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Urdu Blog

A Girl in the River

I finally watched Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” an Urdu, Panjabi, and English documentary about honor killings in Pakistan. It won an Oscar this year for Best Documentary Short Subject. Obaid-Chinoy takes us through the story of a young woman who fell in love with a man, married him […]

Amar Akbar Anthony’s Urdu stereotypes

“Amar Akbar Anthony” is a classic Urdu-Hindi film with a star-studded cast including Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, and Rishi Kapoor. Rishi Kapoor in particular is absolutely hilarious as the flirtatious qawwaal Akbar Allahabadi whose name not so coincidentally is the same as a famous Urdu poet who worked as a judge in Allahabad, particularly well-known […]

How to pronounce Urdu names

This week I’d like to talk about the Arabic definite article ال [a]l as used in Urdu. It is used in many Arabic loan words, especially Islamic names and titles. So if amongst your Urdu adventures you’ve ever struggled to pronounce an Arabic-derived name, this blog is for you! Let’s start with the alif of […]

Urdu’s legendary lovers

Just as English has legendary lovers like Romeo and Juliet, Urdu has its star-crossed lovers Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnun, and Yusuf Zuleikha. Heer Ranjha is a popular tragic folk romance from Punjab. Heer is an extremely beautiful Jat woman and Ranjha is a flute-playing charming loafer. Ranjha, enjoying his easy life, wanders away from home and ends […]

Tricks for learning Urdu vocab: Arabic roots

When I first started learning Urdu, I struggled with learning vocabulary. I am a native English speaker and although Urdu is English’s linguistic cousin, at first Urdu vocabulary just didn’t stick. I had studied French before studying Urdu and since English has borrowed many words directly from French, vocabulary was not too difficult. Urdu was […]

Amir Khusro, the Parrot of India

Amir Khusro is often considered the first Urdu poet. He lived from 1263 to 1325 CE and was a Sufi poet, musician, and scholar and worked in the royals courts of various kings and sultans. He is also credited with inventing the sitar and transforming the Indian drum mridangam into the tabla as well as […]

Improve your Urdu pronunciation

Let’s talk about Urdu pronunciation! So I’m assuming that most of the users of Foreigncy are native English speakers. I’m a white American native English speaker and started learning Urdu when I was 18, well beyond that range of time popularly believed you are supposedly very receptive to learning a second language. I think adults […]

“Two Hands” by Ismat Chughtai

Previously I wrote about Progressive writer Ismat Chughtai (1915 – 1991) and talked about her life. Ismat Chughtai’s short story, “Do Hath” or “Two Hands,” lampoons society’s nonsensical rules which exploit, hurt, and shame poor people who have little power to fight the social systems that control them. Yet these powerless people are the backbone […]

Ismat Chughtai, firey and audacious

Ismat Chughtai (1915 – 1991) is one of the most well-known Urdu authors of the 20th century along with names like Saadat Manto, Krishan Chander, and Munshi Premchand. Her signature style is outspoken, bold, and sarcastic.Not only did she write many short stories, she also wrote film scripts, novels, and even acted, noted for her […]