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May 2009

(The write-up is based on Pathway to Pakistan)

Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan, father of the Muslim nation in India, who had on many occasions talked of Hindus and Muslims as two eyes of the country was so bitterly disappointed over the language controversy started by Saroda Charan Bannerji in 1869 that he told Mr. Shakespeare, the Commissioner of Banares, that there was no chance of restoring friendly relations with the sister community after the language controversy. No one need be surprised at the importance which the Muslims attached to the Urdu language; for the riots, murders and killings in Indian provinces over the language issue since partition, between the Hindus themselves, has fully justified the Muslim feelings, fears and apprehensions.

Nawab Mohsinul Mulk, Secretary of the Aligarh College at the time, had held in 1900, at the invitation of the Muslims of the city, a conference in the defence of Urdu which was attended by many Nawabs with their 'Quail cages', to protest against the Governor's order recognizing Hindi. It was in this meeting that Nawab Mohsinul Mulk read the verse 'It is the coffin of Urdu, let it be taken out with great �clat.'

Lucknow had one Urdu bi-weekly newspaper, Oudh Akhbar, which had been brought out by Munshi Nawalkishore who had rendered great service to the Urdu and Persian languages. The other paper was Oudh Punch which is still remembered for its satirical and humorous writings. The editor was Sajjad Hussain of Kakori. Some of its contributors were well-known men like Jawala Prasad Barq, Zarif, Tribhawan Nath Hijr and Akbar Allahabadi. They were not newspapers but views-papers catering to the tastes of the citizens of Lucknow. Akbar Allahabadi had made the Delhi Durbar held by Lord Curzon memorable by writing a satirical poem about the festive activities in Delhi. The Delhi Durbar also gave an opportunity to Nawab Mohsinul Mulk to invite H.H. the Aga Khan to preside over the Muslim Educational Conference. Maulana Nazir Ahmad, in introducing the young and handsome President to the audience, read a verse eulogizing him profusely.

The services of Lucknow to the cause of Urdu may be, if at all, matched by Delhi. But after the glory of Delhi had faded into the background, Lucknow became the home of Muslim poets and artists.; As a matter of fact it was not the migration of particular classes from Delhi to Lucknow but the migration of the Muslim cultural heritage. The well-known poets who migrated from Delhi to Lucknow or Fyzabad were Mir, Sauda, Mushafi, Insha, Mir Khaliq and many others. The local talent, consisting of Nasikh, Atish, Wazir, Saba and others, also added to the poetic glory of the age of Lucknow. Mir Khaliq's son Mir Anis and his competitor Mirza Dabir excelled in epic-dirge poetry; Mir Anis has no equal in the art since his time. 

In fact the Moharram ceremony for which Lucknow is well known was evolved and developed under the poetic genius of epic-dirge poets. The art of Masnawi (connected poem) writing in improved form was introduced by Mir Hasan in Lucknow. He was later on followed by Daya Shankar Nasim who wrote Gulzar-i-Nasim and they are supposed to be even now without any competitors. Following them, Hakim Tasadduq Hussain, known as Nawab Mirza Shauq, wrote Masnawi Zahr-i-Ishq which was banned by the British for its seductive effects on young lovers. Story-writing in Urdu was started by Mirza Rajab Ali Saroor in very grandiloquent style. Thereafter Pandit Ratannath Sarshar wrote Fasana-i-Azad, and sometime later Tilism-i-Hosh Ruba in several volumes was written by Ahmad Hasan Qamar. The first drama in Urdu language was written by Amanat in Lucknow. The art of story-telling (Dastan Goi) was also greatly developed by the Lucknow intellectuals. Mirza Toor was one of the pioneers of the art and next to him came Mir Fida Ali, his younger brother. Nawab Hadi Ali Khan had a superb style of story-telling. As a matter of fact it was not the story but the manner of narrating it, with suitable poses of the body, the rise and fall in the tone and the glum and glare in the eyes which by themselves were remarkable feats of expression.


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