Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry by Khushwant Singh and Kamna Prasad

Review by Ashutosh Singh

It was not long ago that I stumbled upon an interview of Munnar Rana (one of the living legends of Urdu poetry). The most fascinating thing he stated was that ‘Urdu’ is purely a language originated in India. Also, the Urdu dictionary contains just 110 odd words of its own, the other 70% words are from Hindi and other languages. These facts kindled an urge to read more of it. The books currently present for starters are not much, most of the poetry books present right now are written in either Arabic or Devanagari scripts with no explanations to the poetry. “Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry” crosses these barriers and is perfect for anyone who needs an introduction to Urdu poetry. It was published in 2007. The poetry and ghazals are selected by Khushwant Singh and Kamna Prasad. Khushwant Singh was and still is one of the best Indian writer and columnist, recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards. The poems are printed in Hindi (Devanagari) as well as in English phonetics; the same is then artistically translated and explained in English by Mr. Singh. Most of the translations are ingenious and ends up being poems in themselves with soothing rhymes. The book covers the excerpts of the masterpieces of the Urdu poetry and ghazals from 17th to the 20th century. It starts with an introduction from Mr. Singh, which talks about the rise, decline and beauty of Urdu language. The book is compartmentalized chronologically, with a brief history of the poet and then his verses. Few lines from the introduction part “Maangey Allah se bas itni dua hai Rashid main jo Urdu mein vaseeyat likhoon beta parh ley (All Rashid asks of Allah is just one small gift; if i write my will in Urdu, may my son be able to read it.)” The book is a bottle of wine, not to be gulped at once but to be savoured sip by sip. Somewhere you will definitely find verses with which one can closely relate to. Books like such may create few more followers of the intricate but amazingly soothing language, which is on the verge of its demise.

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