Saturday October 21, 2017

Ram Advani’s bookshop: A symbol of his love for Lucknow

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Photo: www.davidboyk.com

By Saeed Naqvi

An Urdu aristocracy on its knees, was beginning to make adjustments with the new British rulers when Ram Advani arrived in Lucknow. He set up Ram Advani Booksellers in a prominent corner of Hazratgang. This remained his eye on Lucknow for 65 years – until his death at 95 last week.

He brought the energy of the newcomer when he arrived in the early 1940s from Karachi, in Sindh, where he was born in 1920. It took Lucknow almost a century to recover from its first trauma when, in 1857, even its Begums joined in the door to door combat with the British who proceeded to empty the city of its citizens for fear of unexpected snipers. A year earlier, Wajid Ali Shah had been dispatched to Matia Burj, near Kolkata, where he lived for 31 years, unlamented, unsung. Some of the aftermath was still playing itself out which Ram witnessed and internalized as themes on which his book shop prided.

A shattered intellectual elite, silenced by change, slowly began to engage the new masters on their terms. If Punch was the supreme publication of satire and wit in London, some of the finest Urdu writers like Akbar Allahabadi would elevate Awadh Punch to an even higher level of elegant lampooning.

Ram’s was not an Urdu Book shop but copies of Awadh Punch he would obtain from his sources. When Prof. Mushirul Hasan published Awadh Punch in English, copies were instantly available on his shelves. Books were never flaunted in a commercial scale; they were meant for the connoisseurs for whom the book shop was a meeting place, sometimes with the original authors themselves – Violette Graffe, the French scholar on Lucknow, V.S. Naipaul (India a million mutinies), Veena Talwar Oldenburg (Making of Colonial Lucknow), Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (Lucknow, City of Illusion) and Cambridge historian, Prof. Francis Robinson, William Dalrymple, Mark Tully, Dom Moraes – and every Indian of cosmopolitan interests who visited Lucknow. The spate of Western visitors to the Book Shop places Ram as an interpreter of Lucknow’s deeper culture which still bustles in Chowk and Nakkhas.

Hazratganj actually divides Lucknow into two cultures. One side are the cantonment, Civil Lines and sprawling bungalows, corroborative evidence of those who saw the writing on the wall early and made cunning adjustments with the new ruling class.

In the other direction beyond Aminabad are chowk and Nakkhas the very core of classical Lucknow. Of this area, the old description is still stunningly accurate: “Gandi galiyan, saaf zabaan”. (Dirty lanes, but impeccable speech)

Not only did Ram know this, other Lucknow, but he was also familiar with Lucknow’s other great book shop, Daanish Mahal, which translates as the palace of learning. This is where Urdu’s greatest critic, Saiyyid Ehtesham held court. Josh Malihabadi occasionally climbed down from the Central hotel where he stayed, to enliven the conversation. In Ram’s persona were integrated these two milestone book shops.

It was Lucknow’s Catholicism which never allowed Ram Advani to claim any exceptionalism. The city’s Ganga-Jamni culture was celebrated, of course. But that did not tell the full story. Recently Sanatkada, a group which dedicates itself to the celebration of Lucknow touched the heart of the matter. It celebrated Lucknow’s “Rachi Basi”, or all inclusive culture.

Infact, I recall the expression having originated in Ram’s mind.

Mir Taqi Mir and others, have written copiously of Delhi’s destruction at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah, etc. But Lucknow’s destruction, being more recent, has generally been a casualty of the “Victor’s narrative”. Why would the colonial masters dwell on the desolation they had brought about?

Ram was sensitive to the fact that in a century, Lucknow had taken at least four major hits. The exile of its beloved king in 1856, the destruction of Lucknow in 1857, Partition in 1947 and Zamindari (Landlordism) abolition in 1951 which finally broke the back of the Muslim aristocracy.

Remarkably, as Ram reminded me over and over again, Lucknow picked itself up each time and put up the Welcome sign for all.

Nowhere in the country was there a city which proudly announced: “To be a doctor you have to be a Bengali first”. Lucknow University’s intellectual life was controlled by Radha Kumud and Radh Kamal Mukherjee. Lucknowis proudly accepted “Madrasis” (anyone below the Vindhyas) as brilliant administrators. President of the University Union was Iqbal Singh, a chain smoking Sikh who recited Urdu poetry. Among Lucknows “bakaits”, tough’s or mini gangsters was one Kaul Sahib, a short, muscular man with very broad shoulders. Imagine a Kashmiri Pandit with a reputation that learned the respect of Lucknow’s “badmash” (bad men) like Buddhu Pahelwan, Funtoo, Nannhe, Rashid Ghosi and Pyare Jaani with a revolver in his trench coat.

