Ibn-e Insha

In casting about for something to post, my hand fell on this little book: Urdu: The Final Book, by Ibn-e Insha, translated by David Matthews. It is a parody of a child's elementary Urdu textbook, and was published in Pakistan around 1971. It has a gentle tone which I like.

Ibn-e Insha, "Son of Style," was the pen-name of Sher Muhammad Khan (1927-1978), one of Pakistan's best known humourists. This piece is from the History section:
Shahjahan and the Taj Mahal

Shahjahan was the son of Jahangir and the grandson of Akbar. He was not the apple of the eye of some architect or building contractor, nor was he the chief heir of a Public Works Department employee, as many people have assumed on account of the fact he erected so many buildings.

Of his buildings, the Taj Mahal is the most famous. It took twelve years to build and cost millions of rupees. It took just as many years and just as much money to build the Qaid-e Azam's [i.e., Muhammed Ali Jinnah, 1876-1948] Mausoleum in Karachi. If there is any difference in the construction and beauty of these two edifices, the reasons are obvious. By Shahjahan's time, such great advances had not been made in architecture and draughtsmanship. Lifting, dragging and polishing stone was done according to old fashioned principles, and took a great deal of time. Automatic vehicles and high-speed electronic machinery had not yet been invented. Another factor to bear in mind is that there were millions of people who adored the Qaid-e Azam, while Mumtaz Mahal was adored only by one person. Nevertheless, taking its period into acount, we can say that the Taj Mahal is a very nice building.

Shahjahan was very far-sighted. If he had not built the Taj Mahal, India's tourist industry would not be so far advanced, and much less foreign exhange would be earned. There are other far reaching consequences. If there was no Taj Mal, there would be no Taj Mahal batteries, no Taj Mahal slippers, no Taj Mahal butter, a blend of healthy ingredients, never touched by human hand in the process of its manufacture. It might even be said that there would be no Taj Mahal soap for washing clothes clean. Another thing worth thinking about is that, if there was no Taj Mahal, what pictures would people put on their calendars?

Shahjahan also built several mosques - the Pearl Mosque and Delhi's Jami Mosque etc. He also build the Red Fort, where the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar, used to hold his poetic symposia. It was also Shahjahan who made the Peacock throne, which at his own expense he had studded with diamonds, jewels etc. But unfortunately his successors did not care for it. Muhammad Shah threw it out and gave it to the cowherd, Nadir Shah, who took it to Iran [this is a joke: Nadir Shah sacked Delhi, and took the throne (and the Koh-i-noor diamond) as part of his booty].

Shahjahan's reign was a time of peace, but even so he managed to fit in a few conquests. Historians write that during his age there was no stealing or theft, nor did bribery exist. God knows how civil servants managed to eat. Shahjahan also built Jahangir's tomb. It is wrong to suppose that Sher Afghan had it built [another joke: Emperor Jahangir married Noor Jahan after having her first husband, Sher Afghan, killed].

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