The fictional character of Urdu having a Muslim character persisted in times of Premchand and also exists till now. During one of his lectures delivered in Bombay during the year, 1934 Premchand stated that in his opinion Hindi and Urdu were one in the same language. When they share a set of common verbs and subjects there is no question of doubt that they are the same. He also encouraged the use of Hindustani a simplified version of Hindi mixed with Urdu. Sehar profiles the growth of Urdu and Premchand’s contribution, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Wo itr-dan sa lahja
Mere buzurgon la,
Urdu zaban ki khushboo
The origins of Urdu is said to be lying with the use of modified version of Persian spoken by the Mughal army stationed in Delhi during the 1900s. The soldiers in Delhi quickly embraced the vernacular language and mixed it with their own mother tongue Persian giving birth to Zabaan-i-Urdu (the language of the Army).
As time passed, the soldiers interacted with the locals of the city leading to the spread of the language in other parts of the city. Intermixing and marriages that took place during that period led to the rise of Urdu and its use in daily affairs.
Rang ki gehrai naapi hai
Phool ki khushbu toil hai
Yeh nazuk jazbaat hai
Albele izhar ki boli hai
Urdu pyar ki boli hai
Sayyad Hurmatul Ikraam
“Going through the pages of Zamanah I have often viewed the works of Hindu contributors with envy” commented Shibli Nomani in Maqalat-i-Shibli, page 189. During that era many intellectuals having their roots in the Muslim community though appreciated the works of Urdu writers having Hindu origins thought of Urdu as “humari qaumi zabaan” meaning the language of our community, which S.R. Faruqi very aptly labels as an “innocent condescension” in his book, Early Urdu Literature, Culture and History. Even in the present era, the struggle of attributing a language to a certain community or race still flourishes in the Indian subcontinent. But it cannot be overlooked that though with the dividers and compartments existing in our society, Urdu as a language doesn’t fail to bring together people walks of life. A recent example would be Jashn-e-Rekhta taking place in the capital of the country.
“Though Premchand was a Kayashth from Eastern U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) he wrote better Urdu than the educated Muslim elite of Delhi and Lucknow,” stated Shibli Nomani, while praising Premchand’s Urdu and his fluent writings.
The fictional character of Urdu having a Muslim character persisted in times of Premchand and also exists till now. During one of his lectures, delivered in Bombay, during the year 1934 Premchand stated that in his opinion Hindi and Urdu were one in the same language. When they share a set of common verbs and subjects there is no question of doubt that they are the same. He also encouraged the use of Hindustani a simplified version of Hindi mixed with Urdu.
Premchand’s life as an Urdu Writer:
Ab vo jantā kī sampat hai dhanpat nahīñ
sirf do-chār ke ghar kī daulat nahīñ
lākhoñ dil ek hoñ jis meñ vo prem hai
do diloñ kī mohabbat mohabbat nahīñ
apne sandesh se sab ko chauñkā diyā
‘prem’ ne prem kā arth samjhā diyā
Nazeer Banarsi on “Premchand”
Born in a small village, near Banaras, (Dhanpat Rai) Premchand’s early education happened in a madrasa, under a Maulvi, where he had his first rendezvous with Urdu and thus began his lifelong romance with the language.
Premchand’s childhood and teenage saw many ups and downs at the personal end. Married at a very early age and losing his parents, Premchand’s formal education came to a full stop but he never gave up learning. He got a job as a teacher in the primary school. In the year 1919, he finished his Bachelors with English, Persian, and History as the subjects.
Life was harsh with the little boy Dhanpat Rai but Premchand received a number of accolades quite early in his career due to his handwork and intellect.
During the freedom movement, in response to Gandhiji’s call of non-cooperation with the British, he quit his job. This came as a golden opportunity for the writer Premchand living inside Dhanpat Rai, who was now fully devoted to his writings. His first story written in Urdu appeared in the magazine, Zamana. published from Kanpur.
The theme his early short stories carried reflected the freedom movement and the wave of patriotism that had swept the country in the early decade of the 19th century. His writings shortly came under the notice of the British such as Soz-e-Watan, a collection of patriotic stories published by Premchand, in 1907. It was only in the year 1914, when Premchand switched over to Hindi, but by then he had already established his reputation as a prolific fiction writer in Urdu.
In one of the features published by the Press Information Bureau, Government of India, the works of Premchand in Urdu has been talked about in depth:
“While writing Urdu novels and short stories he emphasised in presenting the realities of life…. It would not be wrong to say that Premchand was the Father of Urdu short stories. Short stories or afsanas were started by Premchand. As with his novels, his afsanas also mirror the society that he lived in. With a simple and flowing writing, some of his works depict the excellent use of satire and humour. His later works used very simple words and he started including Hindi words too to honestly portray his characters. His famous afsanas are Qaatil Ki Maan, Zewar Ka Dibba, Gilli Danda, Eidgaah, Namak Ka Daroga and Kafan. His collected stories have been published as Prem Pachisi, Prem Battisi, Wardaat and Zaad-e-Raah.”
I would like to end this piece with one of the most cherishable I came across during my research for this piece written by our very own Illahbadi and Gorakhpuri – Firaq:
“yahīñ kī ḳhaak se ubhre the ‘premchand’ o ‘tagore’
yahīñ se uTThe the tahzīb-e-hind ke me.amār”
tahzīb-e-hind: Indian culture
Photo from the internet.
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