several years ago for a laughable sum, but he abided with the terms of the contract being the gentleman that he was, toiling regardless to produce an excellent work of reference.
He could not have been farther from the image of the archetypical cantankerous, verging-on-senility, grand old person of letters. In his late seventies, when most grand old men are content with wearing their laurels, he mastered the use of the word-processor and the mystery of the Internet. He would sometimes telephone me for help in retrieving documents, result of several days work, that his computer seemed intent on swallowing without a trace. Next he began tackling the Urdu word-processing software, no mean task as several letters of the alphabet must be joined to form words in Urdu. Once when I told him about a Hindi word-processing software, he immediately asked me to get it for him, and within a matter of months, sent me the copy of one his collections of Urdu verse transcribed in Hindi script, for corrections.

Shanul Haq Saheb was born in Delhi, and studied at the Aligarh Muslim University and at Delhi's St. Stephen's College. His love of languages began with his first job, translating the Axis power's propaganda broadcasts in Hindi-Urdu into English, in 1942 in Shimla. He used to reminisce, with a certain nostalgia, about the charms of hill lasses. He was in Calcutta (Kolkata) at the time of the Partition, and used to recall with horror the killing that took place right in front of the hotel where he had sought refuge. The train full of Muslims that was meant to take him and other refugees back to Delhi was sent straight to Pakistan, a regret that he never outlived. He chose to settle in Pakistan, as there was little inkling at that time of the bitterness that was to develop in its relations with India.


I was to find that his standing as one of the architects of modern Urdu ghazal was no less towering than his reputation as a linguist and a scholar of Urdu language. Among his legacies is the Grand Urdu Lexicon. The first 16 volumes of this monumental work were published when he was the Honorary Secretary of Pakistan's Urdu Language Board. He told me of the countless hours he spent late into the night, after his regular job at the Ministry of Information, at the Board's office filling out nearly 1,00,000 hand-written cards for the words that were to be included in the lexicon.

Shanul Haq Saheb's skill as a translator was sometimes overshadowed by his eminence in other areas. He had translated the Bhagawad Gita and Kautilya's Arthshastra into Urdu, but first mastering enough Sanskrit to read the works in the original. For me, one of the most memorable moments of our friendship came one bitterly cold afternoon. The sun was streaming through the bay window in his son's living room, its light reflecting on the snow piled shoulder-high outside, as he read his translation of Shakespeare's "Anthony and Cleopatra", with me following the text in English. The scene described the intrigues and jealousies inside Cleopatra's palace, and he could recite most of it just from his phenomenal memory. The Urdu vocabulary is not only more colourful and versatile, but its idioms are far more effective for describing the banter of slave girls in a harem. It's a pity that only those who know Urdu can have a taste of his translation, for it was every word and idiom — and I am willing to do battle in support of my assertion — as evocative and poetic as the original.

I could not bring myself to attend his funeral, for my grief and sense of loss was very personal. His family understood. One of the last conversations we had was about echo-words in various languages, soon to be the subject of a Wordspeak column.

Read more about the Late Shan-ul-Haq at:

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

My latest composition

Jaane kyun iss qadar khaamosh yeh tanhaayi hai aaj;
Gham ka woh chehra haseeN shaam phir le aayi hai aaj;
Dard ke aaghosh mein soye hain hasraton ke saare khwaab;
Zindagi bhi yoon shikast-e-wafa meiN samaa kar aayi hai aaj.

- "Arman"

Jashn-e-Mehdi Hassan

Mehdi Hassan ke gale mein Bhagwaan bolta hai…
Lata Mangeshkar

They say a true evaluation of one’s genius is that which comes from one’s own peers. So, do we need a greater proof of evidence to proclaim the genius of Mehdi Hassan than these laudatory remarks by the Melody Queen, Lata Mangeshkar? Best known for his unparalleled magnum opus GuloN meN rang bhare…, Mehdi Hassan has to his credit greater credence and vehemence in the world of ghazal singing than what any lexis can claim to express.

