New Trend in Urdu Novel

Novel as a distinct art form is the product of those periods of social history when the rural-monarchic patterns of life start disintegrating and subsequently substituted by the urban democratic manners of living. This generalization holds equally true – with minor modifications hear and there of course – to the novels of France, Germany, Russia, England, America, Japan and other parts of the civilized world: it holds immensely true in the case of Urdu Novel which had its beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century, when under the influence of British rule and economy, our’s ages-old so-called oriental ways of life were under a perpetual replacement with the quasi-occidental mores and manners. Last decades of 19th and the early days of the 20th century were in the Indo-Pak sub-continent, the dusk of one and dawn of another life system. This is the period when Urdu Novel got created.

Before dealing specifically with the urdu novel, let us digress for some time into some more generalization. It has just been said that novel is the creation of decadent rural monarchic system of living. Lot us probe into the how and why of this creation.

The fact of the matter is that when, due to some causes internal or external or both – a social system starts disintegrating and giving rise to a different order of living all the various human beings placed in that situation start feeling a chaos, a lawlessness, an anarchy around them. Living with our fellow-beings, we live through the psychological understanding of others. Deeper this understanding, easier the life-adjustments and smoother the course of living. Conversely, in absence of such an understanding, life becomes difficult: normal situations start appearing odd: mechanical routine of life starts breaking away and, every now and then, one has to attempt to the best of one’s intellect to read just oneself with the over-changing circumstances.

In an alive social system, its potent mores and morals, codes and conventions, laws and taboos, acting upon its inhabitants, give rise within them to  norms according to, and with the help of, which they go on predicting successfully the behavior of other fellow-beings. This successful prediction gives to them the feeling that life is organized, well knit, orderly. Living in an alive environment is to live in a community of well patronized personalities. the sum-total psychic dimensions of whom are but easily accessible because they are socially determined and hence mechanically predictable. On the other hand, to live in a dying social system, when the active social forces have lost their influence and thereby common norms have been liquidated. One has to engage oneself in constant struggle in both with the external social as well as the internal personal works in which one happens to live. To live in a changing period of history is to live in perpetual conflict and confusion. Greater the change more the magnitude of conflict and richer the life experiences. Richer the life experiences and broader the human consciousness more intense the feeling in an artist that his art-form is limited; that its barriers must either be expended or broken; that a new art-form must be created.

This is how at the break of rural-monarchic system of living and at the advent of industrial era, novel as an art form with much broader a scope and span gets created. This is how, at the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Deputy Nazir Ahmed, Rattan Nath Sarshar, Mirza Ruswa and Munshi Prem Chand started twinkling on the horizons of Urdu literature as novelists.

Since these novelists were the product of rural monarchic decadence, their subject matters remained essentially sociological. Because they came at that period of social history when something old was fading away and something new was in the making, those novelists therefore sided emotionally either with the dying or with the evolving or in suspense with none. Because the dying system was not already dead and there were chances of its being restored, some of these writers therefore became didactic. This is how we find in Deputy Nazir Ahemd “Didactic Sentimentalism”, in Ruswa “ Sociological Naturalism” and in Prem Chand “Sociological Realism”. These three trends of novel writing which had their beginning in the earlier days of the history of urdu novel, still persist and one can easily assemble the bulk of urdu novels into these categories. For example, Aziz Ahmad’s Guraze’ Krishan Chandar’s Shikast, and Shaukat Siddiqu’s Khuda ki Basti, belong to the group of Sociological Realism; Balwant singh’s Chore, Chand and Chandni, to Sociological Naturalism; M. Aslam, Qaisi Rampuri, Nasim Hijazi and Rashed Akhter Nadvi’s major novels to Didatic sentimentalism, and so on so forth.

It has been said earlier that when the motivating forces of mores, moralities, conventions, laws and religion lose their influences in a social system the human personalities growing in that system tend to show more and more divergences and differentiations. They start differing in their behaviors their thoughts their feelings. In such a situation one’s prediction about one’s fellow-mates goes on being constantly challenged. A constant negation of our predictions becomes the order of the day. This creates in us on the one hand a sense of chaos and on the other a feeling that we all live as individuals that our subtotal psychological perspectives and dimensions differ from one another that every one has his own psychological built up and hence his typical system of values behavior thinking and feeling, his personal aspirations and allusions and illusions indivisualism as a psychological and philosophical truth starts knocking at the doors of our consciousness. Thereby Sociological Realism starts giving way to Psychological Realism: Ismat Chughtai emerges out from the blues, Prem Chand fades into the background “Tehri Lakir” becomes the talk of the town.

