Thursday, January 23, 2014

Malegaon's emergence as capital of Urdu language in India: When Urdu books worth Rs 1 million are sold in a day!


Malegaon is today the capital* of Urdu in India and there can't be any doubt about it. A bustling town that has a population of nearly 6,00,000, it is today becoming the heart of Urdu culture in the country.

Just when we hear pessimism over decline in sale of books in most languages, a ten-day Urdu book fair organised at Malegaon, saw sale of Urdu books worth Rs 87 lakh [8.7 million].

This is a record in the country. In fact, many book fairs in metros where books of dozens of languages are available, don't match these figures.

The National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) had organised the ten day book fare. On the last day alone, books worth Rs 10 lakh or 1 million were sold within a few hours. Imagine, these are figures from a city which is considered a backward place and where half of the population lives in slums and shanties.

Such was the excitement among Urdu lovers, that books worth Rs 8-9 lakh were sold every day during the 'Kitab Mela'. People came from Dhule, Jalgaon, Pune, Ahmadnagar, Akola, Bhiwandi and other places in the region, to buy books here.

With time, languages spread and thrive, hence, the linguistic landscape also changes. Once, Delhi, Lucknow, Rampur, were centres of Urdu in North India. Then, Deccan region that had seen the birth of early Urdu, once again preserved the language and its culture.

Now, the culture is thriving in middle-level cities and towns across the country.

Among them, Malegaon, is the most well-known. It is often said that the city has the most per capital presence of poets in the world.

It also has an abundance of Urdu publications.Malegaon is a city and municipal corporation in Nasik district in Maharashtra.

For decades, it has suffered official apathy, in terms of infrastructural development. A city of powerlooms, it was inhabited by migrant Muslims from Uttar Pradesh (UP), who fled from their hometowns after the first war of independence in 1857.

The City has over 70% Muslim population. Divided by the Mausam river, it is also known for the unique names of its mohallas and chaurahas like Tension Chowk, Rishwar Nagar, Chaon Chaon Road & Achanak Nagar. The recently concluded book fair makes it clear that there is no dearth of Urdu lovers in India.

Neither the language faces any bleak future. Those talk pessimistically about Urdu are those who aren't aware of the changing landscape. Today, Maharashtra, Karnataka and regions of Bihar, are the Dabistan-e-Urdu just like, UP-Delhi region was, once.

Also read, an interesting post on this blog, about the names of places in Malegaon:

Tale of Two cities with in a City: Tension Chowk, Achanak Nagar, Chaon Chaon Road & Rishwat Nagar

[*People from Hyderabad may differ and those in Sri Nagar may also claim that there is higher percentage of Urdu knowing populace in their cities but Urdu has wider influence in Malegaon despite it being a comparatively small place.]
[Photograph of Malegaon Municipal Corporation, above]