SHAFEY KIDWAI

Urdu literature has broken away from stereotypes, assimilating new modes of expression.

Notwithstanding the widespread adulation of the creative dexterity of Mir, Ghalib, Iqbal, Premchand, Manto, Bedi, Firaq and Quratul Ain Haider, Urdu literature is largely, though erroneously, perceived as a body of highly impressionable writings. Its most sought-after verse genre, Ghazal, barring some exceptions, primarily draws its sustenance form the sentimental exoticism that betrays a kind of rejoicing in pain.

This polemical dismissal aside, if various genres of the post-independence Urdu literature are sifted one can see how Urdu literature has broken away from the grotesque subversion of the normative requirements of neoclassical literature. It is not constrained by the themes and diction of the progressive movement and modernism’s much-touted espousal of “alienation”, despair and “angst”, no longer breaks into a cascade of thought.

The post independence Urdu literature transcends the fringes of subjectivity that zeroes in on doubt and restlessness. Also, sheer human helplessness is expressed without any rhetorical play. Despite its close affinity with the tradition in subject matter, it has shown a penchant for assimilating new modes of expression with a view to enriching the reader. Chronologically, it can be divided into three phases — progressive, modern and post-modern. The emancipation of mankind and social realism practised by the progressive writers such as Premchand, Josh, Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri, Ismat Chughtai Bedi, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Makhdoon, Majrooh and Kaifi made a tremendous impact on Urdu literature.

Manto blazed a new trail in Urdu short Story by turning attention to almost every pulse of human existence. Another fiction writer R.S. Bedi also reflected new trends. Bedi’s fiction breaks the traditional premises of cause and effect by bringing allegory, myth, archetypes and metaphors into play judiciously.

Path-breaking novel

Quratul Ain Haider opened new doors in Urdu fiction by using the stream of consciousness and cinematic techniques of montage and flashback to upset time sequence. Her epoch-making novel, Aag Ka Darya (River of Fire) depicts a putrescent culture with melancholic sense of dislocation.

The short story committed to modern sensibility and Kafkaesque tradition made its appearance in the 1960s. It owes much to Surendra Parkash, Intizar Hussain and Abdullah Hussain. Post-modern self-referential fiction has found a ready protagonist in Naiyer Masood who got the Saraswati Sanman this year. Hatching an inconclusive narrative paradigm, he provides a model for making a free play of probabilities possible. Along with him, some young Urdu fiction writers such as Tarrannum Riyaz, Syed Mohd Ashraf, Tariq Chattari, Ghazanfar, Parigham Afaqi, and Khalid Javed deploy ironic, parodic, and comic modes of narration to call attention to the negative elements.

Poetry committed to modern sensibility made its appearance in Urdu in the early 1950s. N.M. Rashid Meeraji and Akhjtarul Iman harped on a reality that was both manifold and variegated.

Modern Urdu poetry has undergone poetic innovations both in form and content. It has started modulating between the mimetic renderings of the dense particularities of the world.

Shaheyar’s poetry is unfailingly suffused with the pain inflicted by haunting reminiscences as the past, interspersed with a free-flow of cross cultural stream, enkindles his imagination. Contemporary Urdu poets Javed Akhtar, Nida Fazli, Zubair Rizvi, Ameen Ashraf, Amber Bahrtanchi, Sheen Kaf Nizam, Mehtab Haider Naqvi, Shariq Kaifi, Alam Khursheed, Farhat Ehsas, Tarranum Riyaz invest traditional symbols with new semantic dimensions. Jayant Parmar has set Dalit poetry in motion a as he conjures up feelings of aversion.

The contemporary Urdu writer harps on nativity and there is no fixed theme, no regimentation, and one can only see the festivity of the creation all around.