Dilli ke na the kuche/ Auraq-e-mussavir the. Jo shakl nazar aayi/ Tasveer nazar aayi.
(It wasn’t the lanes and streets of Delhi: It was the pages of an album. Each and every face that one saw Was a painting.) – Mir Taqi Mir
The thriving Urdu literary culture of 18th and 19th century in North Indian cities of Delhi and Lucknow that remained vigorous and resilient even at the face of glaring defeat in 1857 at the hands of ‘Company Bahadur’ is the subject of the book ‘The Sun That Rose from the Earth’ by noted Urdu poet and critic Shamsur Rahman Faruqi.
Only last month, his earlier book The Mirror of Beauty, also describing the high Urdu literary culture of 19th century, was long-listed for the prestigious USD 50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
First published in the Urdu as ‘Savaar aur Doosre Afsaane’ in 2001 and translated in English by Faruqi himself, the book is a collection of five stories written between 1999-2012, all having a similar quest, “to rehabilitate in people’s mind ,” as Faruqi himself puts it, “the vigour and resilience of Urdu poetry amidst decaying imperial Mughal rule.”
Although fictional, the stories are replete with historical figures of Urdu literature like Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir, Shaikh Mushafi, Budh Singh Qalandar, Kanji Mal Saba, and are set in the historical background of 18-19th century, some in the immediate aftermath of the calamity of 1857, thus placing the book in the category of historical fiction.
The stories are woven around the historical personage of these towering Urdu poets, and represent a quest for mastering the nuances and subtleties of their poetry. Faruqi, the noted Urdu literary critic is never missed in these stories, and often the protagonists of his stories not only chase, idealise and romanticise these great poets, but also discuss and critique them.
These Urdu poets, whose verses and shadows loom large in his stories, are drawn from a diverse Hindu-Muslim background to deconstruct the popular notion that equates Urdu with the language of Muslims. Budh Singh Qalandar, Kanji Mal Saba, Ikhlas were all Hindus.
“Urdu was not the property of Muslims alone,” says Faruqi, as he laments its association in the 20th century with the language of the Muslim Lashkar (army), or the language that caused partition.