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 

These GIFs show you what it means to miss breakfast

That monstrous roar is your empty stomach.

Let’s take a glance at your every day morning routine. You crawl out of bed, go for a quick shower, pull out and wear your neatly ironed clothes at the speed of light and then rush out of the house, making sure you have your keys and wallet in place.

Giphy
Giphy

You walk into office, relieved because you have made it to work on time. Stifling yawns and checking emails, you wonder how your colleagues are charged up and buzzing with energy. “What is wrong with these people” you mumble to yourself.

Giphy
Giphy

Slowly, you start to change. You start snapping at colleagues and start arguing with your computer. You take out your frustration on anything or anyone in sight.

To add to the aggressive behaviour, you’ve completely lost your focus. After some time, you simply forget what you were doing.

Giphy
Giphy

Unable to bear the hunger pangs, you go for a mid-morning snack. It is only when a colleague asks you for a bite do you realize that you have developed into a fully formed, hunger fueled, monster. Try not to look at yourself in the mirror.

Giphy
Giphy

If only you had spared not even twenty or ten but just 5 minutes in the morning and not skipped breakfast, your story would look completely different - as you will see in this video.

Play

The fast dip in your mood and lack of focus is because your body has missed its most important meal of the day – breakfast. Research has shown that skipping a meal, especially in the morning, worsens the mood because there is a drop in the blood sugar. This in turn affects the levels of serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals produced in the brain that control our moods and feelings. In simpler English, not having breakfast is going to make you really cranky and confused!

Morning is also when the body needs maximum nutrition to function efficiently through the day as you’ve just woken up from a full 7 hours of no food (and if you’re sleeping less than that, that’s a whole other article).

So in short, having a breakfast could make you go from looking like the earlier GIFs to this:

Giphy
Giphy

But with changing lifestyles and most people hard pressed for time, a healthy breakfast is taking the backseat. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. MTR has come up with a range of widely loved Indian delicacies like Poha, Upma and Halwa which can be made in (hold you breath) just 3 minutes! All you have to do is add hot water and wait for 3 minutes to get a delicious and filling breakfast.

Giphy
Giphy

These amazing and delicious breakfasts can be made in a jiffy and consumed with the least hassle, even in the midst of your frenetic morning routine. So grab your #MTRbreakfastin3 to start the day on an awesome note.

Click here to make breakfast a part of your morning routine.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of MTR and not by the Scroll editorial team.