I grew up in the ancient city of Allahabad in north India in a household that cherished literature and encouraged creativity. My parents shared our home with poets, animals, birds, flowers and trees. I am passionate about poetry, especially the ghazal. I enjoy teaching, love gardening and am an ardent animal lover.
My research interests:
My general interest is in the literary culture of northern Indian languages, particularly Urdu and Hindi. I am deeply interested in bilingualism as evident in the writing from the subcontinent. I am drawn to translation, literary modernism, intersections between religion and literature, history and art history.
My current research:
I am writing a commentary on the so called “rejected” verses of the great 19th century poet Ghalib. I am also writing a second book that scrutinizes the editions or what I would call intikhabs (selections) of Ghalib’s poetry made by the poet from time to time. Ghalib lived in an age when the printing press had dramatically changed the audience for the literary; there was now a reading public for which to cater. Ghalib’s fastidious, even drastic editing reflects his concern about sharing his work with a wider audience.
I teach a variety of courses about literature, culture, history and arts of the Indian subcontinent. The literature is mostly in translation, except when I offer an upper level seminar on the classical Urdu ghazal. I enjoy creating thematic courses on subjects such as dalit literature, travel writing, women writing and so on.
Ghalib: A Wilderness at My Doorstep: A Critical Biography, Published by Penguin Allen Lane, 2021
Urdu Literary Culture, Vernacular Modernity in the Writing of Muhammad HasanAskari, New York, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012
The Postcolonial Mind: Urdu Culture, Islam and Modernity in Muhammad Hasan Askari, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, Paperback edition of Urdu Literary Culture, February, 2013
The Two-Sided Canvas Perspectives on Ahmed Ali, (ed.) New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2013
The Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature, volume one, poetry and miscellaneous writing, New Delhi Oxford University Press, 2008
The Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature, volume two, fiction, New Delhi Oxford University Press, 2008
I write a bi-monthly column for the newspaper Dawn’s Sunday Magazine. The column’s focus is critical issues in Urdu literature. The latest one can be found here: The Space between the Poem and the Performance: http://www.dawn.com/news/1159177
A monthly commentary on a selected couplet from Ghalib’s “rejected” verses in Dawn. Here is a link to a random one: http://www.dawn.com/news/1154848