Syed Muhammad Ashraf
translated from Urdu by Musharraf Ali Farooqi
The Beast by Musharraf Ali Farooqi is a translation of the Urdu original, Numberdar ka Neela, by Syed Muhammad Ashraf. Thakur Udal Singh has both wealth and power-he is the village administrator, with mansions in town, city and village.It is happiness that eludes him as he is plagued with nightmares about brigands and thieves.Until Neela the blue bull comes into his life,and he finds a way of protecting his ill-gotten gains.Neela strikes such terror into the hearts of the vilagers that even Thakur's guard can sleep in peace.....
The tale is an allegory of our troubled times, showing how the instruments of oppression ultimately turn back upon their creators.
Caustic allegory Hindu
The novella is something of an outlander in the publishing world; it is thought by many to lack the respectability of a full-length book while also lacking the compactness and balance of a good short story. However, there are certain types of stories that adapt extremely well to this in-between format. George Orwell's social allegory Animal Farm was a famous example. Closer home, and less well known, is another caustic allegorical work.
Syed Muhammad Ashraf's 1997 Urdu novella Numberdar ka Neela, about a village administrator who uses a fearsome blue bull to keep people under his thumb. Happily, Ashraf's book is now accessible to an English readership via a fine translation by the Pakistani writer Musharraf Ali Farooqi.
Tyranny and comeuppance Ultrabrown
Ashraf’s story isn’t told in a strictly linear fashion, but the gist of it becomes clear within the first few pages. Shortly after a theft occurs in his village house, the despotic Thakur Udal Singh (who owns property in a village, a town and a city) begins to bestow special attention on a calf named Neela. Fed on a diet unusual for a creature of the wild, Neela grows into an exceptional animal that strikes terror into the hearts of anyone who might wish to oppose the Thakur. A cycle of oppression thus begins, culminating in the rape of a village girl by the Thakur’s son Onkar, and the subsequent deaths of three people associated with the crime.
This book is a careful portrait of village life, but even those who have never been to a village will find much that is immediately familiar in its subtle detailing of the relationship between persecutors and their victims. This is a world where supposedly impartial judges at a local assembly secretly owe their allegiance to the Thakur; where a cordial exchange of greetings at a wedding party can, in the blink of an eye, turn into a nasty display of clout and deal-making; and where illiterate people are trained to parrot statements they don’t even fully comprehend.
The Beast (Tranquebar, Rs 150) by Musharraf Ali Farooqi is a translation of the Urdu original, Numberdar ka Neela, by Syed Muhammad Ashraf. This novella is about a formidable bull, Neela, who is brought up with tender care by the tyrant, Thakur Udal Singh, to wreak havoc in the lives of the villagers he lords over. The tale is an allegory of our troubled times, showing how the instruments of oppression ultimately turn back upon their creators. Witty, funny and sarcastic, Farooqi’s translation does justice to Ashraf’s brilliant work