Four-day international Urdu conference concludes -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Four-day international Urdu conference concludes

Peerzada Salman

KARACHI: The highlight of the last day of the 5th International Urdu conference on Sunday was a gripping interactive discussion, moderated by Dr Asif Farrukhi, on Urdu literature’s stature vis-à-vis world literature.

Dr Nomanul Haq commenced the debate by suggesting that unlike the Middle Ages, today it was difficult to detach or disassociate ourselves from what was happening in the rest of the world.

In his opinion it was important that we found out our relation with literary and intellectual trends in other parts of the globe in terms of both horizontal (modern) and vertical (traditional) dimensions.

Writer Aamer Hussein, who had flown in from London to take part in the moot, said there was a time when there were fewer translations of Urdu fiction available in England.

However, things gradually improved and translated versions of stories by such writers as Intizar Husain, Quratulain Hyder, Manto and Ismat Chughtai became accessible.

In the West, he commented, people wanted to read material which acquainted them with the sociopolitical situation of the region the writers belonged to and this was why the scope for experimental narratives was limited. There was nothing else but an anthropological urge, he said. Now stories like Lihaf and Bun Baas were read with great interest.

Poetess Fahmida Riaz remarked that Urdu should not be confined to Pakistan. It was, in fact, the language of Hindustan. She pointed out that world literature did not mean western literature alone but it also included literature produced in Arab countries, Africa or China.

Turkish scholar Durmush Bilgar talked about the state of Urdu literature in Turkey. Sarwar Ghazali lamented that not a great deal of Urdu fiction and poetry was translated into German.

Writer Intizar Husain objected to the term ‘aalami tanazur’. He argued that such literary giants as Rumi, Saadi and Ghalib were never judged against the backdrop of world literature nor did they care about it.

He said that he himself had always tried to capture his own experiences and endeavored to turn them into a story. He iterated that we needed to look at our indigenous issues, something that the Sufis did, which entailed both rational and metaphysical experiences. He added that things like magical realism had always existed in our literature. We just hadn’t labelled them as such.

Prof Shamim Hanafi started off his arguments by stating that ‘local’ (maqami) was not the opposite of ‘universal’ (aafaqi).

Similarly the word ‘world’ did not contain only the west. In his opinion, the common element that existed everywhere was the debate to unearth the relation between literature and morality. In the final analysis, he said, “We’d harm ourselves if we lost sight of humanism.”

Media person Farhad Zaidi, who presided over the session, touched on the crisis Urdu was facing.

The first session of the last day of the conference was dedicated to reading out and reciting pieces written in lighter vein in Urdu literature.

The highlight of the event was Nusrat Ali’s note-perfect mimicry of some of the greats of Urdu literature.

He impersonated the likes of Zamir Jaffery, Ustad Qamar Jalalvi, Zia Mohyeddin, Jigar Muradabadi, Khumar Barabankvi and Dilawar Figar and brought the house down.

In the same session, Asjad Bukhari recited Zamir Jaffery’s couplets, Anjum Rizvi read out Ibn-i-Insha’s famous prose pieces and Iqbal Latif presented Pitras Bukhari’s essay Kuttay.

Before the concluding session, in which eminent scholars expressed their views on the conference, Nasra Zuberi’s book, Kaanch ka chiragh, was launched.