, by AUSAF
Was the chaste Hindi speech the Prime Minister delivered from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 60th Independence Day written in the Devnagri script? Dr Manmohan Singh, it is alleged, feels at home in Urdu. He is well-versed in Urdu poetry, which happened to be the weakness of Giani Zail Singh also.
Equally comfy with the language of Ghalib and Meer was Narasimha Rao and his home minister S B Chavan. Urdu is a strong point of Rajasthan Governor Balram Jakhar as well. Few could beat Madhav Rao Solanki and Tarakeshwari Sinha, a veteran MP during Nehru’s era, in the appropriate use of Urdu poetry.
So is the case with another eminent jurist Rajinder Sachar, who opened the eyes of Bharat with regard to Indian Muslims’ backwardness. Once during a speech, he quoted a couplet of Iqbal: "Yeh shahaadatgah-e-ulfat mein qadam rakhna hai; Loge asaan samajhte hain Musalman hona". A loose translation would be: "Embracing Islam is like offering oneself to be slaughtered for one’s beloved and they consider it a child’s play."
A slight rather the slightest oversight by a journalist resulting in an incorrect spelling of a big gun appearing in print is neither forgiven nor forgotten. A national daily once spelt the name of the former president as Radha Krishnan. The President’s Press Attache’s letter next morning reached the editor saying: "The President felt offended at the improper spelling of his name."
Are such cases the "printer’s devil"? In Urdu the so-called printer’s devil wreaks havoc. In this havoc dots (points) play the most significant role. Basheer Badar, who migrated from Bhopal to Meerut after an anti-Muslim riot, is an eminent poet of Urdu. Nobody disputes his prowess and contribution to the literature. But he is often ticked off by some mischievous souls who love to generate benign humour.
After he donned the BJP dress and settled down in the capital of Madhya Pradesh, he put up at the entrance of his house his nameplate which read Basheer Badar. One naughty fellow removed the dot indicating "ba". He also made a curve of "hay" below "sha" turning Basheer into Shehr (city). Now the name plate read: "Shehr Badar" (debarred). The poet’s fury was understandable. This, however, was the price he paid for joining the Saffron brigade.
The wife of Wasl Bilgrami, a renowned poet of yesteryears, would never call him by his name (a typical practice in the subcontinent’s traditional families). When asked why she would do that, she quipped: "I cannot speak unprintable words!" Wasl, it may be noted, means to be in private moments with wife.
Jigar Muradabadi would suffix his takhallus (a poet’s adopted name) with "Ufianhu" meaning "may Allah forgive him." A calligrapher wrote his ghazal almost right, but at the end he unwittingly performed a marriage or miscarriage between Jigar’s name and his takhallus. The result was: Ghafeeghattahoo.
Long back, I wrote a long letter to my aunt. The reply came with speed post: I have sent your letter to a local "attar" to render it in legible handwriting.
Though I happen to be in the good company of Mahatma Gandhi and Mathew Arnold, my handwriting is a test of patience for typists.
Once Arnold penned a poem. It naturally landed at the table of the editor. From there, it travelled to assistant editor to sub-editor and ultimately to compositor. The buck did not stop here. The poem had to travel backwards. In the end, it was sent back to Arnold. He, after a careful perusal of what he had written, informed the editor: When I wrote this poem, I and God knew it. Now God alone knows it!
Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar had been tired of the "editing" of his kaatib in Comrade. Once, in utter frustration, he wrote a long editorial titled "Kaatib Ki Kaat Chhaant" As he had no time to re-read his writings, done in a hurry, he could not read the proof. When the Comrade hit the newsstands the next day, two dots under the word Cha of Chhaant were conspicuous by their absence. The big one dot retained by the kaatib had the last laugh.