Societies pride in different strengths: Some give importance to bravery, some to democracy, and some nations think that freedom of expressions, development and or education are the hallmarks for their long-term sustenance. “The nations should be judged on how they look at their women,” writes Abbas Khan, the author of Urdu novel Mein Aur Umrao Jan Ada, his eleventh, that I have had the chance to read.
There is a famous saying that every thing in fiction is true except dates. But in the novel written by Abbas Khan even dates are true because he has based his novel in the back ground of five very famous women in the history: Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Quratul Ain Tahira (Iran), Mughal Princess Noor Jehan and Umrao Jan Ada.
Helen of Troy was the daughter of Zeus and Leda and wife of Menelaus, considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Her abduction by Paris caused the Trojan War and made thousand ships drown.
Cleopatra (actually Cleopatra VII) was the last of the Ptolemies, the Macedonian-descended pharaohs who ruled Egypt beginning in 304 B.C. Cleopatra has come down through history less for her administrative skills than for her beguiling ways, which she used in an attempt to keep Egypt free from Roman domination. Among those whom she charmed was Julius Caesar, with whom she had a son, Caesarion. After Caesar’s death, Cleopatra joined forces with Caesar’s colleague Marc Antony; they became lovers and political allies against Antony’s rival Octavian. Octavian’s forces finally defeated those of Antony and Cleopatra in the naval battle of Actium in 31 B.C. The two lovers fled to Alexandria and, faced with defeat by Octavian, committed suicide. Legend has it that Cleopatra died by the self-inflicted bite of a poisonous snake called an asp, though no firm evidence exists to support that claim.
Qura tul Ain Tahira created waves in the history of Iran in 1848. Princess Noor Jehan was a Mughal princess who helped King Jehangir rule Mughal Empire. And Umrao Jan Ada, whose poignant tale of misadventure of a little girl, forced into prostitution; and the saga of 1857 at the center of this tragedy as a testimony are famous in history.
Umrao Jan Ada was a dancer girl of Lakhnow (India) and her fame was at the peak from 1896 to 1899. In 1899, Mirza Hadi Ruswa wrote a novel titled Umrao Jan Ada that was published by Maha Dev Parshad Publishers Lakhnow. In turn, Umrao Jan Ada published a novel titled Fasan-e-Ruswa, which describes the love story of Mirza Hadi Ruswa and a French woman Sophia Augustan.
These women are at the background in which Abbas Khan has set his novel. With the help of today’s characters, the author weaves a web around modern world’s family — a basic unit of the society and tells us how that is being disintegrated.
The theme of the novel has been defined by the first sentence which reads, “Family is the bases of society. Both male and female should refrain from every type of waywardness to save the society.” Abbas Khan portrays nineteenth century character (Umrao Jan Ada) living in twenty first century in his lucid style.
Abbas Khan writes on societal issues in the daily Nawa-e-Waqat and his other published work includes three novels, seven short story books and a compilation of his observation: [Zakham Gawah Hain, Tu Aur Tu (novels), Dharti Binam Akash, Tensikh-e-Insan, Qalam, Kursi Aur Wardi, Us Adalat Men, Jism Ka Johar (short story books), Reza Reza Keenat and Pal Pal (afsancha — shortest storybook) and Din Mein Charagh] and now Mein Aur Umrao Jan Ada (novel).
Books have been bringing changes in human relationships and making difference in the lives of people. The power of worlds has caused people to loose their existence or to better them. This is what his novel is expected to do.