The essence of language

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Intizar Husain

I am never in a hurry when I come across a book which appears to be thought-provoking. I take my time in reading it and let it sink in. But if I have chosen to speak in a hurry about Ahmad Ali Khan`s book In Search of Sense: My Years as a Journalist with particular reference to its last part, mostly comprising letters written in Urdu, there is a reason for this. It has been suggested that the Urdu texts could be excluded, their English versions being adequate.

Seen from another angle, this juxtaposition of language will appear most sensible. In academic circles much importance is attached to the original text of a work under research in whatever language it is. A genuine researcher will never rely solely on the translated version of the work, no matter how correct and fine it is. He will try his best to have access to the original text. That will help in making his research work authentic.

It was sensible of Naveed Ahmad Tahir to include the Urdu letters in the book under discussion. That has added to the value of this book. This is more relevant with reference to Hajra Masroor. In the annals of the Progressive WritersMovement she stands tall as a female short story writer, second to none other than Ismat Chughtai. In a way she has provided a facility to anyone doing research on Hajra Masroor, who will now have easy access to Hajra`s personal letters to her husband in their original form.

These letters that are vibrant with deep emotions speaking of a sensitive wife`s excessive love for her husband, and also of intense maternal love for her fast growing child, have a worthof their own. How happy she is to see her little baby learning fast what is being taught. And how exuberantly she communicates all this to the baby`s father.

Written in this vein they appear as exquisitely written pieces of prose carrying a literary value of their own.Infactwhen seen as a part of Hajra`s writings these prose pieces are bound to find a place among the best selected samples of her work. So how can any translation, howsoever fine, serve as a replacement ofthe original? As for Ahmad Ali Khan, though himself an Englishlanguage journalist, he chose to write letters in Urdu, and not only to his wife. When Abdullah Malik wanted information from Ahmad Ali Khan about the government`s takeover of Progressive Papers, he wrote to him at length in Urdu providing the required information.

While discussing journalism in Pakistan too, he off and on speaks about contemporary Urdu literature.He didn`t find contemporary Urdu literature to be in a satisfactory situation. He was also not happy to see that certain Urdu writers had switched to writing their columns in English. In particular, he pointed to four such writers Safdar Mir, Amar Jalil, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, and myself.

Ironically, in respect of Safdar Mir and I, he himself was responsible for encouragement to come to the other side of the fence.

He was also not happy to see that his wife Hajra had stopped writing. In one letter to her, he has tried to encourage her to start writing again. He has put before her alternatives to her shortstory writing: writing an autobiography, translation of a book, book reviews, and perhaps off and on an article on current affairs. He offers his services to translate the articles into English. We don`t know how Hajra responded to these suggestions.

One thing in the end.

Khan Sahib has talked with love about his comrades in the Progressive Papers but I wonder why he is silent about the events and reasons behind a crisis in Imroze. It was this crisis which resulted in Maulana Chiragh Hasan Hasrat`s resignation along with his staff, I being one of them.

Intizar Husain, “The essence of language,” in Dawn, June 7, 2015. Accessed on June 7, 2015, at:

The item above written by Intizar Husain and published in Dawn on June 7, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on June 7, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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