Three talented Urdu writers debunk many a myth about literature in the language

Despite its widespread popularity, Urdu literature has largely been viewed either as the anguished cry of a lovelorn heart or as a narrative of victimization and dislocation. It is believed that inherent lyricism of Urdu is hardly in sync with new emerging theoretical and epistemological framework of literature. Urdu betrays our shared cultural legacy; it is spoken across the subcontinent. It is presumed that critical discourse has been vigorously pursued in India and creative writing is more actively so in Pakistan. A close look at some seminal books recently published in both countries debunks the myth and makes it clear that contemporary Urdu literature has become a vast reservoir of new theoretical debates and new books cogently subvert the grand narrative of colonialism, patriarchy, enlightenment, caste system, human glory, emancipation and cultural hegemony. They unfailingly work out a perceptive and alternative vision of our lived reality.

A prominent young critic of Pakistan Dr. Nasir Abbas Nayyar has recently written two books, “Post colonialism in Urdu (Oxford University Press, Pakistan), and “Text, Context and Perspective” (Poorab Academy) that invoke the cultural, post-colonial gender issues in new perspectives. His book on post-colonialism betrays the wide array of his readings with literary theories and humanities and his textual analysis is interspersed with incisive interpretation of post-structuralist discourse of Lacan, Derrida and Foucault. Nasir, well acquainted with both eastern and western theories, points out that post-colonialism is a new critical insight that turns attention to the cultural matrix of the colonizer and the colonized in which the former clearly rides roughshod. Hence cultural relations become means of acquiring power.

Delineating the agenda of the colonial rule, he points out that colonial power in India created a notion of nationhood from debris of wanton destruction. It also tries to usurp power by creating a facade of awakening on all fronts – political, economic, social, intellectual and education. The British rule in India had engendered new discourses and narratives, which were propagated by the State apparatus. Polemical debate on nationalism, compatibility, protest, resistance, split personality and cultural clashes in Urdu literature owe much to new narrative of the colonial power.

Turning attention to the texts of prominent Urdu poets, writers, thinkers, social reformers and political thinkers such as Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azad, Ghalib, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Hali, Shibli, Nazeer Ahmad and the like, Nasir eloquently delineates how the alien theory of literature and aesthetic became an essential presence for literary evaluation.

In his second book, the author attempts at searching for the roots of the cultural identity but does not provide any easy solution to solve the question of identity. In his article on “text context and perspective”, he cogently demonstrates how people look at text in dissimilar ways in order to fulfil their cultural aspirations. He also shows how flawed conventional and the author-centered interpretation is. His reading of Ghalib, Iqbal NM Rashid, Faiz, Meera and Naiyer Masood subverts the existing mode of analysis. For him text is the real and surreal mélange of image, textures and cadence. The book is destined to blaze a new trail in theory-avoidance prone criticism that gained currency in Pakistan.

Waseem on feminist consciousness

What constitutes female sensibility and how does it reflect in Post-independence Urdu poetry is encapsulated in a voluminous book authored by Dr. Waseem Begum who is actively engaged in the ongoing debate on feminist consciousness. Urdu criticism is dominated by male and one can hardly find any woman who pursues criticism seriously and the author is an exception. At the outset, she skilfully analyses ideas and contexts of the female sensibilities and experience from the critical stand point of the feminist discourse. For her, their creative outpourings are certainly more than the narrative of the personal loss. Feminine paradoxes and dilemmas find accurate articulation in several postmodern female poets such as Fatima Hasan, Shaista Yusuf, Shabnam Ishai, Tarranum Riaz, Sadiqa Nawab. Saher and Syeda Nasreen Naqqash.

Referring to their poems, Begum points out they defy patriarchal ideology and their poetry goes beyond the leitmotifs of desire, age and wishes. Her textual analysis provides a dispassionate understanding of their angst and demonstrates how they create an eminently intricate and complex vision of the reality. By closely examining several poems of Kishwar Naveed, Fatima Riyaz, Zahida Zaidi, Sajida Zaidi and Shafeeq Fatima Shera, the author asserts that their poems hold mirror to the inhuman ambience prevalent in the society. Postmodern female poets are emotional without being mandolin as they depict human frailties vividly, she concludes.

Cultural studies

A promising young critic Dr. Maula Baksh’s recent book on Khwaja Hasan Nizami pitches for a new area of criticism: cultural studies. Delineating cultural strategy of one of the famous sufis and profound scholars of Delhi, Khwaja Hasan Nizami, Baksh rejects the notion of the critics who describe Nizami as a belletrist. His text has created a space for the understanding the composite culture and Hindu-Muslim unity. His prose is the early example of anti colonial voice in Indian literature, Baksh cogently concludes in his monograph. Dr. Maula Baksh’s book maps a whole culture with admirable ease and it presents a revealing portrait of the cultural milieu of the colonized Delhi.

Keywords: Urdu literature