IQRA (A novel)
By Firdaus Azmat Siddiqui
Reviewed by: Dr. Mohammad Aleem
It was a pleasant surprise when one fine day I received a message from the author of this novel through the messenger app that she wanted to send me a copy of her newly published book in Urdu, titled Iqra. I helped her how it could reach me in my remote village in North Bihar, where I have been living for many months at a stretch after a long gap of many decades. Finally, it reached through the Indian Post as it was much easier for a village like mine.
I started reading the book with interest. Female writers always attract me because I think they can offer themselves a better chance to penetrate their utterly mysterious lives.
Iqra is also the name of the main protagonist. It takes through a simple life journey of her, right from childhood to a teenage girl, and then her adult professional life as a teacher in a college.
This story starts in a middle-class family of the early 1970s and comes to the present time. In this whole journey of around 35-40 years, we pass through many events and incidents, mainly encircling around Iqra. How it was difficult to be raised in a conservative Muslim family then where tradition weighed heavily on modernism, and the girl's education was still a difficult choice to pursue in a family of old values.
Finally, she overcomes all hurdles with flying colors due to her grit determination to eke out her path of success.
The interesting part of the novel is her University days when Iqra struggles to get her Ph.D. admission. How so-called intellectual and haughty professors behave is a thing to observe. The moral and intellectual hollowness of this strange teaching community has been torn to shred boldly by the author. The situation was not as worse some forty years ago. But as the moral erosion sharpened, it slipped from good to worse.
The plot of the novel is quite linear and devoid of any dramatic twists and turns. But the author tried her best to keep it engaging due to its natural depiction of life. Characterization and dialogue delivery are good parts of it.
The language is simple but full of spelling errors. Sadly, it happens with Urdu books due to the lack of a professional publishing environment. No Urdu Wala even tries remotely to improve it. They are more than happy and content in their own confined and narrow world.
They feel pleased to see their books in print with their expenses.
It is ironic that a language of more than ten crore Indians cannot ensure a few thousand sales. It shows not only the weaknesses of our writing but the complacency of Urdu practitioners as well. Urdu needs a good publishing environment to move freely we find in English or other developed languages.
I congratulate the author for taking the pain to write this novel. I hope her other endeavors will be more worthy and carry out complexities as this literary genre demands.
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