Social Scientist. v 23, no. 269-71 (Oct-Dec 1995) p. 70.


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SHAMSUR RAHMAN FARUQF

Constructing a Literary History, a Canon, and a Theory ofPoetry: Ab'e Hayat (1880) by Muhammad Husain Azad (1830'1910)

It is probably true that modem western writers tend to underestimate the disruptive impact of colonial rule, just as most Indian writers employ it overmuch as a historical deus ex machina. We must remain indebted to each others' correction. —C. A. Bayly (1992:499)

The literary career of Muhammad Husain Azad can be described as a triumph of British techniques of management and control in India.1 The most remarkable aspect of those techniques was that while the stick was more in evidence than the carrot—and it was a very small carrot anyway—the subject at the receiving eild of the carrot was quite convinced of the salubrious properties of the stick; he actually came to believe that he needed and deserved every inch of it.

Most people would tend to describe Mirza 'Abid Husain, the semi-autobiographical central character of Mirza, Muhammad Hadi Rusva's novel SarlfZadah2 (A Person of Good Family) as a typical new-style Indian gentleman. Of respectable family, impecunious but honest, he is partly self-educated and fully self-made. He manages to go to the famous Engineering School at Roorkie (established by the British in 1844, well before any universities). Whenhegraduate?s,he obtains aminor job in the engineering department—that is, he becomes a "Government servant," a person of great honor and substance in those days. By dint W honesty, ability, generally good relations with the English, and a slice of good luck, 'Abid Husain succeeds in life, does many good-samaritan deeds, retires from the service at the proper age. and lives happily ever after in affluence with his pliable, virtuous wife.

Scrupulous, decorous though not servile with his employers, handy with tools and instruments, devoted "Government servant," humourless, with an active dislike of Urdu poetry, devout, untroubled by questions of identity or change of patronage, Mirza 'Abid Husain would seem to be the perfect prototype of the "loyal," technologically current, politically correct, and "morally sound" individual whom the British wanted to develop in India. But the Sarlfzddah has a certain too-good-Urdu Monthly Shabkhoon, Allahabad.

Social Scientist, Vol. 23 Nos. 10-12, October-December 1995



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