Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 2, 1982 p. 85.

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by Bishan Narayan Par

The first writer of Urdu fiction, who as yet remains the unsurpassed master of his art, has passed away from our midst. The magic pen of Ratan Nath Dar will write no more. On the 27th January he died at Hyderabad, a thousand miles from his home, without a friend to shed a tear by his lonely bed, and to hear his last sigh of final pain. Of his death, the Indian press, with the exception of a few brief and formal obituary paragraphs that it deigned to insert in its columns, took little notice. The passing away from earth of one who was a unique figure in Urdu literature, 'unwept, unhonored and unsung' is all the more remarkable, for among competent judges his undoubted merits are generally recognized, and he has left a host of writers who, although never pretending to hide their light under a bushel, have yet derived it from his incandescent genius. No one denies now --indeed no one has ever doubted—that Ratan Nath Dar is the founder of the Urdu novel. After a quarter of a century which has witnessed the births of hundreds of Urdu novels of all sorts which ingenuity or eccentricity could suggest, he yet remains unapproached and unapproachable in the line which he chalked out for himself. It is equally admitted that he was a master of the Urdu tongue. His name and Sir Syed Ahmed's must remain for ever associated with the development, cultivation, and expansion of Urdu, although as a man of letters, pure and simple, he was even superior to Sir Syed Ahmed. As a humourist he has had no equal in our generation, and only one in the last--GAa-Z.iJb of Delhi, not his equal, but his superior in the finer touches of humour, although inferior to him in the spontaneous flow of inexhaustible wit. It seems therefore rather remarkable that the loss of such rare talents should fail to evoke adequate expression of grief from the Urdu world of letters—especially at a time when it can ill afford to lose any of those who are its ornaments. Surely there must be some explanation of this; some reason why an author who has amused a whole generation of Urdu-knowing men, when he dies, is not missed by them. It is I think possible to explain this phenomenon; and I shall, in my own way, venture to do so.

Ratan Nath Dar, known by his poetical nom de plume of Sarshar wrote in, what according to a phrase of recent origin may be called, literary Urdu, and literary Urdu is the language of educated Mohammedans, as Ratan Nath himself is not tired of reminding us over and over again in his books. The Mohammedans as a class have a prejudice, based no doubt on a sub-stratum of truth, that the Urdu of an educated Hindu can not be so good as that of an educated Mohammedan and they rather doubt their senses than modify their judgement when they see any specimen of good Urdu written by a Hindu pen. No reflection is here


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