Urdu and Japan: a relationship of red blooms and green fragrance
Among foreign nationals who have written about, and in Urdu, the Japanese stand head and shoulders above the rest. For more than 100 years, people in Japan have been learning and teaching Urdu as a foreign language.
In the promotion of Urdu, the role of university teachers has been instrumental. Prof Gamou Reiichi, who is known as Japan’s Baba-i-Urdu, was the one to plant Urdu’s exotic sapling in Japanese soil. The sapling was tended lovingly by Prof Suzuki Takashi, a pupil of Prof Reiichi’s, and other scholars such as Prof Hiroji Kataoka, Prof Asada Yutaka, and Prof Hiroshi Hagita made sure that this alien plant kept blooming and bearing fruit. Teachers from the latter generation who worked for the promotion include Prof So Yamane, Prof T. Matsumura, Prof Hiroshi Kankagaya and Prof Kensaku Mamiya.
This plant is now producing cherry-red flowers. The fragrance of these flowers, strange as it seems, has a colour, too — it is green, the colour of our national flag. What has prompted me to write these lines is the title of a book, ‘Surkh phoolon ki sabz khushboo’, meaning the green fragrance of red flowers, which appeared in December 2012.
When I met the author of this book, Khurram Suhail, a young journalist-turned-writer from Karachi, I remarked that fragrance was not a material thing and hence could not have a colour. Suhail’s prompt reply was: “It’s the fragrance of love, which is not material. It is the fragrance of a green plant rooted in Japanese soil, bearing red Japanese flowers and giving green Pakistani fragrance”. I realised then that the sapling planted by Prof Reiichi must now be laden with flowers.
This is how Khurram Suhail thinks and writes — creatively and imaginatively. As is evident from the names of his two previous books, he has a knack for turning abstract ideas into vivid, vibrant images. His first book, a collection of interviews with celebrities, was named ‘Baton ki piyali mein thandi chaae’, meaning cold tea in a cup of chitchat. His second, a fine work on music, is titled ‘Sur maya’, and what he exactly wanted to say here was ‘Sur ka sarmaya’, meaning the heritage of music.
His third book ‘Surkh phoolon ki sabz khushboo’, published by Sang-i-Meel Publications, Lahore, is a compilation of articles, essays, travelogues and columns written by some 60 writers. The writers include well-known authors, journalists and scholars from both Pakistan and Japan and the book is divided into sections discussing various aspects of Japanese culture, language, literature and arts.
However, the predominant theme of the book is Japan’s relationship with Urdu. It was not a coincidence that the year in which the book appeared marked the 60 years of friendly relations between Pakistan and Japan, because it was intended to be so. In the introduction, Khurram Suhail says that this book is an expression of appreciation for Japanese scholars who worked relentlessly for the promotion of Urdu in their country and kept showing their love for Pakistan.
Another book published to mak the 60th anniversary of Pakistan-Japan friendship is ‘Japan: tehzeeb ka safar’, meaning Japan: the journey of civilisation. Written by three writers, Iqbal Burma, Abdullah Miyazawa and Fatima Miyazawa, the book was produced with an artistic touch usually associated with the Japanese culture. It carries a large number of photographs, both old and new, some of which are quite exquisite. But what makes this book truly interesting is the succinct but flowing account of Japan’s history, culture and arts. The book is not a drab account of historical facts but in fact serves as the historical background for explaining Japanese culture and the efforts of Japanese intellectuals and philosophers to change their society over the centuries.
Originally from Pakistan, Abdullah Miyazawa has been living in Japan for more than two decades. Co-author Fatima Miyazawa is Abdullah’s Japanese wife.
The third co-author, Iqbal Burma, is a management and marketing executive from and living in Pakistan. He knows Japanese well and has also lived there for some time. Before this publication, Iqbal Burma penned another work on Japan.
This trio has put together a work in Urdu, based on other authentic works, and Karachi-based publisher Adab Dehleez has produced it beautifully.