Hussain combines keen observation of animal behaviour with deep empathy, even as he brings the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills alive in these quiet yet profound tales.
The plight of a hungry tigress and her cubs; a dog’s undying love for his friend; a domesticated nilgai lost in the woods; the wide ambit of a cow’s maternity; the pangs of separation felt by a monkey mother and her child: such emotions are explored in this unusual collection of short stories peopled by a variety of animals. Originally written in Urdu by an important but little-known early twentieth-century writer, Syed Rafiq Hussain, the stories in Mirror of Wonders use satire to highlight the ignominy of human conduct from the vantage point of the animals.
Saleem Kidwai’s deft and nuanced translation in English retains the liveliness of Hussain’s idiomatic Urdu and introduces a new generation of readers to a gifted and deeply philosophical writer.
Saleem Kidwai taught history at Ramjas College, Delhi University for many years. He is the co-editor of Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History (2000), and has also translated several works of fiction and non-fiction from Urdu to English, such as Malka Pukhraj’s memoir, Song Sung True (2003). Currently, he is an independent scholar based in Lucknow.
Syed Rafiq Hussain Translated from the Urdu by Saleem Kidwai