To lovers and affiliates of ghazals or Urdu poetry, Mehdi Hassan is not a new name. Acclaimed as the “King of Ghazals,” Mehdi Hassan instantly shot to fame and glory by the famous ghazal: GuloN meN rang bhare, Baad-e-nau-bahaar chale… In his singing career, which now extends more than 50 years, Mehdi Hassan has the credit of having sung more than 30,000 ghazals and geets. What makes his panache unrivaled is his dexterity for even the most difficult of ragaas, or musical notes. His popularity and distinction has been ever increasing, and people do not cringe in bracketing him together with the greatest of Pakistani ghazal singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Noor Jahan.

Mehdi Hassan has had an enduring singing career, embracing a gamut of celebrated and legendary ghazals. The list is endless, but some prominent are as:

* Meray khayal-0- khwab ki duniya liye huway – Film: Shikaar; 1962
* Duniya kisi kay pyar mein – Film: Jaag Uthaa insaa; 1966
* Mujhay tum nazar say gira tau rahay ho – Film: Doraha; 1967
* Ik naye morH pay lay aaye hain – Film: Ehsaan; 1967
* Ye kaghazi phool jaisay chehre – Film: Devar Bhaabhi; 1967
* Tark-e-ulfat ka sila – Film: Dil mera dharkan teri; 1968
* Ye wafaon ka diya aap ne – Film: Phir chaand niklega; 1970
* Khamosh hain nazaaray – Film: Bandagi; 1972
* Ga meray diwanay dil – Film: Daulat aur duniyaa; 1972

Take time to visit and celebrate the cavalcade; Jashn-e-Mehdi Hassan.


* Pakistan Television Corp. Ltd.
* Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Friday, March 24, 2006

Urdu poetry: Making inroads into Poland

Urdu poetry is making inroads into Poland, with the ghazals of renowned 19th century poet Mirza Ghalib being translated into Polish.

Anil Wadhwa, India's Ambassador to Poland, released a collection of Ghalib's poems, translated by Polish intellectual Janusz Krzyzowski and Surender Zahid, an Indian poet based in Warsaw.

More than 100 Polish writers, poets, critics, journalists and intellectuals apart from diplomats attended the ceremony held at the ambassador's residence.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) financed the publication of Ghalib's ghazals into Polish.

Last year, Janusz and Surender translated works of 18th century Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir into Polish, which also gained popularity in Polish literary circles.

Source: Mirza Ghalib is a hit in Poland :

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Metaphysics of Symbolism and Motivation for Life in Urdu Poetry

Ragon mein daurhte rehne ke hum nahi qayal;
Jab aankh hi se ne tapka to phir lahoo kaya hai…

One thing that makes Urdu poetry significantly different from other forms of literary expressions is the symbolism or metaphysical association of human emotions. The above couplets beautifully symbolize life's realities in terms of pains and sufferings. The symbolism depicted here metaphysically ascribes to blood (lahoo). And that blood epitomizes the highest degree of suffering and pain is quite understood!

The way pains and sufferings as part of our lives is visualized by the first line of the couplet: Ragon mein daurhte rehne ke hum nahi qayal. We can visualize life being full with pain and suffering in the same way as veins (rag, or ragon) are filled with blood. This line emphatically suggests that although life is full of pain and suffering, the pains and sufferings are not significant, at least in the eyes of the poet. The line translates as: It's the basic characteristics of blood to flow in the veins, and the poet does not subscribe to the importance of blood till it flows in the veins.

The beauty of the thought is brought out in the second line of the couplet: Jab aankh hi se na tapka to phir lahoo kaya hai [The blood holds no significance till it flows out from your eyes]. The couplet in tandem translates into the thought that though blood is significantly symbolic of suffering and pain, the symbolism is not brought out till it flows down your eyes!! In symbolism, majority of life's miseries, pains, and sufferings are insignificant; till they reach an acme [the acme being symbolized by the blood flowing out from your eyes].

Though different people might have different thoughts and logic to comprehend this couplet. To me, the above sentences would definitely describe the best translation of the couplet. This holds the window to the reality of life, by urging us to view pains and sufferings as insignificant till they reach their acme.

The next couplet in this ghazal by Ghalib represents his own state of mind as far as pains and sufferings are concerned:

Chipak raha hai badan par lahoo se pairaham;
Hamari jeb ko ab hajat-e-rafoo kaya hai.

