By Mohammed Wajihuddin
Meri is baat se sab log hum aahang bhi honge... Jahan payenge Urdu ko wahan Narang bhi honge...
(Everybody will concur with me/Wherever they will find Urdu,there will be a Narang too) Urdu poet Chandrabhan Khayal
Though many of his peers have grudgingly come to accept that Urdu is essentially spoken by Muslims today,Professor Gopi Chand Narang still fights the good fight. Language, he tirelessly intones, has no religion. Urdu belongs neither to Muslims nor Hindus and it will survive so long as India stays multicultural.
Narangs steadfast belief is partly based on Urdus role in Indias freedom struggle.For a start,it gave us the slogan Inquilab Zindabad and contributed to our famed Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb or composite culture.Unsurprisingly,the Delhi Urdu Academy acknowledges Narangs role in giving Urdu a broad contextual placement,rather than a religious one.Just weeks ago,it gave him the Bahadur Shah Zafar Award.Akhtarul Wasey,vice-chairman of the academy,says it was well deserved because the award is named after the last Mughal emperor,who symbolized Indias secular,syncretic ethos.
Fortunately,Narang does not share yet another of the deposed poet-emperors traits melancholy.Instead,he is optimistic about the future of Urdu and is so well known as an ambassador for it that Hindi writer Kamleshwar once said every language needed a Narang.
There are three hallmarks of the Mughal era the Taj Mahal,Ghalibs poetry,and Urdu.A common spirit of aesthetic excellence and elegance runs through all three.Although every language is beautiful,Urdus sophistication and charm captivate everyone.Thats why I call Urdu Indias linguistic Taj Mahal, explains the 82-year-old scholar-critic.
To those who call Urdu a videshi language,he retorts: It is a hybrid,but Urdus base is indigenous and its essence lies in Indian soil. He warns against continuing to deny Urdu its rightful place in the secular education system.It might then be pushed into the madrassas and will lose its secular character,he laments.
Narang is severe when asked about the great language paradox Urdu couplets are quoted by everyone,including politicians,but almost no one is prepared to champion it otherwise.Is Urdu being punished for its apparent association with the Muslim community Narang says,If Urdu is the language of the Muslims,then how come non-Muslim writer-poets like Gulzar,Pavan K Varma,Sheen Kaaf Nizam (Shiv Kumar ),Chandrabhan Khayal and Jayant Parmar are thriving
Born in Baluchistan,Narang is a Partition refugee who insisted on studying Urdu rather than agricultural science,as his father wanted him to.Later in life,Delhis Jamia Millia proved to be the perfect lab for Narang and he even served as acting vice-chancellor for a year.
Source: The Times of India
Photo: Profesor Gopi Chand Narang