NON-FICTION: A MASTER AT WORK
Dr Aslam Farrukhi wrote for Radio Pakistan and taught Urdu at the S.M. College, Central Government College and the University of Karachi | Asif Farrukhi
Make no mistake: the Urdu language is not losing its essence. Yes, the subcontinent’s partition has politicised its cultural significance. Yes, it is no more the language that Mir Taqi Mir or Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib wrote and spoke. Yes, it doesn’t seem to have, anymore, a Noon Meem Rashid to exploit the creative possibilities that it entails. But the fact remains that it is still, arguably, the most poetic, spoken and understood language on both sides of the Wagah Border (Hindi has many words and verb patterns in common with Urdu). And we, to date, have books written by writers in Urdu that bristle with idiomatic expression rooted in the soil and sentences strung together like diamonds in a necklace. The reference is to the inimitable Dr Aslam Farrukhi, a collection of whose works has been published by Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore, with the title Majmua: Dr Aslam Farrukhi. Readers of Urdu language and literature should be eternally grateful to the publishing house as Majmua is one of those rare books for which one can safely use the word ‘unputdownable’.
Farrukhi was a multifaceted writer. He wrote on a number of subjects — on Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, on the life and works of Mohammad Hussain Azad, critical essays, etc. What really made him stand out and identified him as someone in a league of his own was the biographical pen-sketches (khaake) that he wrote of eminent writers, poets and the people whom he befriended or interacted with in his lifetime. Majmua is a compilation of the khaake that Farrukhi penned over his career. It includes the following works: Aangan Mein Sitaare, Guldasta-i-Ahbaab, Laal Sabz Kabootaron Ki Chhatri, Mausam Bahar Jaise Loag, Raunaq-i-Bazm-i-Jahan and Saat Aasmaan.
The first, Aangan Mein Sitaare, is the perfect start to a rare linguistic journey because even if someone is not familiar with Farrukhi’s writings, she or he will immediately get the hang of his ability and the quality of his penmanship. One of the men he writes about in this section is the renowned Ghalib scholar Malik Ram. The first thing that stands out in Farrukhi’s narrative is the respect with which he introduces the scholar (introduces to his own world, that is, by way of going down memory lane) and the humbleness with which he doesn’t allow his own erudition to come in the way of his writing.
Writer, poet, scholar and broadcaster Dr Aslam Farrukhi’s pen-sketches are a unique treat
Guldasta-i-Ahbaab will be of great interest to those who want to familiarise themselves with the kind of intellectual nomenclature that Pakistan, and especially Karachi, was getting to be known for after independence. Here Farrukhi discusses colleagues such as Tabish Dehalvi and Shanul Haq Haqqi, who have had a profound influence on the post-Partition literary scene of the country. But he illuminates their worth by highlighting their individual facets — family background, educational qualifications and personality quirks. For example, when he writes about Dehalvi’s linguistic prowess, he dedicates a few paragraphs to the poet’s mother who was a cultured individual, knew thousands of Urdu verses by heart and was a stickler for correct pronunciation. She wouldn’t tolerate incorrect usage or pronunciation of Urdu words. Farrukhi writes that once he used the word peela [yellow] in front of her, to which she instantly objected and said, “Arre mian ye peela kia hota hai, zard kaho zard… rang zard hota hai [Why do you say peela, the word you should be using is zard].”
Now let’s come to the section that has assumed the importance of being one of the rare documents integral to the history of Urdu literature. It has become almost impossible not to mention Saat Aasmaan and Farrukhi in the same breath. His sketches of seven master poets of Urdu are a unique work of art — work of art, because if on the one hand they do justice to their subjects’ extraordinary lives and creative output, on the other hand it is Farrukhi’s writing that beautifully captures, through his sparkling prose, the milieu to which they belonged. Again, the element of utmost respect for the greats is unmissable. His sketches read like pieces of fiction based on true stories (perhaps that’s what they are). One says this because in Saat Aasmaan the author’s creative streak and linguistic flair get on like a house on fire. The section begins with the story of the greatest of them all, Mir Taqi Mir. Farrukhi writes in the third person and builds up the scene where he describes the poet’s sartorial sense and demeanour. The reader immediately gets absorbed in the narrative. The first verse that he quotes to underline the scene is: Sabr bhi keryay bala per Mir Sahib ji kabhi/ Jab na tab rona hi kurhna, ye bhi koi dhang hai [Mir Sahib, try and learn the virtue of patience/ You always grouse about one thing or another].
Finally, it would be unfair not to mention the piece titled Lazzat Aashna-i-Talkhi-i-Dauran from Laal Sabz Kabootaron Ki Chhatri. It is a triumph of storytelling, a script that reads like a period-drama screenplay without separating the dialogue from the [camera] directions. The central figure in the write-up is Shaukat, a man Farrukhi saw as a member of his household when he was growing up in pre-Partition India. The language is homespun, crisp and replete with phrasal twists and turns and the characters readily identifiable — a unique lingua-cerebral treat.
The reviewer is a member of staff
Majmua: Dr Aslam Farrukhi By Dr Aslam Farrukhi Sang-e-Meel, Lahore ISBN: 978-9693530025 840pp.
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, September 1st, 2017
Original Link: https://www.dawn.com/news/1355339/non-fiction-a-master-at-work