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Shamsur Faruqi looks at the past to reclaim truth

The beauty of the past lies in finding the truth that is buried deep in some unknown corners of the memory. Reclaiming it is a tedious process, but this is what Urdu critic and novelist Shamsur Rahman Faruqi has done in the remarkable novel "The Mirror of Beauty" that recreates the era of the late 19th century, with Wazir Khanam as the protagonist.

The Allahabad-based novelist has translated this fictional novel from his 2006 Urdu novel "Kai Chand the Sar-e-Aasman" that is woven around the real life character of Khanam.

"The past has to be seen in its own value and not in terms of how you want to see it," said Faruqi Thursday during a session at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.

"Most of us... or all of us don't know that we have lost something because we don't understand and acknowledge that there is a beauty in it and isn't easy to reclaim from the past," he added.

The 80-year-old author admitted that during his journey in the literary world he has always questioned why "everything has to be seen from a western point of view."

"We have always been taught to look at everything from the western point of view, but if I am unable to place Ghalib or Iqbal in that western frame because they don't fit in there then why put them in some alien place?" questioned Faruqi who is considered the T.S. Eliot of Urdu critics.

And this is what he has challenged throughout his life. He reviewed "Dastangoi" --Urdu oral storytelling format, apart from writing many stories and poems and doing translations.

"Past can also make you understand today's relevance. My perspective to look at beauty is to find truth in it and for this I rely on my observant eye and reasonably good memory," he said.

However, when asked by Pakistani author Bilal Tanweer, who was also on the panel, that isn't "nostalgia" not accepted by the western school of thought, Faruqi was quick to add that "nostalgia is a dirty word."

"Most of us make it (nostalgia) an alibi for not doing a thing. But if it means that you go back there, use the memory and come back to tell-a-tale, it would be described as imaginative understanding," he said.

"An understanding of how you have observed and seen past and what do you perceive from it," he concluded.