You would never have imagined Ram Advani to be familiar with this infinite variety. But he was.

Heaven knows how scotch whiskey and soda came up for mention in his shop. A man contemplating a book, spun around in some anger. Traces of paan were virtually dripping from a corner of his mouth. “Mixing soda with scotch was the barbarous custom of the Sassenach”, he growled. He was a somewhat dilapidated scion of some unknown aristocracy. To our astonishment he knew that Sassenach was a derogatory slang Scots (who were the masters of the amber stuff) used for the English. This anecdote says something of Lucknow of the 60s as also of Ram Advani until his death. (IANS)

 

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Osmania University turns 100: India’s First University to adopt Urdu as medium of Instruction

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A text written in Urdu language , Wikimedia

Hyderabad, April 25, 2017: It was India’s first university to adopt Urdu as the medium of instruction — but with English as a compulsory subject. And, as it turns 100 on Wednesday, Osmania University has blended tradition with modernity to emerge as one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious institutes of higher learning.

With President Pranab Mukherjee set to launch the centenary celebrations, the spotlight is on the premier seat of learning, known for its chequered history.

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Standing tall on its sprawling and picturesque campus, it bears testimony to the grandeur of the princely Hyderabad state, the tumultuous times before the state’s merger with India and several movements ranging from ‘jobs for locals’ to separate statehood for Telangana.

From its genesis in the rich Muslim legacy to cultural diversity and from its transformation as a modern institution imparting education in English and various branches of science and technology, Jamia-e-Osmania, as it was earlier known, has come a long way.

Its distinguished alumni include former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao; India’s first astronaut, Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma; celebrated film director Shyam Benegal; former RBI Governor Y. Venugopal Reddy; founder and chairman of Cobra Beer and Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Karan Bilimoria; and Magsaysay awardee Shantha Sinha.

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It was on April 26, 1917, that Nizam VII Mir Osman Ali Khan issued a ‘farman’ (royal decree) for the establishment of Osmania University.

“The fundamental principles in the working of the university should be that Urdu should form the medium of higher education, but a knowledge of English as a language should, at the same time, be deemed compulsory for all students,” said the decree.

Within two years of the decree, classes began for the first batch from a building in Gunfoundry area, conservation activist P. Anuradha Reddy pointed out.

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Arts and theology were only the two faculties in the first year with 225 students and 25 faculty members. It offered courses in different languages like Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Persian and Arabic besides Urdu and English.

As the ‘purdah’ system was strictly in vogue those days, the classes in the first few decades were conducted separately for boys and girls. A curtain would be hung between boys and girls for a common class or during guest lectures.

Academicians say Osmania University symbolised renaissance in the Indian educational system.

The move to set up the university with Urdu as the medium of instruction was seen as the first step to revolt against the supremacy of the foreign language in India. It was hailed by Rabindernath Tagore.

He wrote to Nizam: “I have long been waiting for the day when, freed from the shackles of a foreign language, our education becomes naturally accessible to all our people. It is a problem for the solution of which we look to our Native States, and it gives me great joy to know that your State proposes to found a University in which instructions are to be given through the medium of Urdu. It is needless to say that your scheme has my fullest appreciation.”

In 1934, the university was allotted 566 acres in the Adikmet area for its permanent campus. The Nizam laid the foundation stone for the iconic Arts College building, which later became the symbol of the university.

Rail tracks were laid to ferry workers and construction material and to speed up construction activity. Four years later, the campus and the Arts College, with its magnificent facade, was inaugurated.

A blend of Qutub Shahi and Mughal architecture, the granite structure was designed by Belgian architect Monsieur Jasper. With 164 vast rooms and a plinth of 2.5 lakh square feet, the Arts College is one the last major structures built by the Nizam.

In the pre-Independence era, Urdu was the medium of instruction in all branches of higher education, including medicine and engineering. Under-graduate, post-graduate and Ph.D. programmes were introduced in almost all the faculties.

Some of the premier institutions started in the city like Nizamia Observatory, Nizam College, Medical College, Law School and Teachers’ Training College were transferred to the university.

One such institute was the Dairat-Ul-Maarif, which was founded in 1888 to collect, preserve, edit and publish rare original and standard works in Arabic on humanities, religion, science and the arts.