To me, the translation of this couplet amounts to stating that his (the poet's) sufferings [the origin of which lies perhaps in his poverty and misery] are so intense that the sufferings themselves ensemble his respite - he does not need to mend his torn pocket, as his shirt sticks to his body because of the blood flowing!!

A note to conclude: Although a very nicely written and an excellent masterpiece of its kind, this ghazal lacks the basic motivation towards life. A marked difference between poets like Ghalib and poets like Allama Iqbal is that while the former category focuses more on presenting the situations of life, the later category concentrates on motivating people to continue living against all odds, for these odds are part of life.

"Nahin tera nasheman Qasr-e-Sultani ke gumbad par;
Tu shaheen hai, basera kar paharon ki chattano mein."

This couplet by Allama Iqbal sums up what I intend to conclude: If you are a man of courage, grit, and determination, and you want to stand out in the crowd; do not approach the easy way. On the contrary, prepare to lead a rock-sturdy life, which is characterized by hardships (paharon ki chattanein).

Upgrade Urdu: Muslims must not get left behind(COMMENTARY)

Upgrade Urdu: Muslims must not get left behind(COMMENTARY)

March 19, 2006
By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

The head of a government-run primary Urdu medium school made a shocking revelation in Delhi recently: Urdu books are not available till mid-September although schools open in summer and although Urdu is a second language in the city along with Punjabi.

And this is just one of the many problems confronting Muslims aspiring education.

Year after year, the abysmally low results in Urdu schools are indicative of the confusion among the managing bodies, principals, teachers, students and parents. This has resulted in a sharp decline in the academic levels of Indian Muslims.

As things stand, education is not a priority for Muslims for three reasons.

First, most of them are primarily agriculturists. Second, their belief that they are discriminated against in employment acts as a deterrent to higher education. Third, Muslim girls, till not so long ago, were not sent to school owing to social taboos.

Sparsely lit, dilapidated classrooms, poor sanitation, broken and decrepit furniture, unhygienic drinking water, lack of teachers, unconcerned parents and uninterested students are some of the features of the 10,000 beleaguered Urdu medium schools in India.

There seems to be a sort of conspiracy to downgrade Urdu by associating it with communalists and terrorists, forgetting that it is a language deeply entrenched in the composite heritage of India.

There seems to be a sort of conspiracy to downgrade Urdu by associating it with communalists and terrorists, forgetting that it is a language deeply entrenched in the composite heritage of India.

Ironically, Urdu has been kept alive by Hindi cinema, FM radio, madrassas and the occasional recitation of couplets from Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz in parliament. A language does not prosper through such methods alone but by people who love it with sincerity.

More people should subscribe to Urdu newspapers and journals rather than getting these freely via mailing lists. Many popular children's Urdu magazines like Shama, Khilona, Toffee, Chandanagri and others have ceased publication for want of interest. They should be revived

Urdu officers could be appointed in the government's nodal agencies like municipal corporations, police departments and so on. Besides, there should be more Urdu learning centres and Urdu should be part of the syllabus of Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas.

The pass percentage in Delhi over the last two decades in the board exams in Urdu-medium schools fluctuates between 20 percent and 30 percent. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the failure rate is identical to Delhi's 77 percent. The only state where Urdu-medium students do really well is Maharashtra where the pass percentage stood at 64 percent this year.

Most teachers in Urdu schools are found to be lackadaisical and unconcerned about both their jobs and students. As if this were not enough, the management bodies of those already victimised and harried backward institutions act as parasites rather than working towards rejuvenating the system.

The hapless students feel that their schools are completely responsible for their disastrous failure. Instead of doing something to upgrade Urdu and secure a better future for students, Muslim leaders keep diverting issues concerning Muslims in educational, social and economic fields to more political matters.

Children belonging to privileged Muslim families never study in Urdu schools. Rather they opt for missionary schools. Even those championing the cause of Urdu and occupying top positions in Urdu departments in universities and government offices prefer English-medium schools for their children.

Except the likes of Sir Syed, Muslims in general never bothered to establish good schools or colleges unlike the Christian missionaries.

Countrywide, every Urdu school has 10-12 vacancies in teaching jobs. No effort is made to fill them. A few Urdu schools do not even have their own buildings and are run in the open air.

