Going Native Authors

Rare variants of Urdu

Cogent argument: A copy of “Mullah Ramozi: Tanz-o-Mizah Aur Shairye”  

Urdu, despite being perceived as the language of aristocratic culture, does not follow a single monistic grammatical structure and strait-laced vocabulary, and multiformity, both at syntax and diction level, is its defining feature. Its unique cadence lies in the diversity and unorthodox use hardly makes it jerky or impairs the flow of the language. This is what finely-grained arguments eloquently bring out in two recent books on the not much-known variants of the language: ‘Maithili Urdu’ and ‘Gulabi Urdu’. Dr MJ Warsi, an author, and teacher of linguistics spells out the features of Urdu spoken by a considerable number of people that draws considerably on Maithili and a celebrated writer Dr Aziz Ansari meticulously lays bare what constitutes Gulabi Urdu.

Both the books betray academic rigour and proficiency in the language and go into details of two recognisable segments of language that are distinct from the widely known variations, ‘Dehlvi Urdu’, ‘Lakhnawi Urdu’, ‘Dakhani Urdu’ and ‘Punjabi Urdu’ with a sense of thoroughness.

One has to pore over how some rigid boundaries of the language are breached, and language gets lexicalised. Jahangir Warsi does well to zero in on the unconventional expressions used by people living in a particular area in his book “Maithili Urdu”.

Tracing the cultural history and etymological foundation of Maithili Urdu, Warsi points out that the Muslims living in Mithila know local language Maithili very well. Still, they use Urdu as their medium of conversation, which is not adequately measured up to the requirements of the standard Urdu. Its syntax and semantic structure owe much to Urdu, hence it can be described as Mithilanchal Urdu. At spoken level, Maithili speakers falter considerably, and the gender of the word remains flexible. One tends to agree, but here the difference between a language and dialect gets blurred.

Since no two persons speak alike, the book deflates the infallible myth of consent-construct system of the standard language, but the question why this distinctive mode of expression, spoken by people residing in Dharbanga, Samstipur, Begusarai, Madhubani, and Muzaffarpur, has no literature of its own remains unanswered.

Warsi regrets to notice that no serious attempt has been made to provide an intimate glimpse into the redemptive linguistic bearings of the language that immensely enriched Maithili, Hindi and Urdu literature. The book divided into six terse chapters discusses the syntax, morphology and segmental phonology and frequent use of technical terms makes it a bit jarring. Still, it does domiciliate a new variant of Urdu efficiently.

Pink Urdu

Pink is the colour of hope, warmth, affection, inner peace, tranquillity, and accessibility, but this nomenclature can be tangled with prose for a means of concealing meaning and dog the provisions of the colonial law conclusively. It has been creatively carried out by a well-known author and poet of Bhopal, Siddiq Irshad, better known as Mullah Ramozi (1896-1952), who envisaged, ‘Gulabi Urdu’. Aziz Ansari astutely delineates his seminal but less acknowledged contribution in his book, “Mullah Ramozi: Tanz-o-Mizah Aur Shairye”.

Ramozi’s brilliant linguistic enterprise oddly resembles with argot that uses turgid sentence structure, unconventional diction, and ever-changing patterns of meaning that are impenetrable to the power that- be but have the potentiality to arrest the attention of the discerning readers.

Contrary to the widely held view that Gulabi Urdu is an ornate and mushy prose genre, the veteran author Aziz Ansari cogently elucidates the salient features and symbolic import of Mullah Ramozi. Paring down the acceptable word usage hierarchy, Ramozi went in for a new sentence structure that began with a verb followed by subject and object.

It corresponded to the verbatim translation from Arabic, and the clerics frequently used this sort of prose for the translation of the religious texts into Urdu. With a marked sense of critical sensibility, Aziz asserts that Mullah’s offbeat prose style was the creative fusion of old-fashioned translations are done from Arabic and Persian.

It was mostly word by word translation used for rendering the Koran into Urdu as a slight modification or aberration could hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims. It fired the imagination of Ramozi, and he emulated this style by roping in his literary and aesthetic prowess to ward off the repressive provisions of the Press Act, vigorously pursued by the British Government in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The author wrote a piercing and equally witty piece “Gulabi Urdu” that was carried by the Congress in its issue of December 27, 1917.

Artistically camouflaged in irregular sentence structure, the article delivered a stinging blow to the government without making it too visible. Still, its metaphorical meaning went well with the Urdu knowing people. Ramozi ran through this unconventional but alluring prose composition for seven years (1917-1924), and with the slackening of the rules, he pulled the plug and started using familiar style. Through his perceptive book running into 200 pages, Aziz explores the oeuvre of Ramozi comprising poetry, humorous outpourings, political and journalistic writings candidly. These books stand apart from the run-of-the-mill books published frequently as they acquaint the readers with little known, but significant strands of Urdu and Jahangir Warsi and Aziz Ansari deserve appreciation.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 3:15:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/rare-variants-of-urdu/article31048390.ece

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