West indian literature

Gopi Chand Narang’s services to Urdu literature hailed

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KARACHI: The Pakistan Arts Council Karachi has organized an event to pay tribute to prominent Urdu critic Gopi Chand Narang who passed away on June 15 in the United States.

Distinguished poet Iftikhar Arif, who chaired the event on Friday night, said that in his later years, Mr Narang began to feel lonely. He played many roles in his life and did a number of jobs.

“I saw him in Jamia Millia as the head of the Urdu department. His differences with his colleagues are no secret. Then he became president of the Sahitya Akademi where he also went through different phases. What happens is that when you start a journey and you start to be successful in the beginning, you tend to feel alone. Being alone is one of the testimonies of his genius. People rally around mediocrity but they don’t rally around geniuses. He was lucky to have caught people’s attention from the start,” he said.

Out of Mr. Narang’s body of work, the poet pointed out that he was first noticed when he examined Hindustani tales and stories against the backdrop of Urdu masnavis. It was his first great critical enterprise which was recognized by all. And his last thesis was on Ghalib [Ghalib: Ma’ani Afrini, Jadiliyati Waza, Shunyata aur Sheiryat].

“I think that after the great works Yadgar-i-Ghalib by Altaf Husain Hali, Mahasin-i-Kalam-i-Ghalib by Abdur Rehman Bijnori and Ghalib Ashufta Nawa by Dr. Aftab Ahmed Narang, the book is the most important . His greatest achievement is to link the Urdu language to Indian soil. When he started writing, Urdu in India faced an atmosphere of prejudice. Urdu had played a role in the creation of Pakistan. Thus, after the establishment of the country, Urdu had to face political prejudice (siyasi ta’assub) in India.

“In such a situation, Narang adopted Urdu. As we all know, although it belonged to Muzaffargarh [Pakistan]was born in Dukki, Balochistan and emigrated to India after partition, he adopted Urdu at a time when it was synonymous with crime,” he said.

Earlier, Dr Nasir Abbas Nayyar, speaking from Lahore via video link (all other speakers except Mr Arif addressed the audience online), said: “Over the past years we have lost a considerable number of great people in the field of Urdu. Literature. Mr. Narang is one of them. The late critic was one of those who laid the foundation for our current understanding of Urdu literature.

“Everyone works, but if you accomplish feats [karnamey] while working, it is exceptional. We should be proud that in our society there have been people who have achieved feats, like Mr. Narang. He had a strong connection with Pakistan. The partition of the subcontinent was the most important period of his life as he moved to India and chose Urdu. At the time, the Urdu language had become a metaphor for the division of India. The Muslims who had decided to stay in India bore the brunt of the situation. Therefore, Mr. Narang’s connection with the Urdu language was of great importance as it would have seemed natural (fitri) if he had adopted Hindi,” he said.

Indian professor Shafay Kidwai shed light on the energy the late critic had even after he turned 90. “A little over a month ago I saw him speak for over an hour at an event.”

He added that Mr. Narang had authored more than 70 books.

Writer and critic M Hameed Shahid spoke about Mr Narang’s wonderful work on Ghalib saying that according to him we tried to discover Ghalib in unlikely places. “Something similar happened with Narang sahib,” he remarked.

Playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed said he was closely associated with the critic and had a conversation with him just 10 days before his death. He claimed that Narang’s work uncovered the collective wisdom of the subcontinent.

Dr. Satya Pal Anand told the audience that he and Mr. Narang were the same age.

Posted in Dawn, July 3, 2022

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