Renowned Urdu poet, critic and theorist Shamsar Rahman Faruqi passed away on 25 December in Allahabad. His daughter Mehr Farooqi tweeted about her father’s demise: “We reached Allahabad and father transitioned peacefully,” she wrote.
Born in the interiors of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh on 30 September, 1935, Faruqi earned his Masters in English Literature from Allahabad University in 1955 and began writing in the early 1960s. A retired officer of the Indian Postal Service, Faruqi commands immense reverence and acclaim equally among the connoisseurs of Urdu and English poetry and prose in India.
For his contributions in the field of Urdu literature, Faruqi was conferred with the Saraswati Samman in 1996 for his work Sher-e Shor Angez, a four-volume treatise on the 18th-century Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir. In 2009, the Government of India conferred upon him the Padma Shri.
Faruqi’s 2013 novel The Mirror of Beauty, based on the life and times of Wazir Khanam, the mother of the famed Urdu poet Daag Dehalvi, set mostly in 19th-century Delhi, was also shortlisted for the prestigious DSC Prize for Literature. It was a translation of his 2006 Urdu novel titled Ka’i Chand The Sar-e Asman. In his 2014 book The Sun That Rose from the Earth, Faruqi shed light on the thriving Urdu literary culture of the 18th and 19th century in the North Indian cities of Delhi and Lucknow that remained vigorous and resilient even in the face of glaring defeat in 1857 at the hands of ‘Company Bahadur’.
Emphasising on the need to use language as a thread to bind people and ensure that languages do not become extinct, the literary critic, in an interview with the Press Trust of India in 2013, had said: “It is difficult to speak about the connections that languages forge as we have made our names and languages as a tool to create disconnect. I am from the interiors of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and it is one of my greatest disappointments that a language like Bhojpuri associated with my place is never considered a full-fledged language.”
He also expressed concerns about how language as a medium of expression has been reduced to a tool of identity. “Nobody owns a language, but we still fight over languages in our society. Many native writers don’t want their work to be translated by anybody else other than themselves. It is sad that language has become a tool of ownership and hegemony; not the thread that binds people together,” said Faruqi.