For the Love of Urdu.


I have been reading Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi lately, and even though I can’t comprehend half of it, I feel enamored by it.  Not just with the way he writes, or what he writes about, but the vehicle of his expression: the language.  Not just trite, repetitive trash that passes off as ‘fiction’ these days, but refined and rich language that reminds one of what Urdu is (or was) all about.  Words and sentences that create a flurry in one’s mind, and add color to one’s imagination.

The greatest asset of an expressive language is not merely being a means of ‘communication’; rather it’s giving meaning and, layers of meanings to things small and large.  It is this expansiveness of words that gives life to ideas and concepts.  If words or their usage become obsolete, that much of meaning and understanding is also lost.  This is the greatest tragedy faced by Urdu today.  The Urdu as it was known, and what it represented in its heyday of literary achievements and scholarly output is arguably no more.  What little use of proper Urdu and its appreciation remains in our collective conscience must be preserved.

The following excerpt from towards the end of first chapter of Yusufi’s ‘Aab-e-Gumm’, I found it amusing yet true.


مرزا اکثر طعنہ دیتے ہیں کہ تم ان معدودے چند

لوگوں میں سے ہو جنہوں نے متروکہ جائداد کا کوئ کلیم داخل نہیں کیا

وجہ یہ کہ چلتے وقت تم اپنے ساتھ متروکات کا دفینہ کھود کر

! سموچا ڈھو کر پاکستان لے آئے

تفنن برطرف اگر ان میں سے ایک لفظ جی ہاں

صرف ایک لفظ بھی دوبارہ رائج ہو گیا تو سمجھوں گا عمر بھر کی محنت سوارت ہوئ


One needs to read Yusufi, to see the sheer humor in this excerpt.  I thought the use of word ‘matruka’ was quite clever.  Whether the person the person who said it intended it the same way as I am interpreting it, it does get the point across at so many levels, that Urdu words and terms are becoming antiquated.

But, the question is; if something has become obsolete, what is it replaced with?  And, what are the reasons?

Urdu really is becoming ‘matruka’, left off, unclaimed, irrelevant…

…Because of the cultural and social status we have accorded it.  It is considered unbecoming to use it in formal settings (and increasingly in informal ones too).

…Because, we are required to read, write, and understand ideas, concepts, skills – knowledge – in a language other than Urdu.  I’m not against it, I’m utilizing this very language.  But, the lack of emphasis on Urdu has meant that ideas, concepts, ethical precepts, religious injunctions, that are all by far and large better explained, or need to be explicated in Urdu, for the general masses, are overlooked.  If the ‘educated’ ones are failing at this, this could only result in gradual irrelevance and loss of language, and with it such crucial knowledge.

What is happening to us, more complex than ‘loss’ of language, but it is a critical aspect of this dilemma, this ‘loss’ of culture.

وہ لہر نہ پھر دل میں جاگی وہ رنگ نہ لوٹ کے پھر آیا


There’s no particular reason for singling out Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s words, while writing this little article, except that his Urdu is extremely expressive (and hard!), and I had the epiphany of writing this down, while reading Yusufi.  I’m learning Urdu, for which reasons are many (some discussed above), and this is just a small token of appreciation.  As I learn and understand it more, I intend to cherish the fact that I ‘know’ it.  For now this should suffice.


یہ افسانہ اگرچہ سرسری ہے

ولے اس وقت کی لذت بھری ہے



3 thoughts on “For the Love of Urdu.

  1. Mehnat ‘akaarut’ honay ka tou suna that , ‘sawaarut’ honay ka kisne suna hoga ! The way Mushtaq Ahmad plays around with Urdu-words , one’s forced to wonder how modifiable , how potentially rich our language is for expression of subtle sentiments. I’ve read aab-e-gum and I can relate to how its style ( and style only ! I can’t even recall what the story was about ! ) keeps the reader glued despite all it complexity. Good to know there are still some people who enjoy such master-pieces .

    • I’m sure there’s a good number of people around who have such a literary taste. You just have find them. 😀

      I also started Yusufi with Aab-e-Gumm, and decided I need to get 4 of his books. And, I did!

      • There are still a good number of people with such literary taste ? Bet there aren’t ! I can finger-count their number in girl-part of my class.

        About your buying 4 of his books , good luck that you get to read them too! For I think ,the bulkier your shopping is at a book-fair , the less likely you are to read ’em too ! True story 🙂

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