Most schools do not have Urdu textbooks in subjects like science, geography and mathematics. Each year, textbooks fail to reach the market in time. When they finally do, the exams are over.

As India's largest minority, Muslims can't afford to be mediocre and spiritless. True, they should love Urdu but they must also make sure they are conversant in English and Hindi or one other regional language.

India is forging ahead but its Muslim population is still largely uneducated. More than anybody else, it is the responsibility of the Muslims to see that the community marches to a secure future.

( Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on educational and social issues. He can be reached at

Source: Indo-Asian News Service

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Holi Hay!

Last weekend was the festival of Holi, the (particularly North Indian) spring festival of the colors of life springing anew after the dead of winter. The festival itself is mostly seen as a Hindu festival, and mainly of Northern India--especially in these increasingly polarized and parochial times. Urdu also developed and grew in the region where this festival is celebrated and the theme of the festival itself and of colours, and of being coloured and painted in the hues of life and other truths is one that comes up often in Urdu poetry. This post is an attempt to gather a few examples and maybe start a conversation about it. Readers are requested to contribute their own pieces of Urdu literature that carry the theme. You can either email me, or post them here directly as comments.

The first is a quote from an Urdu qawwali where the poet--as Urdu poets are wont to--plays with layers of meaning and multiple themes and meanings, some coquettish, some mystical, some sublime, some sensual and erotic.

A couple of quick notes that might help the enjoyment of the first piece, and then I will get out of your way and let you enjoy the poetry:

The word "Sufi" is the thakhallus, the nome de plume and artistic signature of the poet. But, as is often the case, the playful pun on the meaning increases the depth, the pleasure, and the subversive meanings of the piece.

The theme of dyeing someting, or imbibing it with hues is a recurring one in Urdu poetry, especially the subaltern and proto-Urdu work of the likes of Khusrau and others and in Sufi-hued (excuse the pun) works out of South Asia generally. This carried both the subversive sub-text of glorifying the lowly manual labourer that the "rang-raiz" ("rangrajwa" in the language of Khusrau and my grandmother) was seen as, and the meaning of imbibing spiritual truths and being suffused with them like a cloth takes on the dye used to give it its color.

With that, here's the first piece:

NaheeN jis pay ishq ka kuch asar, bhala uss kee husn ki kyaa nazar
Usay kyaa basanth kee hoe khabar, joe ranga na jayay gulaal main

Mujhay Sufi saaf batha'iyay, na chupa'iyay na chhipa'iyay
KaheeN holi k-hailee hai aapnay, joe rangay hain kapray gulaal main

or, in quick and dirty English translation:

On whom Love has no effect; oh, what eye does such a person have on Beauty?
What does a person know of the Spring, who has not been painted in vermillion?

Tell me frankly, Oh Sufi, don't hide it, don't keep it hidden
You've played Holi somewheres; is that why your clothes are all coloured in vermillion?

On my request, Munir Saami Saahab of Toronto and places far, far East, was kind enough to send the following lines from Nazeer Akbarabadi. The piece is, I guess, though I would not swear by it, on a somewhat less profound level.

[Apologies for not being able to provide translations--it would take weeks to do the pieces justice. If anyone can contribute translations, please do.]

Hooaa jo aa kay nishaaN aashkaar Holi ka
Baja roobaab say mil kar sitaar Holi ka
Surood, Raqs hooaa bay shumaar Holi ka
Hansi Khooshi meiN barha karobaar Holi Ka
Zabaan pay naam hooaa baar baar Holi ka

Khooshi ki dhhoom say her ghar may rang banwaaey
Guulaal, abeer kay bhar bhar kay thhaal rakhwaaey
NashoN kay josh hooey raag o rang thheraaey
Jhuumaktay roop kay bun bun sawaang dikhlaaey
Hooaa huujoom ajab her kinaar Holi Ka

Gali meiN koochay meiN, ghuul shor ho rahey aksar
Pharrakney rang lagey yaar her gharri bhar bhar
Badan meiN bhheegay heiN kaprey guulaal chehroN per
Machi yeh dhoom to apnay gharoN say khhoosh ho kar
Tamaasha daikhney niklay nigaar Holi ka

