A neat appraisal of Riyaz Khairabad

Renowned Urdu poet: Riyaz Khairabad

Renowned Urdu poet: Riyaz Khairabad  


“Riyaz Khairabadi Ki Sahafat” provides a detailed critical assessment of the celebrated Urdu poet who used wine as a metaphor to expose the ceremonial correctness of society

It looks incredible that the tantalising vicissitudes of life are portrayed through the multi-pronged prism of wine – a symbol of intoxication and a heretical motif. The prohibited behaviour of social life has been meticulously used as the central metaphor by a poet who never went along with it.

Wine is the central symbol of transformation, and it also denotes the influence that we receive from life. It can be used as a medium to expose the ceremonial correctness and farcical moral earnestness, and it is evocatively articulated by a celebrated Urdu poet Riyaz Khairabad (1853-1934). Emulating great Persian poets, Hafiz and Omar Khayyam, he used wine as a metaphor for highlighting how deceit is taken as a virtue. Riyaz Khairabadi’s poetic exuberance is known in literary circles, but his equally significant contribution to prose, especially journalism in the form of newspapers, literary periodicals and weeklies of humour and satire remains unexplored. It prompts a well-known critic Saheb Ali to concentrate on his journalistic endeavours and his recently published book, “Riyaz Khairabadi Ki Sahafat” provides a detailed critical appraisal.

Exploring literature

A neat appraisal of Riyaz Khairabad

The book running in more than 500 pages and divided into six chapters brings forth the unexplored and mostly forgotten literary accomplishments that are no less inferior to his widely admired poetry.

Discontented with the linear narrative about Riyaz Khairabadi who composed around 10,000 couplets on the influence of love and wine on one’s personality, Saheb Ali aptly remarks that the personal experiences hardly have any bearing on poetry as Riyaz frequently refers to a thing that he never tasted. Whatever he tells is the voice of the narrator, and I do not indicate the poet's presence. As a disciple of a renowned classical Urdu poet Ameer Minai, Riyaz put a premium on diction, proverbs and poetic expression of the familiar experiences. The prose also attracted him quite early as he launched his first newspaper “Riyazul Akhbar” at the age of nineteen and later he also started a daily, “Taar Barqi”. “Riyazul Akhbar” was started in 1872 as a weekly which often published twice a week. It had a life of 37 years. It began from Khairabad but then moved to Gorakhpur and got tremendous success. It was also published briefly from Lucknow.

Riyaz was perhaps the first Urdu journalist, who, Saheb Ali points out, made a candid difference between views and news and categorised editorial content separately, such as news, editorial, articles reviews and verses.

Saheb Ali Sir

Saheb Ali Sir  

In Urdu journalism, editorials closely resembled with polemics and that too in flowery language but Riyaz employed a style that draws heavily on the dispassionate interpretation of facts and matter-of-fact narration of events. Discussing the impressive range of editorials, Saheb Ali, who teaches Urdu at Bombay University, asserts that he wrote articles on political, social educational, religious issues and governance-related topics time and again. Riyazul Akhbar specified the space for editorials and its first letter always appeared in the boldface without the headlines. Sometimes editorials featured obituaries, and when Sir Syed died in March 1898, the newspaper carried an editorial that reads, “His death denotes the decline of the political power that had awakened Indians, mainly the Muslims across the globe. The dream of the nation is shattered and the revolution requiring at least a century is almost realised in fifty years owing to selfless and untiring efforts of Sir Syed. In a sense, Sir Syed’s personality was a veil to the shortcomings of the community. No one can deny his invaluable contribution to the collective life of India."

Riyaz Khirabadi appreciated all the efforts made in the direction of national progress.

When a movement for Khalsa College was launched, he aptly observed: Punjab is famous for its passion for humour and jollity, but the Sikhs proved that they accord much importance to the pursuit of knowledge, courage and discipline. The moment the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab donated ₹10000 for the proposed college, the Sikhs plunged into action and collected ₹20 lakhs in no time. It is no mean achievement and augers well for the country."

Oudh culture

According to Saheb Ali, Riyaz blazed a new trail in humour writing as he launched “Fitna” and “Itre Fitna” to turn attention to the decadent culture of Oudh that forced people to seek refuge in society in ambivalence, doublespeak, and deception. He marshalled incisive parody, satire, irony and alliteration to inflict a lethal blow to the affectation.

Sycophancy was also derided in subtle humour, and it is what the contemporary periodicals lacked. The author took pains to amply demonstrate it. Riyaz was a competent translator, and he rendered two English novels in Urdu.

The book carrying the fruits of painstaking research and critical acuity is set to provide a nuanced and complete understanding of the oeuvre of Riyaz.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 9:48:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/a-neat-appraisal-of-riyaz-khairabad/article30105286.ece

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