Evelyn D. Varady
BAZM-E-URDU, LUCKNOW: A WOMEN'S RESPONSE TO THE DECLINE OF URDU
The meetings of Bazm-e-Urdu (Bazm-e-Urd^, "Association of Urdu") take place at the home of Begum Hamida Habibullah, M.P. The home, an old English-style bungalow, is centrally located in the newer part of Lucknow and has a large drawing room furnished with padded sofas and chairs, a large piano, an oriental carpet, and family photos including a portrait of Nehru with one of the family members, A large stuffed tiger looms near the entrance.
I arrived at the meeting early, took a seat on the sofa, and observed the women as they entered. A few had been escorted in cars or on scooters; one had driven herself. Others arrived in groups on bicycle rickshaws. Most of the women wore colorful silk or polyester saris; some wore shalwar-kameez; and only a few wore a burqa* over their clothes. Those who had arrived in burqa* removed their black or grey coverings, and joined the rest.
Before the meeting began, some women hung a banner with the organization's name written in Urdu on the wall. They adjusted the plants next to the raised (taxt) area reserved for the guests of honor. Then all the women, who had been sitting on the sofas and chairs, gradually shifted positions to the large sheet spread on the floor where they sat down close to one another.
The guests of honor that evening were Smti. Gora Pant Shivani, a Hindi short story writer, and Begum Sabiha Anwar, an Urdu short story writer. After being introduced by the President, both women read some of their stories in Hindi and in Urdu, respectively. When the readings were over. Begum Habibullah arose and gave a brief speech in Hindustani. Her points, loosely translated, were as follows:
There is not much difference between Hindi and Urdu. We all understood the language in Smti. Shivani's stories perfectly well. She is from Lucknow and speaks Hindustani. What is the difference if it is written in Devanagari? We are missing a great deal by not reading stories like hers, just because they are written in Hindi, and likewise, others miss much by not reading Urdu. We are all sisters and should be able to share our experiences through literature with one another. We all should be able to read both scripts. If literary works are Iran- , scribed into both scripts, we all will be the richer for it.