Urdu mein Ramkath
By Kulsum Mustafa
Milli Gazette Online
Lucknow: Padamshri late Ali Jawwad Zaidi's contribution to Urdu literature is enough to have earned him a permanent place in the hearts of Urdu lovers.
Born in 1916, into a conservative Shia Muslim family in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pardesh, Zaidi literary kitty has over 100 published works, original and translated to his credit. He was not just a writer but also a poet and broadcaster. A linguist he wrote not just in Urdu but also in Hindi, English and Persian. Winner of many awards including the prestigious Sahitya Academy and Anis Awards, Zaidi also holds the rare distinction of having had two PhDs awarded to two research scholars on his work during his life time.
Fired by a zeal to make a difference in the lives of people his writings mirror the thoughts and a strong conviction that the values of secularism and patriotism should not just be believed in but should be disseminated among the masses. Zaidi did this through his writings and research work on Urdu mein
But it is a paradox that his work on Urdu mein Ramkatha on which he had worked devotedly for the last 20 years of his life, despite failing vision and deteriorating health remained unrecognized, and unpublished. Zaidi breathed his last on December 6, 2004. In fact very few people know that Zaidi had done intensive work on gathering information on over 300 Ramayans written in Urdu which he discovered lying all over the country.The maximum number were in Awadh. Zaidi compiled and cataloged these books. For him it was not just another literary pursuit but an attempt to bridge a gap between the Hindus and Muslims.
It was Zaidi's way of mirroring through literature the famous Ganga Jamni tehzeeb for which Awadh culture is known world wide.
Zaidi's research revealed that the first Ramayan in Urdu was written by Jaganaath Khushtar some 150 years ago. Tittled Adbhut Ramayana the book was printed, published at Lucknow's Nawal Kishore press. The first Ramayan was translated into Persian during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. This paved the way for translations in many other regional languages. Tulsidas's Ramcharitya Manas was first published in Urdu during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. In all these Urdu versions of the holy book the name of the author came first in the titles like, Ulfat ki ramayan and Rahmat ki Ramayana etc.
Zaidi could gather the tittles and details of over 300 such books. Failing eye-sight, poor health came in his way of getting ahead in the work.
In one of the last interviews that I did with him just two weeks before he passed away, he described in detail how he first got to read the
Founder member of the All India Students Federation it was in the Lucknow District jail during the Civil Disobedience that Zaidi first got to read the Ramayan in Urdu. He decided that he would find out if there were any others of this kind. He did write an article on the subject that generated a lot of detail and some information about such Ramayans. But it was full 50 years later in the eighties after his retirement from Press Information Bureau that he finally got to work on the subject so dear to his heart. While in the early stage he worked alone, he later sought information from different universities and Urdu academies on the subject through a performa. Ramlal Naagvi of Punjab and Birla Trust helped him to further his research. The former with information and the latter with financial aid.
But the task was difficult and required lot of leg work, which was not possible for Zaidi who was not keeping good health. "I want to leave this rich legacy for the future generations, but I am afraid that it is already too late," his once powerful voice was as frail as his weak, shrunken body.
Ironically on 6 December, the day Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya, Zaidi died, his research remained incomplete and his dream of seeing his life long work in print unfulfilled. Sadly, that barely 140 km from Ram ki nagri in Ayodhya a devout Muslim spent the last years of his life working in Ramkatha in Urdu but none of the so-called Ram bhakts seemed to care. «
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