Bahaar kaproN ki, her ik ko jab nazar aaee
Her Ishq baaz nay dil ki muraad bhar paaee
Nigah larraa kay puukaara her aik shaidaaee
MiyaaN yeh tuum nay jo poshaak apni dikhlaaee
Khoosh aayaa ab hameiN naqsh o nigaar Holi ka

Tuumhaarey daikh kay muukh per guulaal ki laali
Hamaarey dil ko hooee, her tarah ki khoosh haali
Nigah nay dee maa'ey guulrang kee bharee piyaali
Jo hans kay do hameiN piyaarey tuum iss gharree gaali
To hum bhee jaaneiN kay aisaa hay piyaar Holi ka

Jo kee hay tuum nay yeh, holi kee tuurfa tayaari
To hans kay daikho idhar ko bhee jaan yak baari
Tumhaari aan bohat hum ko lagti hay piyaari
Lagaa di haath say apnay jo aik pichkaari
To hum bhee daikheiN badan per singhaar Holi ka

Tuumhaarey milney ka, rakh ker hum apney dil meiN dhiyaan
Kharrey heiN, aass lagaa ker kay daikh leiN ik aan
Yeh khoosh dili ka jo thehra hay aan ker saamaan
Galey meiN daal kay baanheiN khooshi say tuum ay jaan
Pinhaao hum ko bhee ik dum yeh haar Holi ka

Uudhar say rang liyay aao tuum idhhar say hum
Guulaal abeer maleiN moonh pay ho kay khoosh her dum
Khooshi say boleiN, hanseiN , Holi khail kar baahum
Bohat dinoN say hameiN to tuumhaarey sir ki qasam
Issi umeed meiN thaa, intizaar Holi ka

BuutooN ki gaaliyaaN hans hans kay kooee sehtaa hay
Guulaal parta hay kaproN say rang behtaa hay
Lagaa kay taak kooee , moonh ko daikh rehtaa hay
Nazeer, Yaar say apney kharra yeh kehtaa hay
Maza dikhaa hameiN kuuchh too bhee yaar Holi ka

Munir Saahab followed that up with this, again from Nazeer, this time adding the comment that "the editors of the kuuliyaat have censored some juicy pieces. But even the left over is hot!"

Holi ki bahaareiN

Jab phaagan rang jhamaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
Aur duff kay shor kharraktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
PariyoN kay rang damakaty hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
Khhuum, sheeshay, jaam chhalaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee
Mehboob nashay meiN chhaktay hoN, tub daik bahaareiN Holi kee

Ho naach rangeeli pariyoN ka, baithay hoN gulroo rang bharay
kuuchh bheegi taaneiN holi ki, kuuchh naaz o adaa kay dhhang bharay
Dil phoolay daikh bahaaroN ko, aur kaanoN meiN aahang bharay
Kuuchh tablay kharrkeiN rang bharay, kuuchh aish kay moonh dum chang bharay
Kuuchh ghoongroo taal chhanaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Saamaan jahaaN tak hota hay, iss ishrat kay matlooboN ka
Woh sab saamaan moohaiyaa ho, aur baagh khuula ho khooboN ka
Her aan sharaabeiN dhalti hoN, aur tthutthh ho rang kay dooboN ka
Iss aish, mazay kay aalam meiN, ik ghaul kharra mehboobooN ka
KaproN per rang chirraktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Guulzzar khuulay hoN pariyoN kay, aur majlis ki tayyari ho
KaproN per rang kay chheentoN say, khhoosh rang ajab guulkaari ho
Moonh laal, goolaabi aankhieN hoN, aur haathhoN meiN pichkaari ho
Woh ranh bharee pichkaree jo, angiya per tuk kar maari ho
SeenoN say rang dhalaktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Uuss rang rangeeli majlis meiN, randi bhee naachnay waali ho
Moonh jiss ka chaand ka tukrra ho, aur aankh bhee maey ki piyaali ho
Budmust, barree matwaali ho, her aan bajaatee taali ho
Maey noshi ho, bay hoshi ho, "Bharway" ki moonh meiN gaali ho
Bharway bhee "bharwa" baktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee

