Amar Ayyar: I got bad news, man. Amir Hamza: That m-f-ker! Hey, Naushveran, you frigging fuckard, Im gonna whup-yo-ass! Naushveran: Hey, Harmuz, go kick that boys ass for me, will ya? Bakhtak and Amir Hamza face off. Amir Hamza: Whos your daddy now boy? Such, I imagine, would be The Adventures of Amir Hamza if it had been written for tv in the 21th century. Luckily for us, the Dastan-e Amir Hamza was written in 1855, capturing in written form a long oral tradition substantially more ornate and literary. Chapters start with flourishes like this: "The divers of the oceans of historiography and the excavators of the sea of ancient tales bring up the pearls of legends, and thus display them by stringing them into prose, that after the storm" And nobody ever just falls in love when they can do this instead: "Then Amir heaved such a soul-searing sigh that his garden of pleasure was set ablaze, the flames of love conflagrated his heart, and tears of longing began to issue forth from his eyes." The level of male locker-room testosterone in my more 21st century version is about just right though. This is a manly mans tale: Amir Hamza, uncle of the Prophet Mohammed, is the "Terminator" of his age. The Adventures Of Amir Hamza is not only interesting to read because of its subject matter, its a lot of fun.
Over the centuries, embellished by daastaangos in the Indian subcontinent, the Daastaan-e-Amir Hamza acquired an interesting flavour all its own, distinct from the original epic it had been. This book is what Musharraf Ali Farooqi has translated into English in The Adventures of Amir Hamza, bringing to English readers the first complete translation of the life and times of Amir Hamza. Amir Hamza appears 50 pages into the book, and from then oneven as a child, with his best friend Amar Ayyar by his sideits a mad romp, starting with childhood pranks and heroic adventures (punctuated by boons granted by saints as a reward for good and brave deeds). Furthermore, Farooqi provides important annexures: notes on the Daastaan-e-Amir Hamza and its provenance; a list of major characters; and notes explaining certain concepts or words used in the book.
Beyond any accuracy of content or tone, Farooqis rendering gives some feeling for the different expectations and pleasures on offer in a literary culture like Urdus, where the tale needs to work as compelling fireside narration but also as a show piece of advanced poetic eloquence.
The florid news writers, the sweet lipped historians, reviewers of old tales and renewers of past legends thus create a rollicking rumpus by playing the dulcimer of delightful verbiage and the lute of enchanting story, thus bringing to life the legend of Amir Hamza. Before I read of the exploits of Amir Hamza, there were only two human beings capable of performing the logically impossible according to me : Chuck Norris and Rajnikanth. . Any one who has read these tales would know that the baddies would later be found on some other galaxy after Amir was done with them !
Sixteen years later, Abdullah Bilgrami, an instructor of the Arabic language in Kanpur, brought out an amended version of Lakhnavi's text. Farooqi's translation is based on this amended version, as he explains in his Note to the Text.
Reviewed at : Mama Kucing Books :The Adventures of Amir Hamza by Ghalib Lakhnavi & Abdullah Bilgrami WARNING : TO BE READ WITH AN OPEN MIND.
Just look at how Book 2 starts: The imperious pen departs to conquer the dominions of rhetoric, girding itself to trek the blank stretches of paper, and delivers the account of Amir's journey, painting a host of new episodes and choice encounters before the mind's eye.