COLUMN: A touch of humour

By Intizar Husain |  | 1 day ago

MAULANA Muhammad Husain Azad and Deputy Nazir Ahmad are two distinguished names in the early generation of Urdu prose writers. From among those following these giants, Mirza Farhatullah Baig stands distinguished because of his cultured prose style. It is gratifying to see that Oxford University Press has chosen to publish him under its
series “Jadid Urdu Classics”.

Compiled by Ajmal Kamal, the five volumes are from the articles he himself had compiled and published during his stay in Hyderabad State. Those collections, published long before Partition, were not available in Pakistan till now. Kamal has written the foreword and has provided the necessary information about the author.

Farhatullah Baig had the opportunity to learn Arabic from Deputy Nazir Ahmad. If now Baig is known as a great prose writer with a distinct style of his own, we may safely assume that the influence of the mentor too has played a part in this
respect. His character sketch of Nazir Ahmad clearly shows us how near and dear he was to his teacher.

In fact, it was after the publication of this sketch that he was recognised as a writer in the true sense. As he himself confesses, he wanted to pay homage to his mentor and benefactor yet was hesitant to write about him as he, while talking about his virtues, could not ignore his weak points. It was under the pressure of Maulvi Abdul Haq that he gathered the courage to write about Deputy Nazir Ahmad honestly. This character sketch was published in Anjuman’s journal Urdu, and without a pseudonym. And with this publication a writer was born, winning admirers far and wide, foremost among them Sir Ross Masood and Sir Akbar Hyderi. Encouraged by the recognition this piece bought, Baig wrote a few more character sketches and soon came to be known as the leading sketch writer of his times.

Soon after, two articles — Bahadur Shah Aur Phool Wallon Ki Sair and 1261 Hijri Main Delhi Ka Aik Mushaira — won him accolades for depicting Delhi as it existed in the years before 1857. What a lively description of the great city we get to read.

Baig brings to life its poets, its seasonal festivities, its religious rituals and its sophisticated manners. The description of the city transforms into a portrayal of a culture. Who could have foreseen that this resplendent culture would soon disintegrate with the fall of the city and the end of the Mughals. As depicted by Baig, Delhi’s appears to be a secular culture, giving due respect to the religious traditions of both the Hindus and the Muslims, ruled by a king respectful to different religious sensibilities.

Baig had evolved for himself a lively way of writing in which he always appears to be in a pleasant mood. He was endowed with a sense of humour which did not allow him to be dull in his expression and he came to be known as a humourist. In this respect, too, Baig stands distinguished because of the cultured way in which he expresses himself. Azmatullah Khan had defined his humour as light humour which does not provoke laughter, yet makes us smile and feel elated.

Even when Baig is engaged in critical appraisal of poetry, or involved in some kind of research, he somehow maintains this light mood. His research on Khwaja Aman, who is known as the translator of Bostan-i-Khiyal, offers such an example.

Baig was a prolific writer and wrote on a variety of subjects. The five volumes under discussion may be taken as the best selections from his vast store of writings.


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