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NOVEMBER 2000

MONTHLY    *    Vol 14-11 No:167    *   NOVEMBER 2000 / SHABAN 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

BOOK REVIEW


A Treat for the Ghazal Lovers
A Peep into Medieval Wisdom

A Treat for the Ghazal Lovers

Ghalib
Cullings from the Divan, rendered in English

By T. P. Issar
Published by T. P. Issar,
3 Rajmahal Vilas, Extn, Bellary Road, Bangalore- 560 080.
Pages........ Price: 950

Reviewed by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

VERBAL popularity of Urdu poetry is scaling new heights what with a new genre of singers lending their magical voices to the age old nazms. With Urdu ghazals holding the audiences in thrall and Ghalib being the king of Ghazals, this compendium of 550 selected couplets from Ghalib’s Divan are likely to add to the repertoire of growing tribe of Ghazal-philes. One among this singers, namely K. L. Saigal was the chief inspirator behind this work.

Translation is always a tricky job, for the nuances of one language rarely match with the others. Translator, Mr. Tirubhuvan Prasad Issar himself admits that ‘Much is inevitably lost in Translation’. Poetry lends itself to more risks of this kind because it is not mere the thought-content but the magic and artistry of words that carry the subtlety of import are not that easily transferrable. Issar, who retired as the Chief Secretary in Government of Karnataka, is an old Urdu lover and a Ghalib-phile. A known connoisseur of art, architecture and flora and fauna, Issar has brought out this beautiful volume studded with colour plates of the paintings by famous Bengal school painter Abdur Rahman Chughtai. With their almond eyes, pencilled fingers, pointed noses and aristocratic lips, the paintings gel harmoniously with the delicate sentiments that are the bread and butter of Ghalib’s poetry.

The selection reflects both Ghalib’s blissful and sombre moments (the latter being more). Issar wades through oceans of sobs, love’s woes, laments of aching hearts, anguished wails of separation from the beloved, fatal arrows of eyes, the torrid fires of passion, blazing hearts, ravings of delirious state, glow of waiting eyes, smitten hearts and love-crazed wanderings. Couplets celebrating the poet’s imbibing habits (or the desperation for the cup) are generously sprinkled through the selection. Ghalib, the one irreverent of codes and canons emerges out of the thicket of rich imagery ably captured in English. Ghalib is there all over, be it the bustling sea of desires, tinkling cups, trails of beloved’s foot prints or his vainglorious boasts.

Impeccable in choice of words, Issar has attempted ‘transcreation’ of Ghalib in Urdu. It will be quite in order to taste a few samples.

Love’s fruition counsels patience
While passion cannot wait
How do I comfort my heart distressed,
till the prize it has possessed


Though many have indeed made their mark
In the practice of poesy’s art;
Ghalib, they say-with his way with words
stands in a class apart

O God! While packing my bag of woes
for my journey through this life
I wish you’d seen that to carry such load,
just one heart won’t suffice

Issar is not wide off the mark when he says that he has succeeded in crossing the half-way mark in conveying Ghalib to the readers.

Khushwant Singh’s foreword enhances the value of the very elegantly produced volume. The Urdu couplets have been provided in the text with Hindi and English translation and English transliteration. Ali Muhammad Khusro too has contributed an introduction. Barring a few proof errors, the presentation, style and get-up are beyond any criticism.

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A Peep into Medieval Wisdom

The Asian Agri-History Foundation has transferred a valuable document from Persian to English

Nuskha Dar Fanni-Falahat
(The Art of Agriculture)

Dara Shikoh
Translated By Razia Akbar
Asian Agri-History Foundation
47-ICRISAT Colony-I, Brig. Sayeed Road,
Secunderabad-500 009.
Pages 88, Price: Rs. 350.

Reviewed by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

THE Art of Agriculture is translated version of Nuskha Dar Fanni-Falahat, a Persian compendium of useful tips on agriculture. The Agri-History Foundation of Hyderabad has published it in a beautiful volume with utmost care and supplied useful Commentaries by four contemporary experts of agriculture and allied disciplines. It forms part of the Foundation’s effort to disseminate information available through historic sources and promote research on sustainable agriculture in India.

Nuskha Dar Fanni Falahat was most probably compiled by Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh, son of emperor Shah Jehan. The original manuscript is preserved in Maulana Azad Library at Aligarh Muslim University. Though Dara Shikoh was a great scholar of Persian and Sanskrit and is not known as an expert in agriculture, it is surmised that he sought help from experts.

The book is not a scientific treatise on agriculture but provides important clues to the medieval wisdom in the field of farming. It provides useful tips on growing of nearly 100 plants and trees of economic value, which include those that yield fruits, legumes, lentils, fibre (for textiles), timber, vegetables and cereals. The information on trees common to West Asian, Mediterranean, and hot climates such as North India (including Pakistan) is more detailed. Information on Ideal sowing seasons, conditions of soil, methods for watering and manuring and tips for increasing sweetness and fighting damage from pests indicates that there is much that can be learnt from the ancient practices. There are tips on how to save pomegranates from cracking, what combination of trees results in better yield, what trees can be used to stabilise the embankments of canals, etc.

Commentaries from agricultural scientists K. L. Mehra, K. L. Chadha, J. S. Kanwar and Y. L. Nene scrutinize the tips in the light of modern scientific knowledge and verify the rationale. A glossary provides the Persian and biological names of the trees listed in the book. Written in simple English and produces on thick, glazed paper, the Nuskha Dar Fanni Falahat throws light on Mughal and Indian wisdom on farming. A catchy Mughal painting aesthetically enhances the shelf value of the book.

Useful Tips

  • The male palm tree loves the female palm tree. Hence it is said, if the female palm tree is in another garden, the male tree bands towards it.
  • If two or three eggs are bunged beneath each plant of fig, it will produce more figs.
  • If roots of pomegranates tree are covered with the roots and leaves of pumpkin during winter, birds will not come near and eat the fruits.
  • If the dry dung of pigs is pounded and is put on the roots of an almond tree, the tree will grow sweet almonds.
  • If the weeds are cut off by a copper knife, the weeds do not grow again.
  • If the fruits of a fig tree fall off, open its “veins” and roots and put a little salt and mulberry on them; its fruits will not fall off.

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