Ab urdu kya hai ek kothey ki tawaif hai
Mazaa har ek leta hai mohabbat kaun karta hai
(What is Urdu now but a whore in a whorehouse/Everyone has fun with her, but who really loves her)
I find this couplet very apt, for it both describes the current neglect of the language and the reasons why we need books like this. I have often met people who want to enjoy the meaning of an Urdu couplet but are unable to. Others come out with the conventional ‘wah, wah!’ when a sher is recited, but have not, I am pretty sure, understood its meaning. There are understandable reasons for this inadequacy. For at least two generations now, Urdu has not been studied by most of our educated, simply because it is not part of the school curriculum. People don’t know the script, and, increasingly, very little of the vocabulary. The result is the neglect of the good Urdu poets, and the proliferation of the mediocre, whose compositions—if they can...