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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Urdu Kitab Mela

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

The Milli Gazette Online 

It was very heartening to see that Urdu seemed to come out of its ghettoized dungeon culture to breathe in fresh air with Urdu lovers from all communities, places and backgrounds including even non-Urdu-knowing people flocking to the Urdu book fair in Delhi recently. 

Syeda Hamidain, flanked by Prof Mushirul Hasan and Hamidullah Bhat, inaugurates the Urdu book fair

Syeda Hamidain, flanked by Prof Mushirul Hasan and 
Hamidullah Bhat, inaugurates the Urdu book fair

That Urdu was on oxygen and dying and that it hardly mattered and contributed in the comity of international languages, had been a commonly shared view about the language but this was challenged after the connoisseurs of the beautiful language visited the Delhi Urdu Kitab Mela under the aegis of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu (NCPUL) and Jamia Millia Islamia at the university’s plush grounds amidst academic ambience. 

Says critic Shamsur Rahman Faroqui, newly appointed vice-chairman of NCPUL, that it goes without saying that Urdu literature made a solid contribution to the national cause during the freedom struggle. National leaders having realized the importance of Urdu, forcefully used slogans like "Inquelab zindabad" (Subhash Chandra Bose) and the songs, Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamarey dil mein hai (Ram Prasad Bismil) or Sare jahan se achha Hindostan hamara (Iqbal) to name a few. In fact it was the lingua franca. Even Gandhiji sent his messages coded in Urdu. There was even an underground Urdu radio station that helped the rebels send their voice.

More than 50 thousand people visited the fair that had about 60 stalls housing eminent publishing houses like Rampur’s Maktaba Al-Hasanat, Delhi’s Maktaba Jamia Ltd, Urdu Academy, Educational Publishing House, Farid Book Depot, Aks-o-Aawaz, Al-Kitab International, Al-Balagh Publishers, Aijaz Publishers, Maktaba Al-Haram, Mahnama Urdu Science, Qazi Publishers and Distributors etc. Nobody could have imagined that the stalls were tuned to the latest hi-tech and scientific trend – a feaure totally unknown to Urdu. Besides, cultural programmes like mushairas, debates, reviews of books etc carried on throughout at the open-air theatre of Jamia University where a huge gathering of youngsters was always present to appreciate the activities. 

According to Prof Mushirul Hasan, celebrated litterateur, columnist and VC, Jamia Millia Islamia, the response was so overwhelming that he decided to have this book fair every year at the University. Throughout the 8-day programme of the book fair, renowned scholars, editors and writers from all walks of life like Mahesh Bhat, Saeed Naqvi, Dr Aziz Burney, Prof Akhtar-ul-Wasey, Ashok Vajpayee, M K Raina, Dr Aslam Parvez, Rakhshanda Jalil and others, delivered speeches and participated in discussions. At the successful conclusion of the fair, Arjun Singh, the HRD minister while lauding the painstaking efforts of the NCPUL director Dr M Hamidullah Bhat to uplift Urdu, stated that it was the language of his heart that symbolized the composite culture of the nation and he would leave no stone unturned to help it.

"If such Urdu Book fairs kept on being organized, Urdu will attain its pristine glory back," told parliamentarian Prof Saifuddin Soz. Non-Urdu knowing Urdu lovers were only too happy to get the translations of Ghalib, Zauq, Mir, Faiz, Firaq, Manto and Ismat Chughtai in English and Hindi. One was glad to find that the horizons of Urdu books extended from just history of Urdu literature, poetry and Islam to topics on science, bio-technology, engineering and geography, stated an enthusiastic Dr Aslam Parvez, editor Mahnama Urdu Science. He added that science books were available not only on the National Book Trust, CSIR and his Science stalls but almost on every stall. 
Books for more than Rs 20 lakh were sold. A book, Musalman Sciencedaan giving history and biography of the Muslim scientists from Maktaba Al-Hasanat and penned by Ibrahim Ammadi Nadvi, was in great demand. Popular books in the fair for teaching Urdu through English happened to be Gopi Chand Narang’s Let’s Learn Urdu by the NCPUL and Urdu Script Through English by Maktaba Jamia Ltd. 

Dr P K Jain, eminent Hindi grammarian and ardent admirer of Urdu opines, "I think it would be the greatest service of Urdu for people like us if it is simplified a little bit and the popular ghazals of Ghalib, Mir, Momin etc, are also brought about in Hindi with meanings of the Persianized words given as footnotes." An effort of this kind has been done by Delhi’s Ghalib Academy that has brought an edition of Diwan-e-Ghalib in Hindi with the meanings of the difficult words. Besides, there is need of the hour that most of the famous literature in Urdu be translated in Hindi for the non-Muslim Urdu lovers, believes Jain. At least the Devnagri version should be printed.

Michael H Anderson, editor of the American monthly "Span" was the honoured guest at the concluding session who gave away the awards at the concluding ceremony to the Urdu debaters in which Farhan Baig (Delhi University) stood first while Mohd Mubashshir Hussain (Jamia Millia Islamia) stood second. Maimana Khatoon and Naushad Alam, both from JNU, stood third and fourth respectively. Anderson said that he would make these awards a regular feature and that he was glad to see so many Muslim youngsters getting the right kind of education at the Jamia University. He specially pointed out that the students behaved excellently.

A very positive feature of the book fair was the immense number of books on children’s literature including coloured pictures’ storybooks published in colour. Most of the titles were from the NCPUL that got translated more than 300 titles for children in just two years – no mean achievement in so short a time. Hamidullah Bhat said that he was agonized at the dearth of children’s literature and decided to get most of the books of Children’s Book Trust. Earlier children’s standard books were published by Khilona Book Depot (now closed) and Maktaba Al-Hasanat. One can safely gauge that Urdu’s future is safe. 

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