Aur aik taraf dil lainay ko, mehboob bhhawaiyoN kay larkay
Her aan gharee gut phartay hoN, kuuchh ghutt ghutt kay, kuuchh hutt hutt kay
Kuuchh naaz jataaweiN larr larr kay, kuuchh holi gaaweiN arr arr kay
Kuuchh lachkay shokh kamar patlee, kuuchh haath chalay, kuuchh tun pharrkay
Kuuchh kaafir nain mataktay hoN, tub daikh bahaareiN Holi kee


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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Urdu Legal Aid Booklets

Global Media Publications, New Delhi, has embarked on the task of facilitating basic awareness and education about legal rights to marginalized people who may not read English and may not have access to legal help. These booklets are in Urdu and are the first of their kind in the language. It is worth noting in this regard that no Muslim organization has hitherto translated and published legal rights books in Urdu, which is the language spoken by a very large section of Muslims in India. The same is the case with other vernacular languages that are spoken by other Muslims living in different states in India.

Global Media Publications has recently brought out the following legal aid books in Urdu which explain the law, legal rights and procedures to secure justice in a simple manner and in easily understandable Urdu:

1. Aapke Huqooq (Your Rights)
2. Tez Raftar Samaat Ka Haq (Right to Speedy Trial)
3. Mafad-e Amma Ka Muqadma (Public Interest Litigation)

They also published some similar books earlier, which are still available:

1. Muslim Idaaron Ke Liye Qanooni Rahnumayi (Legal Guidance for Muslim Organizations)
2. Police, Ikhtiyarat Aur Hudood (Police, Rights and Limits)
3. FIR Aur Mutalliqa Qawaneen (First InformationReports and Related Rules)
4. Giriftar Kiye Jane Par Aapke Huqooq (Your Rights on Being Arrested)

For detailed information, the publisher can be contacted at:

Global Media Publications
J-51-A, 1st Floor, AFE,
Jamia Nagar
New Delhi-110025
Tel: 9818327757

The inputs for the above post are taken from a mail sent to one of the yahoogroups (fdr_amu) by Yoginder Sikand. His articles can be read in e-newsletters like Qalandar and He can be contacted at

Friday, March 10, 2006

What's Muslim for Democracy?

Yes, that title sounds stupid. But often, especially since 9/11, folks have said, especially in the US press, that Muslims have never had democracy; heck! they don't even have their own word for it and use "Demokratiya" in Arabic. Now I am not an Arabic scholar or even a speaker of the language. (Though the fact that the last word in Libya's official name isn't that comes to mind: the People's Libyan Arab Gamahiriyya.)

But I do know that the Muslims of South Asia--fully half of the global Ummah, so to speak--have had a live tradition of consensual government. And especially since the days of resistance to colonial rule, we've had much more than that; we've had a rich literature of popular engagement in governance. All this came up because, in relation/reaction to the recent blocking of blogs in Pakistan, the following couplet from the person that Pakistan designates its national poet, (and who also wrote India's most popular national hymn also, by the way) was echoing in my head; and of course, I had to do an English translation to put on my blog:

sulthani-e-jamhoor ka athaa hai zamaana
joe naqsh-e-kohan thum koe nazar aayay mita dho!

comes, now, the era of the people's sovereignty
whatever sign of oppression you see, erase it!

The word we use is "Jamhooriyath", which comes from Jamhoor, as in "sulthani-e-Jamhoor" above; just as "Democracy" comes from the rule of the demos, the commons.


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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Urdu goes places

Pupils in Scottish schools will be able to study Urdu at Higher grade
Pupils in Scottish schools will be able to study Urdu at Higher grade for the first time after a decade-long campaign by the Asian community to win academic recognition for the minority language. Scotland's exam body will introduce the new qualification from August 2007 following demand from Muslim communities and the schools they serve. It is the first time a non-European language has been recognised at Higher.Urdu is already available at Standard Grade following a decision in 1994 by the former Scottish Office, but the move to approve a Higher qualification is seen as particularly significant by campaigners.Other community languages such as Punjabi, Chinese, Arabic and Farsi are not taught at this level.

South African Urdu Poetess of Indian origin - Rookeya Saloojee wrote Urdu couplets on South African anti-apartheid movement which are getting rave reviews. She also wrote 'naaths' (poems in praise of the Prophet Mohammad - PBUH), ghazals that were traditional love poems and protest anthems.