Then the modifying forces of human personality are active and influential human beings living growing and developing in a social system tend to get a common psyche; they tend to have common norms which help make them similar rather than dissimilar persons. This results in the creation of proto-types. In such an intact social system to describe the social scene is synonymous with describing the various individuals living in it: the kisan, the Jagirdar, the Patwari become an integral part of the material life in which they happen to be placed, a brushing description of them is enough to give fullest approach into theirselves. To describe the social-mould the environment or the molded material, the human personality become the depiction of but two different sides of the same reality. This is why in the earliest novels when the decadent system due to its anertia is still potent to produce proto-types a more detailed presentation of the life segments gives a feeling in the artist that he has described the persons living in it as well. Sociological Realism does not take pain in the detailed depiction of its character for the simple fact that the characters are noting but a mechanical reflection of the environment in which they happen to live. Any description of them is therefore, considered superfluous.

But when the motivating forces have lost their impact and the social mould is already crumbled any such mathematical relationship between the external material environment and the internal psychological life of the human beings living in that environment ceases to exist. To describe the environment then becomes a different act than describing the human personality placed in it. The locale of the novelist starts shrinking, his point of focus start shifting and his mode of presentation starts changing. Sociological Realism starts giving birth to Psychological Realism.

In case of this shift from the sociological to the psychological from the general to the particular one aspect however remains constant the way of looking at things. In sociological as well as psychological realism the approach to the subject matter (the society or the psycho) remains objective and logical. In psychological novels instead of looking at the individual from the side of the social system the social system is started building up via the individuals behavior. Yet it is the same social system and psychic self which is described.

This minor change in the way of looking does not enable the new psychological novel differ much in the handling of its subject matter, in its modes and manners of presentation in its technique etc. from the sociological novel. The major shift is only in the direction of choosing the various events and episodes rather than in their presentation. This is why much of the patternization in the psychological novels remains similar to that of the sociological ones: the characters are placed in a logical space-time they grow and develop chronologically they either indulge into phantacies and dreams but little or if they do the phantacie pertain to the present based on the past the conscious past montages flash backs soliloquy are but Seldom employed for the presentation of the characters in the psychological realistic novels of Ismat’s “Tehri Lakeer’s” type. (same is true about Mumtaz Mufti’s “Alipur ka Aeli” which has come on the bookshelves very recently but which in no way differs in the handling of its subject matter from Ismat’s Tehri Lakeer expect that it is much poor and shallow in its presentation.

Advancing however, we come to a now cross road with Anwar Sajjad’s “Rug-e-Sung”, Curat-ul-Ain’s “Aag ka Darya” and Intezar Hussain’s “Din aur Dstan”. I have chosen and bracketed these apparently diverse writers of broadly different stature. Philosophy and temperament to exhibit that one thing which they have in common: their new approach to their subject matter, their new mode of presentation, their new technique.

These three novelists share with Ismat Chughtai their concern about the psychological presentation of a character: broadly speaking their novels also fall into the category of Psychological Realism. They however, differ and differ widely from any such novelist in their approach towards their characters which fact is reflected clearly in the techniques which they adopt. All of these three writers employ in one from or another to a lesser degree or to a more one or the other form of the stream of consciousness.

In case of Ismat Chughtai’s “Tehri Lakeer” her description of Shuman is that of an external overt personality the concern of the writer with whom is only upto the extent of pin-pointing her various activites and their-with probing into the socio-psychological motivating factors behind them. Contrasted with such an approach Intazar, Anwar Sajjad and Qurat-ul-Aein concern themselves with the internal rather than the external personality of their character; they attempt depicting the psychic dimensions and mental functioning of their characters Generalizing we can safely say that the new writers belong to the psycho analytic and more specifically to the Jungian and Rankian schools of Depth psychology while the old psychological realists were either behaviorists or Freudians and Adlerians. We also point out the difference in the philosophical basis as well of the new and older writers: the new are believers of some sort of existentialism while the old accepted a broad material. We may also say as has become common that the difference between the old and new is that the former were concerned about what one does and how while the later about what one is and why. It may also be noted that the old psychological realists had more specific psychological problems in view as compared with the newer ones who have rather broad metaphysical problems to ponder and present. For example Anwar Sajjad concerns himself with finding out the meaning of human existence: what is man? What is life? How is life different from death and why? Qurat-ul-Aein’s main theme in Aag ka Darya is to answer the grand question: What is Pakistani personality? Pakistani Culture? Pakistani temperament? Intazar also raises the cry: who are we? Where are we? When have we come? And wither have to go?

Raising those and allied philosophic questions, these new writers have contributed to modern Urdu novel one great thing: they have opened up for it new vistas of life. Adding mental functioning and psychic existence to the already established domain of motion and action, they have much broadened and deepened the soil of Urdu fiction. Theirs is an attempt to establish that the lions roaring in the dark labyrinths of human unconscious are too influential until tamed and theirs is a struggle to tame these lions. Now for these attempts have been successful; how long those metaphysical quarries would persist one may not be sure. But one is sure of one thing: the rich addition to the heritage of Urdu Novel in the form of various techniques associated with the presentation of stream of consciousness. These techniques are certainly going to stand the test of time and the future novelists shall surely be making the best use of them.