Friday, September 1, 2023

Ills Of Compartmentalized Reading

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam 1 September 2023 Mr Jamal Rizvi's profound Urdu write-up on the waning interest in books (Kitaabon Se Raghbat Ka Fuqdaan....) causing Zehni Fitnagari (mental waywardness/erratic behaviour) is very thought-stirring. Now researchers at Yale University have added that specific or compartmentalized reading is also not a good habit, though it's far better than not reading at all! To quote Ghalib, " Naghma-E-Gham Ko Bhi Ae Dil Ghaneemat Jaaniye/ Be-Sada Ho Jayega Ye Saaz-E-Hasti Ek Din" (Even an anguished song of heart is a blessing/ One day, the instrument of life will permanently cease existing). Compartmentalized reading is also called prejudiced reading because a reader confines himself/herself to reading a particular genre and writer or poet. When people, even those who're educated, think that there has not been any other poet in Urdu poetry barring Mirza Ghalib, one's shocked. Agreed, Ghalib is the crowning glory of Urdu poetry but then there have been very great Urdu poets as well like Momin Khan 'Momin', Mir Taqi Mir, Daagh Dehlavi, Faiz Ahmad 'Faiz', Josh Malihabadi, Firaq, to name but a few. What their magical quills produced is also immortal. Similarly, English literature is not confined to William Shakespeare. Christopher Marlowe, John Donne, T S Eliot and many other literary giants enriched the landscape of English literature. Goethe is not the be-all and end-all of German literature. Nietzsche is no way inferior to him. Read Franz Kafka's 'Die Verwanlung' (The Metamorphosis, 1915) or ' Der Tog in Venedig ' (Death in Venice, 1912) by Thomas Mann or Bernhard Schlink's 'Der Vorleser' (The Reader, 1995). Russian literature doesn't only revolve around Leo Tolstoy. Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, Turgenev, Pushkin among others complete its literary scenario. Read Russian Great Alexander Radishehev's ' Journey from Petersburg to Moscow ' (1790) or Nikolai Karamazin's 'Poor Liza ' (1792). It's a tear-jerking story of how a nobleman seduces a peasant girl and abandons her after a night of passion. But there's no sloppy sentimentalism or melodrama in it. The corpus of French literature is much bigger than Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus' celebrated existentialism. Read Moliere's ' Le Malade Imaginaire' (The Imaginary Invalid, 1673), Voltaire's 'Candide' (1759) or Charles Baudlaire's 'Les Fleurs du mal ' (The Flowers of Evil, 1857). This is a confession of hopes, dreams, failures, and sins, The Flowers of Evil attempts to extract beauty from the malignant. Unlike traditional poetry that relied on the serene beauty of the natural world to convey emotions, Baudelaire felt that modern poetry must evoke the artificial and paradoxical aspects of life. This is one of my favourite French classic books you must read! Sanskrit literature doesn't begin and end with Kalidas. While he is a kenspeckle star on the firmament of Sanskrit literature, you cannot discount Dandi, Magh, Bhavbhuti and Bharavi's immortal masterpieces. Read Bharavi's epic poem ' Kirataarjuniya'. You'll fall in with me that its poetic fluidity is unparalleled. It reads so subliminal in Sanskrit that no one has ever been able to translate it into any other language, retaining its rarest felicity with words.In short, every particle is a sun in its own right. Persian literature is not just Rumi Balkhi and Hafiz Shirazi's grand mystical poetry. One must read Saadi, Attar, Sanai among others. Bengali literature is not limited to Rabindranath Tagore and his ' Gitanjali '. Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Vibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay et al also contributed greatly to enriching the repertoire of Bengali literature. Munshi Premchand is not the only great Hindi literary figure, though his genius is irreproachable. We are forgetting and doing injustice to Jayshankar Prasad, Agyey, Nirmal Verma (novelist and short story writer), Mahadevi Verma, Surykant Tripathi 'Nirala', Gupt brothers (Maithilisharan Gupt and Siyaramsharan Gupt) and the list is endless. P L Deshpande is not the alpha and omega of Marathi literature. Kusumagraj, Shanta Shelke, Narayan Surve, Shivaji Savant, poet Grace etc. also embellished its canvas and corpus. There's much more to Punjabi literature than Amrita Pritam's (autobiographical) works. It has Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Nanak Singh, Puran Singh, Dhani Ram Chatrik and Kartar Singh Duggal. Yes, Fariduddin Ganjshakar and Waris Shah also enriched the repertoire of Punjabi literature with their great works. This fallacious tendency to cherry-pick just one writer or poet from a particular language and eulogise him/her, shows the serious limitations of our appreciation of literature in its totality. Admiration of literary works and writers should have a holistic approach. It must encompass, encircle and embrace the different genres, forms and writers of all hues. One writer, however great he/she may be, can never depict all the moods and aspects of human and social life. Everyone has certain constraints and compulsions. Life is like a multi-layered ice cream. Some layers and flavours are never tastefully explored. So, our understanding of writers shouldn't be prejudiced and monomaniac. Descanting upon just a couple of literary figures and their works is tantamount to limiting the scope of literature and making it monolithic. We must broaden our horizons of acknowledgement and assimilate all wholeheartedly. Then only will we be able to imbibe the universal and all-encompassing spirit of literature. It'll also make us humane because comprehensive reading has a humanising and serene influence on our whole existence. In a lighter vein, if we all start reading so much with an open mind, we'll have no time to stoop to indulging in destructive and fanatic acts and actions. Reading weans you away from all that's ugly, undesirable and uncouth in this world. ---- A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to the world's premier publications in several languages including Persian. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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