Book launch: Hadi Ruswa’s ‘forgotten’ work translated

The book is a translation by Fulbright alum Taimoor Shahid and Indian professor Krupa Shandilya.

Our Correspondent July 13, 2014


A translation of renowned Urdu poet Muhammad Hadi Ruswa’s short text novella, “Junun-e-Intezar” titled “Madness of Waiting: The Story of Muhammad Hadi Ruswa” was launched during a ceremony at the United States Education Foundation (USEFP) office on Friday evening.

The book is a translation by Fulbright alum Taimoor Shahid and Indian professor Krupa Shandilya. Shahid was also present at the event

Poet and social activist Harris Khalique, who moderated the session, applauded Shahid’s acumen and command over both, Urdu and English, commenting, “The book has been brilliantly translated and must be celebrated.”

He further added the uninformed reader might not be able to discern whether it is a translation or an actual English poem. He also drew parallels between the semi-fictional novella with the many versions of the movie ‘Devdas’, where Parvati may be Umrao Jan’s counterpart and Chunder Mukhi that of an English beloved, Sophia --- the embodiment of a colonial relationship.

Shahid, who writes poetry in both English and Urdu, said the translation celebrates the madness of an enamored Ruswa.

What is less known is that the great Urdu poet penned the short text soon after writing his 1899 magnum opus, ‘Umrao Jaan Ada,’ a fictionalised account of a Lucknow courtesan and poetess. “Madness of Waiting” is told from the perspective of Umrao Jan, who serves as both narrator and literary device in the novella.

The story combines letters and poetry to draw readers into Ruswa’s passion-fueled and tragic life-story in undivided India.

The underlying tension between the two female characters was aptly illustrated in an excerpt that Taimoor first rendered during the ceremony. Other themes in the book include postcolonial politics, the 1857 crackdown by colonials and the state and an era when dark skin was considered a standard of beauty, in the literary milieu of late nineteenth century Lucknow.

Much of the text in the book is versified in masnavi (poem written in Persian) form, with textual interjections by Umrao Jaan, Shahid explained, was a “semi-fictional, possibly real courtesan in the North Indian city of Lucknow”.

USEFP Executive Director Rita Akhtar was also full of praise for Taimoor and commented “Taimoor’s success as an academic and translator exemplifies the need to raise the profile of Pakistan’s national language and the need for greater academic discourse on the literary history of South Asia.”  His focus on the philosophy and history and literature of South Asia makes him the only recent Fulbright candidate to have studied the Urdu language as part of a degree program at a US university, she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2014.


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