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Articles tagged "Urdu Literature"

Dustland

There was a rustle in the bush up ahead and I froze in my tracks. The bush rustled again and I thought there must be a snake in it. Snakes scared me even before, but now one had actually bitten me. It was some poisonous kind and I nearly died. Only someone who’s been bitten at least once by a venomous snake can appreciate how much a person who’s been bitten comes to fear this slithery creature. He starts seeing snakes everywhere, and I too began to see one in this dry bush....

Noor Jehan

I think I first saw Noor Jehan in the film Khandan. They called her Baby in those days, but believe me when I say that she didn't look like a baby. On the contrary, her body had every feature that a young girl could possibly need. In those days Noor Jehan used to create mischief and unrest in the film-going public. It wasn't about her face or her body. It was simply her voice that caused such a commotion. After Sehgal, Noor Jehan was the singer who really impressed me. She had...

Urdu Fiction from India: An Introduction

Notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s delightful disclosure that he likes Urdu poetry, few in the West know anything about this language and even less about its otherwise vibrant literature. The partition of British India in 1947 took its tragic toll not only in human lives and displacement, but also in culture. Like everything else, the Urdu language, an unmistakable product of India, in which all Indians participated without regard to religion or creed (of the three most...

Destitutes Compound

At the time I left home for good I must have been around twenty-two or twenty-four years old. What prompted me to leave was my father’s attitude. He complained that I’d developed bad habits. When I think about it now, it seems he was right to complain, and he was also right to try and find out on his own how I was spending my time. Back then, though, I thought it was all rather unfair and I used to complain to my mother about it. What galled me the most was that whenever he...

Beyond the Fog

1 Throughout the day English sahibs, memsahibs, and their baba log cross the bridge on mules and horses or riding in rickshaws and dandis. In the evening, the same bridge becomes the site of milling crowds of Indians. The swarm of rushing humanity going up and down the slopes huffing and puffing looks like the surge of a massive tidal wave. Movies starring Esther Williams, Joan Fontaine, Nur Jahan, and Khursheed are playing in the local cinemas. Skating continues in the rinks. In the...

The Pose

God knows what got into her head. She abruptly broke her stride and slipped into Shandar Cloth Store. Then she opened the door of the show window and, deftly, removing the lovely mannequin, stood herself in the plastic dummy’s place and assumed its pose. It was evening. The street was packed with people, but they were so preoccupied as they went their way that none of them noticed what she had just done. Why did she do it? She probably didn’t know that herself. True, she...

Fable of a Severed Head

5:40— verar local express Shifting his heavy, red canvas bag from his left shoulder to his right, he looked up at the Churchgate Station monitor and scurried toward Platform 3. People were practically running to the platform to board the 5:40 local. Women office workers were scrambling into the ladies’ compartment, pushing and shoving, being pushed and shoved in the wild crush, barely managing to keep their stride under the weight of their dangling purses and shoulder bags,...

Two Old Kippers

. . .sleeping as quiet as death, side by wrinkled side, toothless, salt and brown, like two old kippers in a box. —Dylan Thomas, “Under Milk Wood” Recently two pensioned old men in Calcutta met by chance in a public park. Six years ago, but on different dates, they had both retired from government service. Ever since, providence had been preparing for the day when they would be found sitting side by side on a single bench. Apparently they had each lived their lives...

A Sheet

He was standing behind the window looking out onto the street, which one could see in the distance shimmering in the sun as if somebody had magically stopped a flowing river. It was the same street on which traffic flowed uninterrupted well into the night, where crowds of people milled about like crawling ants right up to midnight. Morning and evening, the noise from the traffic and the people gave the sidewalks the atmosphere of a carnival. But at the moment, both the street and its...

Methun

Had the bazaar stretched to infinity or had the business itself hit a slump? To the west, where the street rose steeply, almost hugging the sky, and then swooped down sharply, was the very end of the earth. A person only had to take a leap and be done with this miserable life. Magan Tikley, the junk dealer, had wandered around practically the whole day but found only two objects: a Florentine statuette and a Jamini Roy painting. Well, some eccentric producer might rent the statuette for...

The Saga of Jaanki Raman Pandey

Somebody should have gone and inquired from this Jaanki Raman Pandey, Advocate, why in the name of God did he have to go to Rasoolpur and die there when he was doing so well in Allahabad? And die, not just figuratively, but literally. The common belief is that the time and place of a person’s death are preordained (and also the time and place of some events more important than death, e.g., marriage). So why the fuss if one believes it has to be so? Well, what can one do? There are...

Of Fists and Rubs

There was quite a crush of people at the polling station, as if it was the premier of some movie. A long line stretched out to infinity. Five years ago, too, we’d formed such endless lines, as if we’d come to buy cheap grain, not cast a vote. Wisps of hope flitted across our faces: regardless of how long the lines, our turn was bound to come sometime. And then you just watch, we’ll be raking in piles and piles of money. He’s our trusted man; the reins of good...

Tilism-e-Hoshruba

One of the earliest accounts of the magical arts practiced in the Islamic world is found in the fourteenth-century work the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, acknowledged as the first work on the philosophy of history and the social sciences. Ibn Khaldun devoted several pages to the definition of magic, from which we learn that its practice is viewed in the Islamic tradition as a science—not based in pagan rituals of sacrifice to gods and goddesses but requiring instead a command of a...
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