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LITERARY NOTES: Remembering Krishan Chander and Akhter-ul-Iman

LITERARY NOTES: Remembering Krishan Chander and Akhter-ul-Iman

While newspapers and magazines are switching over to e-publishing all over the world, it is nice to see that some Urdu literary magazines are not only surviving in the traditional mode but flourishing and publishing thick, voluminous issues one after another.

Two such magazines are Urdu adab, Delhi, and Irtiqa, Karachi. Both have recently come up with special issues, remembering two of Urdu literature’s towering figures: Krishan Chander and Akhter-ul-Iman.

Incidentally, the month of March marks death anniversaries of both the authors, but this writer received these issues just a little too late to be reviewed in March. But it is never too late to remember someone as iconic as these two are. So let us see, albeit a bit belatedly, what these special issues offer.




Founded by a group of progressive writers and intellectuals, Irtiqa is edited by Wahid Basheer and Dr Syed Jafer Ahmed. Wahid Basheer, a veteran journalist and trade unionist, passed away while the current issue was in the making. As announced by Dr Jafer Ahmed, Irtiqa will publish a special issue on Wahid Basheer soon.

Krishan Chander was a novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist and satirist. He penned some 60 books. According to the chronology published in the issue, penned by Nand Kishore Vikram, Krishan Chander was born on Nov 23, 1914, in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. He did his MA and obtained a degree in law from Lahore.

He worked for All India Radio from 1939 to 1942. In 1943, Krishan Chander joined W.Z. Ahmed‘s Shalimar Pictures as story writer and dialogue writer. In 1930s, he had begun writing short stories for Urdu literary journals.

Krishan Chander’s novel Aik gadhe ki sarguzasht (the life story of an donkey), and its sequels Aik gadhe ki vapsi (the return of the donkey) and Aik gadha Nifa mein (the donkey is Nifa) are some of his works that were much acclaimed for their wit and satire.

In these works, gadha, or donkey, symbolizes common man and by depicting its plight Krishan Chander satirizes the political system and social circumstances in India, though this more or less applies to Pakistan, too.

Krishan Chander was mired in a controversy when he married Salma Siddiqi, the daughter of Rasheed Ahmed Siddiqi, Urdu’s acclaimed satirist and academic. In an interview to Tahir Masood (later published in Tahir Masood’s book Ye soorat gar kuchh khwabon ke), Salma Siddiqi claimed that Krishan Chander had embraced Islam and was named Vaqar-ul-Mulk. Their nikah, according to her, took place in Nainital on July 7, 1961. But Malik Ram wrote that in Krishan Chander’s will there was no mention of the wedding.

Krishan Chander died on March 8, 1977, and was cremated according to traditional Hindu funeral rites (though Salma Siddiqi could not explain this in her interview).

Irtiqa’s current issue is aptly divided into four portions. The articles in the first portion highlight and critically evaluate Krishan Chander’s contribution to Urdu literature.

The second one offers special study of some of Krishan’s remarkable works, such as Kaloo bhangi, Jab khet jaage, Kachra baba and Ghaddaar. Some of his selected works have been reproduced in the third section.

The last one consists of Krishan’s interview, a discussion on Krishan’s art and a chronology of his life. Well-known scholars have contributed to the issue and some of the old but rare pieces too adorn it.

Irtiqa’s issue 59 is a valuable reference work on the life and works of Krishan Chander, a great fiction writer of Urdu.

Akhter-ul-Iman, a celebrated poet of Urdu, is often dubbed as one of the great influences on modern Urdu nazm (poem). Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu Hind has been publishing Urdu adab for the last 60 years. Edited by Siddiq-ur-Rahman Qidvai, Ather Farooqi and Suroor-ul-Huda, the Oct 2015-March 2016 issue of Urdu adab is a special one, paying tribute to Akhter-ul-Iman.

The issue includes a chronology by Baidar Bakht and according to him, Akhter-ul-Iman was born on Nov 12, 1915, in Ghaseetpur, a small village near Najeebabad, UP, India.

Educated at Delhi’s Anglo-Arabic College, Akhter began publishing his poems and short stories in early 1940s. Having done a brief stint at Saghar Nizami’s journal Asia, published from Meerut, he joined All India Radio as staff artist. When sacked from Radio, Akhter joined W.Z. Ahmed’s Shalimar Pictures.

Here he wrote songs and dialogues. With the closure of Shalimar Pictures, Akhter moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1947. Soon he became a much sought-after dialogue writer in the world of Indian cinema.

At the same time he kept on writing poetry. To say that he was soon acclaimed as a unique poet of Urdu nazm would be an understatement. As put by Usloob Ahmed Ansari, Akhter came, he saw and he conquered.

Sar-o-saman, his collected poetic works, was published in 1983, though another, more complete collected works, Kulliyaat-e-Akhter-ul-Iman, appeared in 2000. The English translations of his poetry were published under the title Taking stock and Query of the road. Akhter-ul-Iman died on March 9, 1996, in Mumbai and was buried in Bandra.

Urdu adab’s special issue on Akhter-ul-Iman includes some scholarly pieces on his life and works by some senior Indian and Pakistani critics and researchers. Aside from the poet’s interviews and some of his writings, the issue offers some in-depth articles and analyses of his poems.

It is a must-read for every student of Urdu literature and it won’t harm a bit if some professors, too, try to read it (though they hardly read anything, if at all).

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Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2016

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