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It Happened to Me Thus

Qazi ‘Abd al-Ghaffar
1950
Muradabad, India (Original Language: Urdu)

In the same way that a broken film projector fails to display the full image on the screen, these blind impressions of the beginning [of my life] hardly remain on the forgotten shelf of my memory. How strange it is! The first thing [of my childhood] that I remember is a corner of our house where my father’s pencil-sharpener was kept.…

How I learned to Read and Write

Bibi Ashraf
1899
Lahore, Punjab (Original Language: Urdu)

The original essay appeared in two instalments in Tehzib-e Niswan (Lahore) (23 and 30 March 1899).  It was then published with a biographical introduction by the journal’s editor, Muhammadi Begum, in a book entitled Hayat-e Ashraf (Lahore: Imambara Sayyida Mubarak Begum, n.d.).  The essay has been translated from this source with a biographical introduction to the author in C.M. Naim, ‘How Bibi Ashraf Learned to Read and Write’, Annual of Urdu Studies, vol.…

Munis al-Arvah

Jahanara Begum
1640
Lahore, Punjab (Original Language: Persian)

Know that, after the performance of religious duties, requirements, and the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, this weak woman who hopes for salvation regards no action as nobler than the remembrance of the spiritual states and stations of the revered saints (may God sanctify their spirits). Therefore, I have spent a portion of my time in reading books and treatises that contain the felicitous accounts of the great ones of religion and the mighty ones of certainty.…

Yali

Atiya Fyzee
1898
Janjira, India (Original Language: English)

EXTRACT FROM YALI AKHBAR (1898)

9th May [18]98

“Yali”

 

First of all I will beg the reader’s pardon, especially dear ma’s (as she prefers Urdu) for writing in English. I tried in Hindustani but the “kulum” proved a complete failure. I just want to give a brief account of our never-to-be forgotten voyage from Murud.

Yesterday at the usual time in the early morn, the steamer that was to convey us was signalled as in view.…

Roznamcha

Nazr Sajjad Haidar
1942
Dehradun, India (Original Language: Urdu)

EXTRACT ONE

26 May 1912: Today was the most important day of life. When I woke up in the morning to offer my prayers, I saw a different atmosphere in the house. My elder female relatives were busy in arrangements for hosting someone. Everyone in the house including its younger as well as elder members along with the servants seemed extremely happy.…

Risalah Sahibiya

Jahanara Begum
1640
Lahore, Punjab (Original Language: Persian)

Extract from Risala-i-Sahibiyah (1640)

Translated by Sunil Sharma

 

Since my twentieth year I have had a sincere resolution and firm belief in the … order of the masters of Chisht (may their secrets be sanctified) and the ring of discipleship and servitude to the guiding pir, who is the pole of the saints,    leader of the perfect sages, is marked on the ear of the soul of purity.…

Kaghazi Hai Pairahan

Ismat Chughtai
1994
Badayun, India (Original Language: Urdu)

EXTRACT ONE

I was weeping inconsolably.

 

Someone was being beaten brutally. The perpetrator was a giant-like

monster, while the one being beaten was a tiny, dark-skinned child.

I do not remember clearly the people involved as I was very small

at the time. But I remember that when the big cane struck it made

a horrific, slithering sound. The sound is embedded in my memory,

and I often still hear it.…

Diary – Tehzib al-Nisvan

Nur un-Nisa’ Begum
1943
India (Original Language: Urdu)

Every human being has the right to write a diary. Neither fame nor anonymity can keep anyone deprived of this freedom. Events, incidents and disclosures comprise the definition of life. If the diary of Macaulay tells us that he spent every moment of his life in some constructive engagement, then the diary of a poor and wretched person impresses upon us that even the starving people riddled with swollen ribs and shrunken cheeks hail from the same descendents of Adam on whose distinction and excellence men take pride.…

Tazkirat al-Ahwal

٘Muhammad Ali ‘Hazin’ Lahiji
1742
Isfahan (Original Language: Persian)

[From Hazin’s days of study as a young man]

During those days [in Isfahan], of all the strange occurrences and events, there was the passion for a beauty [with such] manner of beautiful qualities, that my heart became maddened.

You showed me a trace of the beauty of the friend but / Should this world and the next collide I have no agitation or malevolence

A novel agitation befell the secluded palace of my mind and from my restless heart arose sedition and tumult.…