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Magical and Realistic

Rana Nayar

By Joginder Paul. Translated by Vibha S. Chauhan
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 120, Rs. 195.00


In his book Redefining Urdu Politics in India (OUP, 2007), Ather Farouqui raised some very pertinent questions regarding the past, present and future of Urdu language in India. Among other things, he rued the fact that one of the primary reasons for the gradual shrinkage of public space for the Urdu language in India was its increasing identification with the Muslim community. Three points need to be emphasized here. One, considering that the Muslim population in India has only increased and not dwindled over the years, do we assume that the Urdu language has now lost out on its traditional patronage of the Muslims, too? Two, this tendency to identify languages with ethnic and religious groups is nothing but a wayward form of social perception, and not empirically verifiable. Three, though this might actually be the case with Urdu language in India, the history of Urdu literary culture definitely does suggest otherwise.   Or else how would we give due recognition and fair assessment to such non-Muslim literary stalwarts as Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishnan Chander, Balraj Komal and Joginder Paul, among others, without attempting a wholesale re-visioning of the Urdu literary culture? Put simply, the historical reasons for the gradual decline of the popularity of Urdu language in India are far too complex and numerous to be reduced to a simple mathematical equation. Besides, it is very important to recognize the contribution of the non-Muslim writers and poets by acknowledging the way in which they have not only taken ownership of the language, but also shaped or re-shaped Urdu literary history, even culture, down the ages.   Joginder Paul’s literary career, spreading well over six decades now, is a fair testimony to the way in which Urdu language and literature have undergone a major paradigm shift, even transformation at the hands of non-Muslims. Starting his literary career with the publication of his first story in Saqi, a Lucknow-based magazine, somewhere in 1945, he has, over the years, contributed as many as 19 works of short and long fiction to the ever-burgeoning repertoire of Urdu literature. While Dharti Ka Lal (1961), Main Kyon Sochoon (1962) Mati Ka Idrak (1970), Be Muhavara (1978), Be Irada (1983), Khudu Baba Ka Maqbara (1994) and Parinde (2000) are some of his well-known collections of short stories; his other works include Bayanat (1975) and Amad Ki Raft (1975), two novellas, and Nadeed (1983) and Khawab-i-rau (1990), two equally significant novels. However, Joginder Paul’s formidable reputation as a writer does not ...

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