Taking the Ghazal route for learning Urdu, beats all divides

By Mohd Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net,

Hyderabad: Urdu language itself is sweet music to many ears and if it manifests in its most popular genre of poetry – the Ghazal – the sweetness of Urdu zubaan simply increases manifold, leading to a committed fan club cutting across divisions.

So it pains many to see that Urdu, which in spite of being mother language for scores, get a beating. Professor Khalid Saeed, who has dedicated his life in the service of his love – Urdu – found out a unique way to propagate the language. Saeed has utilized the charm of the Ghazals form to breathe a new life into the art of learning Urdu.

He runs a Ghazal appreciation learning course to take the language out of the mud of depravity and brought in a touch of rhythm.

Saeed, the Director of Center for Urdu Language Literature and Culture at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), is known to many as man who utilizes every resources at his disposal for a singular aim ‘Urdu ki Baqa’ (subsistence of Urdu). True to his depiction, during his tenure as HoD of Urdu Department, Saeed developed his brain child, Tehseen-e-Ghazal (appreciation of Ghazal) as an art to learn Urdu.

Speaking to TCN, he narrated an encounter which led him to the idea. “Once I went to give a lecture at a meeting of a NGO Pratham, its director Mr Chauhan told that he loves Urdu, especially the Ghazals but he is unable to understand many of the words. I explained him that till you don’t understand the language, you won’t be able to extract full pleasure out of it.”

Chauhan asked him if there was any course through which he could learn ‘Ghazal Urdu’? Saeed thought and could find no answer but immediately said: “I will design one for sure.”

Sayeed has taught Urdu to trainee IAS and IPS officers in different academies and that experience has shaped his idea of transforming the style of Urdu education. “Urdu learning classes were started for officers who got posted at Jammu & Kashmir. Although their number used to be just 2-3, my Urdu classes were attended by at least 30-40 trainee officers, who chose it as an additional language. I used to get surprised with their enthusiasm. Many of those trainee officers whom I interacted with either opted Urdu terming it a gentleman’s language or due to curiosity of understanding its romantic poetry.”

Brining a new sparkle to the learning of Urdu language, Saeed designed a course basing on Ghazal linguistic. “This was the course for spoken level called ‘Tehseen-e-Ghazal’, which means appreciation of Ghazal. Appreciation can be done only when you understand the Ghazal,” he said. With 12 units and 24 lessons course, one can master the art of speaking and understanding Urdu with Ghazal acting as a mediator, he claimed.

When TCN visited his university office, sitting along with him was one of his students K Tejaswani, assistant professor at the Department of English from Geetam University. Tejaswani said she once attended the workshop on languages in MANUU where she understood the depth of the Urdu language, which inspired her to learn it. Under Sayeed’s guidance, she has completed diploma course and is now able to not just understand the language but also able to read it.

Urdu spoken level course of six months has three compositions: first pronunciation, second communication skills and third is vocabulary of ghazal.


Professor Khalid Saeed
Professor Khalid Saeed

“When I started the course I received calls of people wanting to learn Ghazal singing, I gently told them it’s not the place,” Saeed said laughing.

He points out there is a system of vocabulary in Ghazal which one needs to understand. For example ‘Sharaab’ (wine) and ‘Maikada’ (bottle of wine) are not mere words, there is a whole concept behind those words, in many phrases Maikada becomes a source of inspiration, a source of motivation, it’s not just defining wine.

“One particular lady, a Ghazal singer herself, who doesn’t understand Urdu, approached me and asked what will she get from this course? I told her that if you understand the words, the Ghazal rendition will be well and you will be able to create an accurate melodious rhythm.”

He said even Shibli Nomani’s ‘Shiʾr al-ʻAjam’ has explained that semantics and expressionism is essential for Urdu Gazal.

Emphasizing more on the vast and dodgy universe of Urdu Ghazal poetry, Saeed said both the language and its poetry are very liberal in nature. “The most mocked at people in literature and poetry are – Mulla, Zahid, Sheikh, Waiz and Mohtasim. They were made a target because of their dubious nature and two faces.”

When the classes began in November 2009, there were just six students but as the years passed on, the strength increased. Saeed counts scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, the learned professionals who came and attended his classes just for the love of Ghazal and to know the meaning and spirit behind it.

At the instance of learned learners, Saeed increased the grade of the course and made it a diploma level course. So when the students first got attracted to understand the language of Ghazal, in diploma they are made to understand importance to be able to read the Urdu composition of those Ghazals. Urdu reading course is named Amozesh-e-Urdu (basic education of Urdu).

Saeed during his brief stint at the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore designed the language games. Syllabus of the course was also designed in an interactive way. He transformed Urdu proverbs in cartoons through which a situation is visualized for the students and presented in the syllabus book ‘Khel Kahawat’. “Proverbs are the condense wisdom of any linguistic community,” he said.

Designing and preparing the syllabus catering to the need of grown-up learners was a challenge, Saeed conceded. “As the artists were not able to visualize the proverbs, I had to draw the paintings by myself. As Urdu DTP work was taking time, I had to prepare the whole chapters of course in my hand written notes.”

At MANUU study centre in Haj House, the course is held on weekends, keeping in mind the working professionals coming up for learning. He said the student composition was from different backgrounds and religions. He particularly gives the reference of the latest pass out student Dr Shashikala Reddy. The reason: she is 80-year-old.

Saeed is not bothered about the communalization of Urdu, but what worries him more is that community whose tag has been imposed over Urdu, is not an inch interested in, let alone develop, preserving the language. “For our course, we receive more number of applications from non-Muslims,” he pointed out.
“I have observed that the new generation of Muslim community sees Urdu learning as something down class, while other communities at least show excitement and interest in learning the language.”

He quickly moves on to show a message on his mobile phone from someone named Sachin. “This person sent me a DD of Rs700 three days back. Today, I got the message that Sachin has got to know about my book ‘Learn Urdu’ through Hyderabad Literature Festival and wants to purchase it, as his daughter is interested in learning the language.”

A student from Karnataka, Zaheda, writing her thesis on Sayeed’s work, was quick to mention that Professor first studied Mechanical engineering, then his love for language drew him into academics, where he did MA and subsequently PhD in Urdu.


Professor Khalid Saeed (center)

Stressing from his own example, Khalid Saeed appeals Muslims to tone down the feelings of disenchantment for Urdu language. “We should never feel ashamed of Urdu; it is more Hindustani than any other language spoken in this country.”

“It’s a treasure of our culture and tradition, we are its guardian angels, which now makes it our duty to protect it as well as share it with pursuers.”

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