Good news in the days of doom and gloom: of Urdu humour, research and online journals
Anwer Ahmed Alavi is a humorist and co-editor of Mizah Plus, an Urdu humour magazine published from Karachi. The little-known magazine offers some good pieces of humour both in prose and poetry.
What sets the magazine apart from the other Urdu humour magazines — most of which have now succumbed to the tragic financial constraints — is decency and no-nonsense attitude.
Aside from his own books, Alavi recently came up with a voluminous anthology of humour, consisting of over 150 humorous and satirical pieces in prose, by different humorists of Urdu.
We have had a steady flow of selections of Urdu humour in recent past and one can find about two dozens of such selections in the market. But the pieces selected by Alavi, published under the title Bazla sanjaan-i-do alam by Karachi’s Rang-i-Adab Publications, are pleasantly different and have an air of freshness about them.
Firstly, unlike other similar anthologies, the book does not ritualistically follow the historical or chronological order and does away with most of the humorists of the early periods. Secondly, the selection is done purely on merit (a rare commodity in our society these days) and less-known or even unknown humorists have made it to the book.
Some very well-known humorists, both from India and Pakistan, and some from the pre-independence era, are there, such as Ibrahim Jalees, Ibn-i-Insha, Pitras Bukhari, Haji Laq Luq, Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Younus Butt, Rasheed Ahmed Siddiqi, Syed Zameer Jafri, Shafeequr Rahman, Shaukat Thanvi, Ataul Haq Qasmi, Fikr Taunsvi, Krishan Chandr, Col. Muhammad Khan, Kanahiyya Lal Kapoor, Farhatullah Baig, Azeem Baig Chughtai, Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, Mushfiq Khwaja, Yousuf Nazim, Mujtaba Hussain, Dr Muhammad Mohsin and many, many more.
But some crisp pieces penned by some unknown but truly talented humorists of the newer generations too have been included. So, it saves the reader from monotony of the same old names and same old pieces that are included in every other collection of humorous writings.
What strikes the serious reader of the humour is the fact that Alavi has been able to trace humour pieces in the writings of some of the famous writers, poets and scholars who, so we thought, were most unlikely to write humour.
The book includes some humorous pieces that are written by Moulvi Abdul Haq, Noon Meem Rashid, Shanul Haq Haqqee, Abdul Majid Daryaabadi and Meerza Adeeb. It seems that Anwer Ahmed Alavi has not only thrashed the entire body of humour in Urdu prose but has also looked for humour in the most unlikely places. His quest has been quite rewarding.
Some of the pieces may not be hilarious but they are new, different and fresh. The book will bring smile to your lips, perhaps a much needed thing in these days of doom and gloom. The 880-page book has a price tag of Rs1,000.
Another publication that has just arrived from the press is the bibliographic index of Urdu research journals. The importance of indexes for research works and access to greater bodies of information and knowledge cannot be overemphasised. Regrettably, in Urdu we do not have a rich tradition or long history of indexing. Most of the Urdu books, even research-based ones, do not offer any index at the back of the book. This can be very frustrating for research students and scholars.
For the last few decades or so, some Pakistani universities have been publishing Urdu research journals. Especially after the inception of Higher Education Commission (HEC) the number of research journals has increased manifold.
But the universities have not been able to do proper indexing of the large number of research papers published in these HEC-recognised Urdu research journals, and the students and scholars can often be seen paging through these journals for the research material.
The good news is that the Indexation Agency of the Department of Urdu, International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), has come up with a comprehensive index of Urdu research journals published between 1991 and 2013.
Titled Ishariya: Urdu jaraaed (first volume), it is a periodic publication that enlists the research articles published in these research journals: Almas, Oriental College Magazine, Bazyaft, Bunyad, Tehqeeq, Tehqeeq nama, Takhleeqi adab, Journal of Research (Urdu), Khayaban, Daryaft, Zaban-o-adab and Meyar.
Arranged alphabetically on the basis of journals, it enlists the name of the author, title of the paper, page numbers, abstract of the paper, and keywords.
Edited by Dr Najeeba Arif and Sheeraz Afzal Dad, the index is a virtual treasure trove for the research students, teachers and scholars of Urdu alike. We congratulate IIUI for such a commendable work.
As informed earlier in these columns, Mushfiq Khwaja Library, Karachi, has been working on a grand plan to preserve and digitise about half a million pages of thousands of rare Urdu literary journals.
Now it has come up with the first episode of the work: it has put online, in collaboration with Chicago University, British Library and Endangered Archives Programme, a good number of rare Urdu literary journals online.
The journals include, among others, Ismat, Dilgudaz,
Nairnag-e-Khayal, Muaarif, Adeeb, Saqi, Makhzan, Zamana and Tehzeeb-e-niswan. Some of the magazines are as old as 100 years. The magazines can be accessed on the following website: http://eap.bl.uk/database/results.a4d?projID=EAP566