Gems of Deccan: An Interesting Take on Urdu Poets and Writers of Deccan

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Journalist and author J.S. Ifthekhar presenting a copy of his book ‘Urdu Poets and Writers: Gems of Deccan’ to Vice-President of India Venkaih Naidu.

BOOK REVIEW

A beautifully weaved compendium that juxtaposes poets and writers of Deccan spawning over 400 years.

Syed Khaled Shahbaaz | Clarion India

“PICTURESQUE palaces, iconic monuments and lip-smacking cuisine is not the only legacy of Deccan”, avers seasoned journalist J.S. Ifthekhar, whose sweet tooth for Urdu literature is very well encapsulated in his latest book ‘Urdu Poets and Writers: Gems of Deccan’. A fortnight ago, while glinting through his book, Vice President of India Venkaih Naidu reiterated the succulence of Urdu language, when he exclaimed ‘Urdu is one of the most beautiful languages of the world.” And why not, if the opening couplet by the preface reveal:

Saleeqe se hawaon mein wo khushbu ghol sakte hain;

Abhi kuch log baaqi hain jo Urdu bol sakte hain

For over four centuries, the Deccani populace has rooted for and cherished exquisite literary tastes in the form of Mushairas, Mehfils, some as a profession and the rulers as a regal hobbyhorse. The author abstractly documents the personas and intros of several larger-than-life poets and writers whose work continues to rule hearts even centuries later. It is not just for Urdu aficionados but for anyone with a penchant for Urdu poetry or even the faintest crush on its nuances.

The author painstakingly puts together the compilation of cherry-picked couplets, some with abiding English translations for reader’s comprehension. The magniloquence of the rhythmic couplets to the bare bones humor of Deccani stand up comics, if there was ever a formidable Urdu poet with a connection to Deccan, this is the go-to book to find them. For instance, the author delves into historical depths to mention the Hyderabad connection of one of the world’s most famous poets – Allama Iqbal.

In another instance, while describing Amjad Hyderabadi, he explains how tragedy triggered his poetic outpour when he lost his family to the 1908 deluge of Hyderabad. Same goes with Shaz Tamkanath, who penned an intense first verse after losing his mother. There are several anecdotal references. While describing Maqdoom Mohiuddin’s composition

“Aap ki yaad aati rahi raat bhar;

Chashm-e-num muskurati rahi raat bhar”, 

he points out how his poetry glorified the hit Hindi film Bazaar.

With aptly titled chapters and diversity in anthology, the book differs from the stereotypical presentation one would otherwise find in books on Urdu poets or literature. Rather, the author’s presentation exudes his romanticity with Urdu literature, even as his business as a journalist for leading English daily by the day kept him preoccupied.

One can find this literary composition sporadically suffused with fascinating nuggets of history. The author, for instance, lets chronicles shine subtly as he mentions Quli Qutub Shah’s poetic prayer while laying the foundation of the city. He effortlessly positions Faseeh Urdu (Chaste Urdu) phrases pertinently, in the process, adding a romantic aura to the narration. For instance, he writes:

“Apart from modelling Hyderabad on the lines of the legendary Isfahan in Iran, he gave a thrust to literary activity. Known as the first saheb-e-saif-o-qalam, he was proficient both with the sword and pen.”

‘The Gems of Deccan’ is a riveting tribute to the rich linguistic, cultural and social legacy of Deccani poets that continues to rule hearts above religious divides even in contemporary times. During the citizenship protests early last year, Urdu poetry, particularly by Faiz Ahmed Faiz was the voice of protest for countless Indians. Several budding poets voiced their dissent in a poetic way.

From documenting the patrons of art and culture to the Nizam of Hyderabad’s literary tastes, from Daagh Dehlvi to Mujtaba Hussain, who the author rightly describes as, ‘the Mark Twain of Urdu Humour’, from women humorists to the literary flair in the weekly editorials of Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, and emerging genre of the ‘poetry of protest’, each of the 326-pages of the book captures a seamless disposition of the finesse and charm of Urdu poets and writers, documented so interestingly that one may find oneself wanting to read more.

The beautifully storified narration shines light on the author’s gift of the gab influenced by his penchant for Urdu. As apparent as it seems, this compilation about Urdu highbrows of the Deccan is something utterly unprecedented. The Gems of Deccan is a must-have piece of historic rhapsody on Urdu literature, weaved by juxtaposing the works of 51 poets and writers of Deccan spawning over 400 years through time.

The book is priced at Rupees 500 per piece and is available currently in hard back cover from the offices of Media Plus at GunFoundry and Siasat Urdu Daily in Hyderabad. Non-local enthusiasts can avail the book via post by contacting the author on 9440055478 or order online at Amazon.in

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The author is a Hyderabad-based journalist. He may be reached at [email protected]

 

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