Interview: “When you love the things you do, they become your love affairs: Dr Shadab Ahmed

Dr. Shadab Ahmed is a cognized name in the domain of Indo-Persian, Arabic and Ottomanhistorical literature from the kingdoms, empires, emirates and sultanates. A Maxillofacial Surgeon specializing in the field of Institutional Accreditation, and an extra-academic scholar of Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit and Castilian literature in the Devanagari, Shahmukhi, Nasta’liq, Perso-Arabic, Latin &Orkhon scripts –Dr.Shadab Ahmed has translated, paraphrased, transliterated, composed, edited and published several non-pedagogical books related to World Poetry. His dedication to the craft is evident in the meticulous research, linguistic expertise and profound understanding of historical contexts that he brings to his works. His book reviews, abstracts and verses appear in major inter-continental poetry and literature journals.
In an interview with Prof Shiv Sethi for Precious Kashmir Dr Ahmed shared his views and thoughts. Here are the excerpts of the conversation.

Precious Kashmir:How do you see the legacy of Persian and Urdu literature continuing in India today?

Dr.Shadab Ahmed Persian and Urdu remains as a living tradition in India, in which hundreds of millions of people continue to think, write and dream. Traditionally, History writing in India and about India of the 18th and 19th centuries was a product of a complex crosscurrent of languages and ideas. In the 18th century, historiography of India was defined by Persian language histories written for the courts of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu rulers. British colonial administrators approached this literary heritage with an eye to translating and moulding that knowledge for their own uses. Persian histories and the Persian language were studied in an intensified effort to understand India’s past, through their Department of Linguistic Studies. Persian and Urdu also remain an administrative and court language in the various regions in Middle East and South Asia.

 Precious Kashmir:Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your book “Mashuq-E-Jaan”, and what readers can expect from it?

Dr.Shadab Ahmed Mashuq-E-Jaan” salutes and memorializes the immemorial “Lover and the Beloved”, of both erotic and mystic Love. Within the verses and passages of this book, the readers will find sagas of love, desire and craving for the beloved, throughout different ages and socio-economic-political eras. The bards and sonnets of love in this book are presented in many forms, from effortless unornamented pure metric verses to elaborate complex composite wordplays. But history is proof that Love was always complicated, uncertain and ruled over hearts and minds. Be it the mighty Ottoman Caliphs and Sultans, be it the symphonic Sanskrit, Urdu or Prakrit scholars or pundits – all fell victim to the mania and lunacy of Love. Empires were subscribed and donated, sanctified doctrines, creed and scriptures were memorialized and transcribed to keep the love for their beloveds enkindled.The inspiration to write this book is my own beloved, and for sanctitude and moral reasons, her name will remain unnamed.

Precious Kashmir:In the context of your book Befarmaid”,what impact do you hope it will have on the readers’ understanding of Indian culture and history?

Dr.Shadab Ahmed “Befarmaid” deals with authors of Persian and Urdu who primarily composed in the Shahmukhi and Nasta’liq scripts. The readers will observe different flashing points in Indian history among the verses versified in this book. Be it the political conquests in India by the Central Asians, or the desire of a secular India by the 13th to 15th century and 17th to 19th century mystics, or the general anguish prevalent in Indian literary society through the 18th century, or the development of the Deccani-style Sufi poetry and the Naqshbandi-Mujaddadi religious order, or the history of the Qadiri order or Owaisi order, or the ChishtiSama and the Sufi reforms aiming at the harmony of Sufi philosophy in Islam and Vedanta philosophy in Hinduism, or the Mughal-Afghan Wars and the rise of Afghan Nationalism, or the economic and political history of India with the advent of Western Imperialism – many details have been recorded by the contemporary poets, writers and chroniclers of the era. This will present another narrative beyond the traditionalist and orthodox orbit of the text books that we are used to gather historical, cultural and political history from. The readers will understand how rich and profound the Indian culture is, how diversified the Indian literary history has been and how together we have survived as natives and citizenry.

Precious Kashmir:How long does it take you to complete a book?

Dr.Shadab Ahmed I write in complete solitude and withdrawal, and frequently people interpret my peculiar behavior as being misanthropic and reclusive. One aspect to understand here is that there is a misconception that writing or composing can be done anytime, anywhere. To write and compose, you need the writer’s temperament and frame of mind, and it is the sine qua non. It is a complex thing to describe succulently in words. For a brief period of time, your subconscious individuality and psyche get altered, and your pneuma is diffused into the characters you are trying to develop. You blend with them, and they create the narrative which your hand pens down subliminally. For this reason, I prefer writing at odd times and at odd places. It takes almost 5-6 months of dedicated time to finish a project, before the typesetting commences. I usually write in the deadbeat hours, late at night through the earlymornings, when I am undisturbed and placid. My submerged mind keeps making climactericobservations all through the commotions by the day, and the panorama of the silent nightdevelops those implicit annotations the mind has made, extrapolating them in words. The words combine to form sentences. The sentences get rearranged to rhyme versified. The verses together form a narrative.

Precious Kashmir:How do you balance your work as a doctor with your passion for writing?

Dr.Shadab Ahmed When am working, am not writing. When am writing, am not working. This is the most fundamental and elementary balance I maintain. I love both working and writing. When you love the things you do, they aren’t things anymore. They become your love affairs. You love dedicatedly and passionately. I do the same.

Precious Kashmir:What do you consider your greatest strength as a writer?

Dr.Shadab Ahmed Strictosensu,being an author/writer comes with a certain level of challenge. The challenge to write more and expressively, to stick to your dedicated cognitive deadlines. This stimulates a certain level of self-discipline in your personality. When you improve the quality of your life, your overall quality improves as well. You make an impact around your environment. When people who don’t know me on a personal level come to know that am an author of several published books, they are genuinely surprised and acknowledge the fact with a sudden warm smile. In that tiny fraction of time, I see their own dreams and desires flashing in their eyes, resolving to be completed. Without a word exchanged, the message is conveyed and my raison d’etre is complete. That is the beauty of the human emotions.

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