Umrao Jan Ada is perhaps one of the most enigmatic and forgotten female figures in Indian Literature. The question of her existence, her beauty, her scholarly abilities and her poetic gift remains a mystery even today. The book is an account of Umrao's life as a Lucknawi courtesan, a nautch-girl, delivered in the first person by Umrao herself and documented by a close friend.
First published more than 100 years ago, the novel recreates the gracious ambience of old Lucknow and takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the palaces of wealthy nawabs, the hideouts of colourful vagabonds and the luxurious abodes of the city's courtesans. But more than evoking the ambience of a culture and decadence that was not merely aristocratic but inimitable, it is the complex characterisation of Umrao, and the life she lived as a courtesan, which makes the book memorable and significant.
MIRZA MUHAMMAD HADI RUSWA (1857-1931) was one of the finest Urdu prose writers of his times. To this were added his skills as mathematician, astronomer and theologian. He had a command over Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, English, Latin and Greek and wrote several tracts on philosophical subjects. He was the head of the literary department of the All India Shia Conference and wrote twenty volumes on the Shia religion. His other acclaimed novel is Akhtari Begum.
Translated from: Urdu
Translated by: Khushwant Singh and M A Husaini
Extent: 232 pp