Shamsur Rahman Faruqi (1935-2020) ‘Link that unites old and new cultures’: tributes to the literary icon
New Delhi: He wrote in Urdu and English, and his library was probably one of the most impressive in Allahabad, with its 10,000 books in both languages, along with every issue of the New York Review of Books, dating back to its founding in 1963.
The writer Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, who died on December 25 at the age of 85, was revered in the world of contemporary Indian literature, but the awe he inspired sat easily on his shoulders. Although he is identified with serious literature, he once told this reporter, while showing his e-Reader, “This contains my suspense readings. John Grisham on Kindle is my sweet diary. “In more solemn moments, however, he confessed that his natural affinity was for pre-18th century sensibilities, but untouched by Western influences, emphasizing that he had a particular fondness for poets. Urdu and Persian.
A retired Indian Postal Service officer, Faruqi’s best known novel, The mirror of beauty, it was a great epic of the Mughal era, set largely in Delhi. He originally wrote it in Urdu (Kai Cha and the Sar-e-Aasmaan, 2006) and translated it himself into English, in 2013. His next book, The sun that came out of the earth, containing fictional stories by great Urdu poets, was part of his extensive life work, which includes an astonishing four-volume treatise on the poet Mir Taqi Mir. In fact, one of the projects he was busy with in his later years was translating Mir’s poems into English.
“His contribution is immense in Urdu adab (literature and history), tanquid (criticism) and tehqeeq (research),” says poet Iffat Zarrin, who has read all of Faruqi’s Urdu works. “He was the roshan sitara (shining star) of Urdu, a last link linking the old and the new tehzeeb (culture) and tareekh (period).”
Author TCA Raghavan, who frequently corresponded with Faruqi while working on an acclaimed biography of the poet Abdul Rahim, describes him as an extraordinary writer and scholar, who was also one of our great storytellers. “His immense knowledge about the culture of North India during the period of Mughal decline allowed him to create a universe different from the conventional view of previous centuries. Through Faruqi’s wonderful prose, we enter a world not of decay and decay, but of refinement, literary achievement, and enormous creativity. “
Faruqi placed his fiction in the cultural and literary past of the Indo-Muslim way of life in the 18th and 19th centuries, but never considered it a dead past. “I am not writing historical fiction. I’m writing about poetry, love, death, what it meant to be a poet, or a lover, or an Indian at that time. It was a very rich and significant period in our history, even though it has disappeared from our memory, ”he once told this reporter.
Very possessive about his book collection, Faruqi was especially proud of his 46 volumes of oral romance in Urdu, the Dastan-e Amir Hamza, which were printed by Munshi Nawal Kishore in Lucknow and Kanpur from 1888 to 1917. He also liked many English novelists and poets. Jane Austen Pride and prejudice it was the first English novel he read cover to cover when he was a 14-year-old boy; By then it was widely read in Urdu literature. At one point, he especially loved Thomas Hardy, so much so that he would read everything he could find by and about the author in the small town of Gorakhpur, where he (Faruqi) grew up.
Despite becoming a prominent figure in Urdu literature, Faruqi did not consider himself part of the establishment. In fact, through the defunct literary magazine Shabkhoon, which he once founded, published, and edited, would challenge the “hegemony” of the Urdu progressives by encouraging new writers to break free from standard doctrines.
In later years, she divided her time between Allahabad and Delhi, where one of her two daughters is a professor of English at Jamia Millia Islamia University. His wife, Jamila, died in 2007. Faruqi himself had recently recovered from Covid.
A quiet man, Faruqi was nevertheless a sophisticated snob. When asked why he lived in Allahabad, when he could have easily settled in cosmopolitan Delhi, he replied: “Delhi and Allahabad are almost the same. I would prefer New York. “