Rookeya composed her work - "Ode to 'Madiba'" on being inspired by Nelson Mandela when she visited him while he was at Robben Island prison. "Madiba" is the name by which Mandela is affectionately known to people of South Africa.


ANJUMAN Muhibban-e-Urdu Hind Qatar (AMUHQ), an Urdu organisation of Indian expatriates affiliated to the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) under the aegis of the Indian embassy, held a Mushaira dedicated to famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.

Read on for details


Science Aur Kainat Society of India, a national level voluntary organisation working for the popularisation of science and technology for the last 20 years organised the release ceremony of the first issue of its monthly Urdu tabloid Science Aur Kainat at an impressive function in the Assembly Hall of AMU Boys Polytechnique on 16 April 2005.

Read Complete Story

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mairee Aankhon Say Dhaikhoe; Look Through My Eyes...

From Cemendtaur, who is currently in Karachi:
'Meri AankhoN say dekho' (See it through my eyes), a book by young Bay Area poet Faisal Azeem has been published. The preface is written by Sahar Ansari. I will try to upload the title page and news of this publication. In Karachi, 'Meri AankhoN say dekho' is available at Welcome Book Port & Fareedsons, Urdu Bazaar; in North America, at this moment it is available through me--will try to put it at various online bookstores.

Congratulations to Faisal Azeem for reaching this very important milestone in his life.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Urdu Press: The Need to Come Out of Ghettos

Recently I came across an edit from the Times of India, which speaks, among other things, about the narrow and defeatist attitude the Urdu media (read Urdu dailies) has been exhibiting since long. This isn’t a good idea for the simple fact that Urdu media (like any other media) plays a very vital role in developing the mindset of its audience, which mostly comprise of the Urdu speaking Indian Muslims.

While it’s the responsibility of the media to highlight any lapses on the part of establishment, continuously brooding over the ‘pathetic state’ can go on to cultivate a negative mind frame of its readers, which can and does hamper the growth of community in particular and nation in general.

Instead of toeing a fanatically-religious and anti-secular line, the Urdu media must once again go on to become what is was during the revolution of 1857 i.e. free, secular, progressive, and above all revolutionary.

By changing its attitude, the Urdu media can very well be instrumental in breathing a new zest in its audiance.

As Iqbal would say: Teri Khudi main agar inqalaab ho paida, ajab nahi ke yeah chaar sou badal jayey.

BTW, in the edit I learned about Maulvi Mohammed Baqar, who was the first journalist to be martyred during the uprising of 1857. And yes, he was an Urdu journalist.

I am reproducing the TOI edit below for the benefit of readers:,curpg-1.cms

Every morning I open the Urdu newspapers with dread. Will I have to read yet another regressive rant by those who call themselves the custodians of Islam, or one more litany on the wrongs done to the Muslim community worldwide?

Sadly, the answer is yes. What better example of this kind of bigotry than the headline in the Urdu Times on January 9: 'Sharon ki maut par jashn manaya jayega' (Sharon's death will be celebrated)?

Muslims, madrassas, reservations in a Muslim university, a mosque under threat, another lavish one being built, Muslims being oppressed from Kashmir to Kandahar and Baghdad to Bradford, Bosnia, Palestine, Afghanistan.

These are the staples that Urdu dailies thrive on. It appears as if nothing else in the world is newsworthy unless it has Muslims at its centre, preferably in a situation of victimhood.

But a paper is a hard habit to break, no matter how parochial, bland or offensive. And it is also unfair to tar all the Urdu dailies with the same green brush.

But since Hyderabad's leading Urdu daily Siasat is hosting the World Urdu Conference between January 14 and 16, it is an excellent opportunity for leading dailies and their readership to do some introspection and take a hard look at the fare being dished out everyday.

This exercise might be more constructive than breast beating about the tardy treatment meted out to the Urdu language by an apathetic government.

Urdu, the epitome of our 'Ganga-Yamuni tehzeeb' (composite culture), is in its death throes. And nowhere is the decay more pronounced than its press, once the sentinel of freedom of thought and speech, mores and conduct. Urdu journalism prided itself on its glorious past.

