Wednesday, January 04, 2012

No cartoons, No comics: Urdu newspapers, magazines neglecting children

Khilauna published foreign comic strips

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Despite fears about survival of Urdu in the decades after independence, the language continues to thrive in India, 64 years after independence.

But it's surprising how Urdu newspapers and even magazines continue to neglect children. Surprisingly, even the kids' magazines have few cartoons.

It is this segment--the kids--that will grow up to read the papers and if circulations fall in future, the reason would be lack of any effort to draw the young generation towards the language.

In fact, most of the Urdu papers have no concept of cartoons or comic strips (except political cartoons in a few papers). None of the Urdu newspapers published from Delhi, Hyderabad or Lucknow have a single cartoon for kids. Though there is no dearth of cartoonists in the country, they have neither any cartoon nor any translated comic strip.

Foreign cartoon strips--Dennis the Menace, Phantom, Archies or Richie Rich are translated and published in other vernacular papers. One could understand that many papers don't have resources to pay for the strips as they are expensive but the reality is that there is no serious effort to get indigenous cartoon strips either.

Children in the age group 4-10 get attracted towards papers if they see a cartoon, a sketch which they are asked to colour or similar activity. If they find such stuff, then they evince interest and without anybody's effort start reading over a period of time.

But despite umpteen conferences regarding future of Urdu, this aspect remains neglected. Only recently Urdu editors' conference was held in Hyderabad. Though Vice-President Hamid Ansari advised the papers to draw youngsters, I wonder if anyone of the seasoned editors could understand the essence of his speech.
Comic strip by Shakil Anwaar Siddiqui

Excessive focus on politics is harming Urdu press. Till 80s, Shama publications' Khilauna [do you call it Khilona?] published Richie Rich, even Archies and other international comics. Apart from these translated strips, there were Indian authors' who drew awesome comics. 

A case in point is 'Shuja'at', the thrilling strip by Shakil Anwaar Siddiqui that continued for a long time and had kids hooked.

There is ample official patronage and money for Urdu in India. Apart from over a dozen Urdu academies, there are big institutions like NCPUL.

But Urdu media remains obsessed with politics. If those who love the language want Urdu to survive and thrive, they must focus on getting children interested in reading Urdu magazines and papers. This is the need of the hour.