Dr. Navroze Kotwal and Urdu Poetry

Why can’t a Parsi pen Urdu poetry, asks orthodontist

Anoop Jalota n Dr.Navroz KotwalWhen he is not fixing his patients’ teeth, he is penning Urdu couplets. But orthodontist Dr Navroze Kotwal’s passion for Urdu poetry, especially its sublime form ghazal, has been a source of pique for his friends. “You are a Parsi, right? How come you speak Urdu so well and do shairi,” ask his friends. “Is it crime for a Parsi to learn Urdu and write poetry in it,” quips Dr Kotwal gently.

Article by Mohammed Wajihuddin |TNN

His ghazals regularly appear in half a dozen Urdu dailies and literary magazines. He is also in demand at mushairas (poetry recitation sessions) and invariably raises eyebrows when the anchor introduces Dr Kotwal (71) as perhaps the only Parsi in India who writes Urdu poems.

Since most of his friends, says Dr Kotwal, cannot read Urdu, he collaborated with ghazal-bhajan singer Anoop Jalota and cut an album titled Aashiqana. Tired of hearing the factually incorrect but a popular line nevertheless “Urdu musalman ki zuban hai (Urdu is the language of the Muslims)”, Kotwal responds with a couplet: “Urdu na musalman na Hindu ki hai zuban/Ishq, wafa ke rang ki khushboo ki hai zubaan (Urdu is a language neither of Muslims nor Hindus/It is a language of love, loyalty and fragrance). Such maudlin praise for Urdu which is not his mother tongue comes out of a conviction that language doesn’t have a religion. “It is the communal politics which divides a language along religious line. The vote bank politics has only compounded the crisis,” he explains.

Growing up in Mumbai (then Bombay) when it was home to poetic giants like Ali Sardar Jafri, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi and Kaifi Azmi, Dr Kotwal says he fell in love with Urdu when in college. Since his father Shavak Kotwal was a film distributor, he would often meet poets and lyricists. The temptation to learn the language took him to a bookshop on Mohammed Ali Road where he bought a primer and subsequently hired a maulvi. But maulvisaab could only teach him the language, not the finer points of poetry. For that he approached Shafique Abbas, a former Urdu teacher and poet at Anjuman-I-Islam near CST.

The technique of creating correct couplets fine-tuned, Dr Kotwal started reading voraciously and now writes prolifically. He plans to bring out a collection of his ghazals soon. “Then I will be called a Parsi with a book in Urdu,” he laughs.