Tag Archives: Punjabi folklore

Punjabi Qissas and the Story of Urdu

Heer-Ranjha
Heer-Ranjha in a Pakistani film poster, circa 1970s

The Social Space of Language: Vernacular Literature in British Colonial Punjab
by Farina Mir
Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2010.
ISBN-817824307-5
pp-277, price Rs 695

This book straddles several anomalies that are rather obvious once stated but are rarely formulated as such. How is it that the world of Urdu literature becomes so dominated by people from the Punjab in a span of fifty years, beginning circa 1900s, and in a sense, continues to remain so? Iqbal, Faiz, Meeraji, Rashid, Bedi, Manto, Krishan Chander and down to our times Mushtaq Ahmed and Zafar Iqbal, a top twenty or top fifty list of modern Urdu litterateurs would likely contain eighty percent Pubjabis. And how is it that Punjabi, which produced such a brilliant and varied repertoire of stories, epics and poems until the late medieval era by such extraordinary luminaries as Baba Farid, Bulle Shah, Waris Shah, Haridas Haria seems to drop out of our horizon in the modern era, where all we know of is an Amrita Pritam or, less likely, a Surjit Patar. Where such poverty after such riches, where such preponderance from such invisibility? And yet, how is it that Punjabi still continues to enjoy immediate and even aural connotations that transcend nationality, religion and, even as it defines a community, a specific ethnicity. What then is a Punjabi community and where and how has it existed specifically in the colonial era but, in many resilient ways, down to our times? Continue reading Punjabi Qissas and the Story of Urdu