Interview: The Urdu professor of Uzbekistan

Published: December 12, 2011
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Dr Tash Mirza has written a compact Urdu-Uzbek dictionary, shown above. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Dr Tash Mirza has written a compact Urdu-Uzbek dictionary, shown above. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Dr Tash Mirza has written a compact Urdu-Uzbek dictionary, shown above. PHOTO: EXPRESS
Dr Tash Mirza has written a compact Urdu-Uzbek dictionary, shown above. PHOTO: EXPRESS

TASHKENT: In the middle of Central Asia, a professor has studied and taught Urdu for over half a century.

Professor Dr Tash Mirza is as passionate about the language now as he was in 1961, when he completed his doctorate in Urdu from Moscow University. His studies have taken him as far as Delhi, though his home for almost all his life has been Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

Mirza frequently visits Pakistan and India to attend seminars and conferences on Urdu literature. Now 75, he teaches Urdu at the city’s State Institute of Oriental Studies.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Mirza says that Pakistan is his second home. From 1983 to 1987 he was the director of the Soviet Culture Centre in Karachi; he retains a strong attachment to the city.

Recognising his long service to the Urdu language in Central Asia, the Pakistani government honoured him with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2011.

“I used to go to Pakistan two or three times a year. Recently, I attended the concluding functions and seminars regarding Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s centenary celebrations.” Faiz and Allama Iqbal, Mirza says, are the two totems of Urdu literature, although his admiration extends to many classical poets.

“Iqbal has a special place. There is a translation of his poetry in the Uzbek language, in which research has also been conducted. On December 22 we are going to organize a grand function on Allama Iqbal here in Tashkent.” Faiz’s poetry has also been translated into Uzbek, Mirza says, by a student in his department.

Mirza is concerned about the different trajectories Urdu is taking. “I feel it is going on two different platforms, and becoming a different language in Pakistan and Hindustan (India). I have been researching the characteristics of Pakistani Urdu and Indian Urdu, what is common and what is different between them.”

He has also written a compact Urdu-Uzbek dictionary, and he translates in both directions. Recently he published Urdu translations of several poems by Ali Sher Naovi, a renowned Uzbek poet.

However, disappointment can be glimpsed in his eyes when Mirza talks about the lack of interest from the Pakistani government in his Urdu Department in Tashkent. “Urdu has been taught here since 1947, but no single teacher from Pakistan has come here, which is really disappointing, though I know Urdu teachers from Pakistan go to different countries,” he says.

“Everywhere you will see professors from Pakistan but I don’t know why we have not been honoured with any teacher from Pakistan.”

There are more than 50 students currently learning Urdu at the institute – and all of them, Mirza says, want to visit Pakistan. Despite their enthusiasm, they face difficulties. “Despite the great wishes of our students to visit Pakistan, no such opportunity has been given to them yet.”

Mirza’s great ambition is to write a Urdu-Russian dictionary, and he has already started work on this project. “Publishing this dictionary is my mission now. I have to seek a publisher in Pakistan to publish it for the sake of the Urdu language. It will be a real asset for Russian students of Urdu.”

Concerning his award from the Pakistan government, he is delighted and modest. “I wonder if I am worthy of such a great honour or not. On August 15, one of my friends in Pakistan called me and congratulated me. At first, I was thinking it is because of Independence Day so I also congratulated him in return. But he said, ‘No, your name is in the list of Sitara-e-Imtiaz’. At first, I took it as a joke but then I read it in newspapers.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • anon
    Dec 12, 2011 - 1:01PM

    Thank you for all the work you have done for Urdu and for Pakistan.

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  • Bill
    Dec 12, 2011 - 3:37PM

    this is a great thing to know about Tash Mirza. we should give him more respect and love and support to his institute regarding urdu. our government should take steps for it…

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  • Someone
    Dec 12, 2011 - 5:24PM

    This guy should be invited over to Pakistan and appointed as a professor in a university here

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  • Acorn Guts
    Dec 12, 2011 - 6:27PM

    Having being to Pakistan recently, I believe it will be appropriate to attach an Uzbek-English dictionary with this Uzbek-Urdu dictionary as Urdu alone won’t get you far any more (Unfortunate). Kudos to Mr. Mirza for stirring the otherwise very static language.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 12, 2011 - 7:33PM

    Pakistanis dont have any intrest in urdu they wanna be english KAWAY but some body else
    in central asia doing there job what a irony..

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  • Raaz
    Dec 12, 2011 - 10:35PM

    Yes he is a real legend of urdu in central AsiaRecommend

  • amir jafri
    Dec 13, 2011 - 12:54AM

    Pakistan is in the grip of the Ba Ba Blacksheep class, the ignoramuses from the english-medium. That “education” simply produces Jobbers and these Kavvas in swan’s attire are laughed at , ridiculed, and butt of jokes throughout the world. No one, but no one, is so eager to be enslaved than these Colony-dwellers ( lover to call their Mohallaas as Colonies). No one has ever advanced by trashing their own and taking PRIDE in it..” well I only know little urdu or simple urdu…implying as if they know english better”. The BEST writers in English speaking world are NOT from english medium …they are from either a Madressa or an URDU-medium TAAT school…I ahve PROOF of that.

    IYOu can NEVER NEVER NEVER advance in an alien tongie..Europe TRANSLATED, Arabs Translated, Today EVEY nation TRANSLATES in their own language to advance…and here these toata-mainaas, monkey-donkeys revel and rejoice in their new-found slavedom to trash everything that is local , indigenous or national.

    The ULTIMATE form of enslavement is when you yourself start hating your image in the mirror. Even your masters are bewildered at such mutation. You certainly are another species…on a lower evolutionary scale.

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  • Deb
    Dec 13, 2011 - 2:48AM

    Is Urdu the vernacular for majority of Pakistanis?

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  • khan
    Dec 13, 2011 - 4:52PM

    What the Urdu Adbiyat and other government based publishers doing?
    same corrupt system everywhere. I am sure the Urdu Russian Dictionary will be published by some private publishing agency in Pakistan

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  • Tomila
    Dec 13, 2011 - 7:21PM

    I was delighted to read that Professor Tash Mirza’s dedication to the Urdu language has received special recognition in Pakistan. He was my teacher of Urdu over 20 years ago at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies. He has been a huge inspiration to his students and a wonderful and dedicated teacher. He made us love Urdu language and appreciate its richness. It is a great pity that too few of such experts on Indian languages remain in the former USSR. He represents the Golden Age of Indian studies, which have sadly gone into decline in recent years. Few such experts remain in either Uzbekistan or Russia or other former Soviet states. May he teach Urdu for many more years!

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