Friday Review

That moment of epiphany!


Recognition for Urdu voices comes all the way from Qatar.

Seldom do oft-held literary award ceremonies and creative writing carnivals stay away from the master narrative of today’s predominantly Anglophone world that primarily hinges on the coruscating culture of the Oscars and the Cannes. To hijack all possibility of meaning, the global entertainment industry prompts goofy works that brush off transformative import of cross-culture aesthetic experiences usually explored by literature. The majority of awards propagate mawkish notion of literature that never raises unsettling questions about human relationship and codified tradition of the society. Creativity by its very nature accentuates the dread and insidious terror unleashed by the power-that-be to colonize all meaning. An alternative but equally powerful dossier to the current discourse on literary award was recently produced by a reputed literary organisation “Majlis-e-Farogh-e-Urdu Adab, Doha, Qatar (Committee for the propagation of Urdu Literature, Doha, Qatar) when it conferred its prestigious annual literary award to two prominent prose writers of Urdu, one each from India and Pakistan recently. The ceremony was conspicuous by the absence of film stars, singers, socialites, TV anchors and all those who have little understanding about literature.

Mohammad Ateeq, Chairman, Board of Patrons, reiterated the commitment to confer honour on those writers who consistently embolden us to stand for all that we cherish – freedom, identity, liberal values and tolerance. We continue to look for the writings that run against the grain of a society that hardly knows anything beyond selling and buying and for which nothing is real until it is put on TV. The Doha Awards, launched two decades ago still betray a respect for literary merit rather than giving in to populism and ideological correctness.

Ateeq, who heads the non-commercial organisation, has set up two independent juries comprising eminent authors and scholars in India and Pakistan. The Indian jury is headed by eminent scholar and literary theorist Gopi Chand Narang while eminent author Mushtaq Ahmad Yousfi heads the Pakistani jury. This year the jury has chosen Khursheed Rizvi (Pakistan), a reputed scholar and an accomplished poet from Pakistan and Mushtaq Alam Zauq (India), a prominent and prolific fiction writer.

Presenting the award, Ateeq pointed out that the Majlis came into being for strengthening cultural cohesion and tolerance through the prism of literature. If cultural ethos is not blended with divine inspiration it will pose a serious threat to our existence, he added.

Rizvi, a reputed scholar and a polyglot in true sense (well versed in Arabic, Persian, English, Urdu and Punjabi) has more than a dozen books and scores of well-documented research articles to his credit. He edited the full text of sixth volume of Ibn al Shaar’s manuscript assigned to him by Mosul University, Iraq. He has written extensively on the Arabic sources and also introduced several Arab authors, including Najib Mahfooz, Egyptian Nobel laureate to Urdu knowing people. His brilliantly written books firmly grounded in both Eastern and Western literary theories betray his penchant for highlighting lesser known aspects of literature. He also translated Taha Hussain’s article on Iqbal into Urdu. Rizvi’s six collections of poetry produce innumerable moments that mimic the tendency to romanticize the past to read too much into it. Conversely his nostalgia-filled poetry quite remarkably makes the most ancient easily digestible.

A perceptive and pertinent question, “why must we be forever beholden to our idols and ideological preferences" is consistently posed by Mushraf Alam Zauqi through his novels and short stories. Zauqi has published 14 novels and more than 500 short stories and five books comprising critical appraisal and research articles. He is the first to side with those who stood falsely accused by rabid fanatics, biased historians and power hungry politicians who have gained respectability in the society recently.

His creative prowess renders complex ideas accessible and turn attention to what is not compatible with pluralism. Armed with affectionate satire, Zauqi deplore the attempts at demonizing the minorities. His trail blazing recent novel, “Naala-e-shabgeer” creatively explores the possibilities of gender-egalitarian ethos that continues to elude us. His short stories transpose us into a universe where institutional fabric no longer preserves values which we hold dear.

What Farogh-e-Adab Qatar intends to achieve is also vigorously pursued by some literary organisations, especially one run by Syed Salahuddin who organizes a poetic symposium to mark Indian Republic Day without making it to the calendar of global entertainment world.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 8:33:27 AM |

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