The transformation at Osmania was obvious following the merger of Hyderabad state with India in September, 1948, more than a year after country’s independence.

English replaced Urdu as the medium of instruction. Over the next two decades, the university added new disciplines and introduced diploma programmes in foreign languages like French, German and Italian. The Women’s College, which earlier operated from temporary buildings, moved to its present location.

The University permitted a number of affiliated colleges to be started to meet the growing demand. Today, it claims to have 1,000 colleges affiliated to it — arguably the largest in Asia and 550,000 students.

It continued its onward journey in the subsequent decades by giving impetus to research activities and introducing fresh courses to meet the new requirements of the job market.

In order to make higher education accessible to the deprived and disadvantaged, the Centre for Distance Education was established in 1977.

The university currently has 12 faculties and 53 departments with over 10,000 students. It conducts 25 undergraduate programmes and 75 post-graduate courses.With students coming from different regions and socio-economic backgrounds and even from abroad, the campus is known for its cultural diversity.

While continuing its march for academic excellence since inception, the university also became a nerve centre for various movements, reflecting the country’s socio-political changes.In 1952, the university students stood up in protest when the central government proposed to take over it convert it into a central varsity with Hindi as medium of instruction. Around same time, the campus was also rocked by protests demanding jobs for locals.

It witnessed massive violent protests in early 1970s during the Telangana movement. In the aftermath of the violent agitation, the employers had even stopped recruiting Osmania graduates.

While the first movement died down in 1971, nearly four decades later the university once again became the epicentre of Telangana movement, which culminated in the formation of the separate state in 2014. – (IANS)

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Centre to conduct NEET examination in Urdu from academic year 2018-2019: Supreme Court

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A text written in Urdu language , Wikimedia

New Delhi, April 13, 2017: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to conduct NEET examination in Urdu from academic year 2018-2019 onwards but ruled out holding the entrance exam in the language this year.

The bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar directed that NEET entrance exam be held in Urdu this year after CBSE told the court that it was extremely difficult to hold the exam in Urdu this year.

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“We direct the Union of India to include Urdu as a language in NEET examination from academic session 2018-19 onwards,” the bench said in its order, which came on a petition by filed by the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO).

The possibility of holding a supplementary exam for admission to the current academic year too was ruled out.

At present the NEET is conducted in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Telegu, Tamil, Bengal, Oriya and Assamese.

It was in March this year that the top court had asked the Centre, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI) to respond to a plea by the SIO for holding NEET examinations in Urdu also.

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The government on Thursday told the court that the brochure for NEET 2017-18 was issued in January and the SIO approached the court in the February thus, making it difficult for the language to be introduced this year.

“In the first hearing we had said that it will be difficult this year and we will do it from next year”, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court. (IANS)

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Meet Tanya Wells of London singing Vande Matram

Recently, she did a cover of famous Gazal ‘Gulon mein rang bhare’ written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and sung by Mehndi Hassan

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By Akanksha Sharma

British-based singer and songwriter Tanya Wells won the hearts by singing the National song of India ‘Vande Matram’.

Recently, she did a cover of famous Gazal ‘Gulon mein rang bhare’ written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and sung by Mehndi Hassan. She posted this cover on Facebook in April and it grabbed the attention of more than 1 million viewers. Viewers were amazed by her surprisingly good pronunciation skills and despite no formal training in Urdu.

Tanya Wells
Tanya Wells , Source: Twitter

Tanya wells lived in India for three years, attending school in the foothills of Himalayas. She later returned to learn Indian classical music (including light classical, thumri, bhajan and gazal) and has performed originally in a number of clubs and festivals on the Indian sub-continent. “The sound of Urdu is similar to Hindi, I can pick up the sound because I am more familiar with Hindi,” she said in an interview conducted by RFA/RL.

Related article: Living colours Hindi-Urdu is a single spoken language

Tanya continues to draw upon personal experience, writing and performing songs that express a range of diverse cultural influences. Right now, she resides and works in London.

She also did a beautiful cover of Mehndi Hassan’s song ‘Rafta Rafta who mere’ and left people in an awe with her beautiful voice.

Tanya has recently been involved in a number of live performances, accompanied by guest appearance with Natacha Atlas at Ronnie Scott’s , performing vocals for Anoushka Shankar at the Cannes Film Festival and opening for Joss Stone, Nitin Sawhney and Nicki Wells (her twin) at Mama Stones.

Akanksha is a student of journalism in New Delhi, currently interning with NewsGram. Twitter: @Akanksha4117