If Maulvi Mohammed Baqar, an Urdu editor in Delhi, became the first Indian journalist who was martyred during the 1857 rising, Urdu journalists and writers like Maulana Azad, Maulana Mohammed Ali and Maulana Hasrat Mohani suffered rigorous imprisonment for opposing the British raj.

The spirit of Urdu, and its press, before it was trussed into a religious achkan, was secular, its tone revolutionary and progressive. It was never a language of the Muslims.

Munshi Prem Chand, Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar, Krishen Chandar, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Josh Malsiyani were leading exponents of the language. How many Hindus does Urdu need to flaunt to prove its appeal across religions?

Urdu has enriched Hindi cinema immensely, providing mellifluous lyrics and embroidering dialogue. Yet regular reading of Urdu dailies is a lesson in looking at the world through the exclusive prism of Islam.

Like some Hindi rags, they too have begun to thrive on sensationalism. There are half a dozen leading Urdu dailies.

Interestingly, Hind Samachar, owned by a Hindu business family of late Lala Jagat Narain, is the largest circulated Urdu daily with a circulation of over one lakh. Urdu is historically linked with Indian Islam.

A bulk of Islamic tradition is in it. But to Islamise Urdu is to subvert the language's inclusive character — one that resulted from the intermingling of soldiers from different countries, which is why Urdu means camp.

Nobody paid a bigger price for Partition than Urdu. Pakistan, in its desperation to acquire legitimacy, appropriated Urdu and its poet Allama Iqbal.

Urdu became Pakistan's national language while Iqbal, who gave us Sare Jahan Se Achcha..., was turned into Pakistan's founder-thinker. Hindutva's hate-Urdu campaign became part of the anti-Muslim tirade.

The opportunist policies of the Congress governments only fuelled anti-Urdu campaigns. Urdu became a stranger in its own home.

Driven out of secular government schools, it found shelter in the insular, exclusivist madrassas and moribund maktabs. Like the commu-nity which patronised it, it became a minority.

It became the politicians' favourite plank to get Muslim votes. Dwindling revenue, caused by a shrinking readership, has pushed the Urdu press virtually into the hands of regressive forces.

There are some exceptions, but dissenting views and progressive ideas are mostly blacked out of the Urdu press. Is this issue also on the World Urdu Conference's agenda?

P.S. This edit appeared in the Times of India before the mentioned World Urdu Conference happened in Hyderabad, in the month of January, 2006.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

PhotoBlogging Cartoon Protests in Karachi

For people who don't often get a chance to read banners in Urdu--or are nostalgic for it--here's an interesting chance:

As the protests against "Those Cartoons" move ("spread" doesn't seem appropriate) into Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, Cemendtaur is covering them on the Karachi Photo Blog. He's posting reports from the day on the Photo Blog. You can start at:

and following on from there:

Monday, February 13, 2006

Online Urdu Newspapers

Etemad - Hyderabad's youngest Urdu daily is already into circulation now. It is being brought out by a famous Muslim Ex-parliamentarian - Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi. Nasim Arifi has been appointed as the editor of Etemad.

Hyderabad already had three Urdu dailies - Siasat, Munsif and Rehnuma-e-Deccan. With the launch of Etemad, the quality of Urdu journalism is definitely going to improve, day by day.

Another good thing is that at least three of above mentioned newspapers also have their presence on the Internet. They can be read online on the following URLs are -


~ Qais

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Urdu Tech News: "The Marriage of Google Mail and Google Talk"

I have mentioned Urdu Tech News here before:

I haven't been able to contribute to it much. But the other folks are doing good work, if a little slowly. And they're having fun with it! Take the following post; a headline like the one at the top of this post would not be out of the ordinary, right? But Shoaib Safdar has taken that and written pretty much the same thing in Urdu--with very interesting results! I guess it will take a while for us--or me, at least--to get so comfortable with this kind of thing in Urdu to take this kind of thing in my stride. Until then, it's rather endearing; enjoy!

I mean, the traditional way to say that would be "GMail aur Google Talk ka milaap", but Shoaib takes it a step further, to "GMail aur Google Talk ka biyaah".

Hey, what can you do! It's a brave new world, this blogosphere; and new ways of expressing ourselves are the whole point, no?