language trends

A Delhi artist is trying to popularise Urdu by putting Faiz and Chughtai on T-shirts

Shiraz Husain believes love for the language is best communicated through visuals.

Art teacher by day and painter by night, 30-year-old Shiraz Husain wants you to know about Urdu literary figures. Not just know about them, but know them – as in, by face.

“To appreciate the language, one needs to first recognise the writer,” he said. “So instead of using abstract forms of their writings, I decided to simply sketch their faces, in their own andaaz".

And thus was born Husain’s Facebook page, the Khwaab Tanha Collective.

Husain wants young people to read more Urdu literature, but he also wants to transform the imagery of Urdu on the internet. The few times that he tried to Google images for Urdu poetry, the results were unattractive fonts, portraits of heart-broken girls with roses and tears morphed on to the images. Husain decided to do something about it. The words Khwaab Tanha translate to "a loner’s dream", an apt description of his vision, he says.

Husain’s paintings are like the Urdu version of visuals from Maria Popova’s immensely popular website Brain Pickings, or Berlin Artparasites. Husain has made about 100 sketches and paintings and he draws each one by hand to achieve what he calls an "organic process".

“The feel you get from writing in Urdu or drawing a Firaq’s hand holding a cigarette or Amrita Pritam’s deep eyes… it is a personal connection with the artwork which a computer cannot replace,” he said.

Despite Husain’s deep love for creating art by hand, he is, like the rest of the world, excited by Graphics Interchange Formats or GIFs. One of his GIFs depicts an Ismat Chugtai story, Nanhi Ki Naani. While the GIF itself means little to someone unfamiliar with Chughtai’s work, its aesthetic appeal, Husain hopes, will draw readers to explore Chughtai’s literary themes of women and sexuality.

Husain’s father, an Urdu teacher, fed him stories with his food; his sister played ghazals by Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali all day long. But it was studying at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi that deepened Husain’s love for Urdu literature. He recalls playing baith baazi, a game where two teams try to outdo each other with Urdu couplets. The couplets Husain memorised in the spirit of competition, later grew into a significant part of his life.

Khwaab Tanha Collective’s Facebook presence is small, but growing rapidly, particularly among Delhi’s lovers of Urdu shayari, and among visitors to Jashn-e-Rekhta, the capital’s Urdu festival, where Husain exhibited some of his works.

Husain has begun to receive requests to create similar artworks, with writers who write in other languages – such as MV Basheer, a Malayam fiction writer, but for now, he plans to focus on Urdu and Hindi alone. At present, he is trying to make souvenirs more memorable by adding Urdu couplets to them: for instance, a calculator framed with lines from Faiz Ahmad Faiz:

Kar raha tha Gham-e-jahan ka hisaab, Aaj tum yaad bay hisaab aayay.

I am calculating the atrocities of the world, today I missed you countless times.

Husain hopes his wares will elicit a curiosity to learn Urdu among those who cannot understand it at all, although this is rare in India, given Bollywood’s penchant for including Urdu lyrics in love songs.

“Listen to Gulzar’s lyrics closely and you will realise that Bollywood is incomplete without Urdu,” he said. “Now that I have said this, nobody will be able to point out what is purely Hindi or Urdu. This is precisely the beauty of how both the languages have evolved together.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The quirks and perks of travelling with your hard to impress mom

We must admit that the jar of pickle always comes in handy.

A year ago, Priyanka, a 26-year-old banking professional, was packing her light-weight duffel bag for an upcoming international trip. Keen to explore the place, she wanted to travel light and fuss free. It was not meant to be. For Priyanka was travelling with her mother, and that meant carrying at least two extra suitcases packed with odds and ends for any eventuality just short of a nuclear war.

Bothered by the extra suitcases that she had to lug around full of snacks and back-up woollens, Priyanka grew frustrated with her mother. However, one day, while out for some sight-seeing Priyanka and her family were famished but there were no decent restaurants in sight. That’s when her mum’s ‘food bag’ came to the rescue. Full of juice boxes, biscuits and sandwiches, her mother had remembered to pack snacks from the hotel for their day out. Towards the end of the trip, Priyanka was grateful to her mother for all her arrangements, especially the extra bag she carried for Priyanka’s shopping.

Priyanka’s story isn’t an isolated one. We spoke to many people about their mother’s travel quirks and habits and weren’t surprised at some of the themes that were consistent across all the travel memoirs.

Indian mothers are always prepared

“My mom keeps the packed suitcases in the hallway one day before our flight date. She will carry multiple print-outs of the flight tickets because she doesn’t trust smartphone batteries. She also never forgets to carry a medical kit for all sorts of illnesses and allergies”, says Shruti, a 27-year-old professional. When asked if the medical kit was helpful during the trip, she answered “All the time”, in a tone that marvelled at her mother’s clairvoyance.

Some of the many things a mother packs in her travel bags. Source: Google Images
Some of the many things a mother packs in her travel bags. Source: Google Images

Indian mothers love to feel at home, and create the same experience for their family, wherever they are

“My mother has a very strange idea of the kind of food you get in foreign lands, so she always packs multiple packets of khakra and poha for our trips. She also has a habit of carrying her favourite teabags to last the entire trip”, relates Kanchan, a marketing professional who is a frequent international flier often accompanied by her mother. Kanchan’s mother, who is very choosy about her tea, was therefore delighted when she was served a hot cup of garam chai on her recent flight to Frankfurt. She is just like many Indian mothers who love to be reminded of home wherever they are and often strive to organise their hotel rooms to give them the coziness of a home.

Most importantly, Indian mothers are tough, especially when it comes to food

Take for instance, the case of Piyush, who recalls, “We went to this fine dining restaurant and my mother kept quizzing the waiter about the ingredients and the method of preparation of a dish. She believed that once she understood the technique, she would be able to make a better version of the dish just so she could pamper me!”

Indian mothers are extremely particular about food – from the way its cooked, to the way it smells and tastes. Foreign delicacies are only allowed to be consumed if they fulfil all the criteria set by Mom i.e. is it good enough for my children to consume?

An approval from an Indian mother is a testament to great quality and great taste. In recognition of the discerning nature of an Indian mum and as a part of their ‘More Indian Than You Think’ commitment, Lufthansa has tailored their in-flight experiences to surpass even her exacting standards. Greeted with a namaste and served by an Indian crew, the passengers feel right at home as they relish the authentic Indian meals and unwind with a cup of garam chai, the perfect accompaniment to go with a variety of Indian entertainment available in the flight. As Lufthansa’s in-flight offerings show, a big part of the brand is inherently Indian because of its relationship with the country spanning over decades.

To see how Lufthansa has internalised the Indian spirit and become the airline of choice for flyers looking for a great Indian experience, watch the video below.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.