Nobody who loves Urdu language and literature can be indifferent to the vigor of Urdu's health in the centers of its historical birth in Delhi and UP. Even though Urdu continues to be patronized at the higher education level by the Indian government, the state of the language at the grassroots is by all accounts unenviable. Urdu has suffered in post-partition India both by its exclusive association with Muslims and perhaps more grievously by not having any Indian state which could adopt it as its first and official language. The heart of Urdu's historic presence became the Hindi heartland in post-independence India and Urdu shrunk to a niche language of the Muslim lower middle classes. An essay by Syed Shahabuddin in the 2003 Annual of Urdu Studies titled "Urdu in India, Education and Muslims - A Trinity Without a Church" sheds some interesting light on this issue (even if you don't necessarily agree with his prescription). Fortunately, Urdu's rich literary heritage and its widely appreciated mellifluous cadences have helped it maintain a stubborn presence in the poetic and musical high culture of India.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Urdu in Delhi
There is an interesting essay on the state of the Urdu language in Delhi titled "Urdu and the City" in this week's issue of Outlook India. There is some conflicting evidence presented about a mini-surge of interest in Urdu beyond the traditional Muslim readership (particularly those with the ability to read the script). What I found most interesting were the innovative performing art approaches to introduce Urdu to newer audiences. Anees Azmi's children's plays, his readings of "Ghalib Ke Khatoot" and Mahmood Faruqi's "Daastan Goi" seem to be genuinely creative efforts at a softer pedagogy. Zia Mohyuddin's readings have performed a similarly invigorating role in introducing classics of Urdu literature to the "English Medium" segment of younger Pakistanis. (Photograph is of Mahmood Farooqi during a performance. He performs the epic "Daastan-e-Ameer Hamza Sahibqiraan". I believe Mahmood is the son of the eminent Urdu critic Shamsur Rahman Faruqi.)