Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 1, 1981 p. 57.

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Carlo Coppola



In 1932 two young men with a great deal in common met in Lucknow, a meeting which would eventually exercise a profound effect on modern Urdu literature. Both were under thirty; both had been educated through the medium of English and shared a fondness for "sombreros, bright shirts and contrasting ties, collecting candlesticks and gargoyles. Bach and Beethoven, and an admiration for James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence and the New writing poets, as well as Chekhov and Gorky."!

Both men, however, also had their differences. Sajjad Zaheer, born in 1905, was from an upper-class family. His father was Sir Syed Wazir Hasan (1874-1947), a judge of the High Court of Judicature, Allahabad. Sajjad Zaheer himself had just returned from Oxford where he had completed his B.A. (Hons.) Ahmed Ali, born in 1910, was from humbler origins.^ The son of a middle-level civil servant, he was raised after his father's death in the home of a zealously orthodox paternal uncle. With considerable family opposition, he broke away from this atmosphere, attended Muslim University, Aligarh, for a while, then proceeded to Lucknow University, where he distinguished himself by receiving first class first honors in English for both the B.A. and M.A. degrees. He was then hired as a lecturer in English at Lucknow University.

These two were then joined by Ahmed All's friend. Dr. Rashid Jahan, born in 1905, a daughter of Shaikh Muhammad Abdul-lah (1878-1965), a Kashmiri Brahmin who converted to Islam and greatly admired the ideas and work of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan and the so-called "Aligarh Movement." In 1906 the shaikh founded a school for girls which would eventually become associated with Sir Sayyid's Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College. Rashid Jahan, a gynecologist, was posted at Lady Duffer in Hospital, Lucknow, with the Provincial Medical Service. She was a woman of formidable wit, charm, beauty and intelligence.

Shortly thereafter, the group was joined by Mahmuduzzafar, born in 1908, son of Sahabzada Saiduzzafar Khan, a medical doctor and head of the Medical College of Lucknow University, as well as a prominent member of the ruling family of Rampur. Mahmuduzzafar had been schooled almost exclusively through the medium of

*An earlier version of this paper was presented at a panel entitled "Proscription and Censorship: Banned Literature in India," 4th annual Wisconsin Conference on South Asia, Madison, 1975.


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