Nameless Lanes


‘Nameless Lanes’ is a collection of stories carefully translated from Urdu. It includes the finest works of some of the best Indian writers of Urdu short stories in the twentieth century. All of them are dead now, but their works live to reflect, each in its own inimitable way, the society in which they were created. The stories alternate between the inner world of the protagonists’ painful nostalgia, excessive psychopathological narcissism, spiritual subterfuge, the crisis of identity, and the outer existential realities of a society, ridden with class hatred, violence, destruction of human dignity, and in a constantly menacing flux of unpredictable circumstances, plunging the characters into the appalling dilemma of existence. Hussain’s translation is more than the rendering of a text from one language to another; it is the introduction into English of a completely different society and an array of human experiences exceedingly strange, a sobering transcreation of the original stories unfolding characters in constant conflict with the microcosmic and macrocosmic realities pervading their existence.

An English Anthology of some well-known Urdu stories translated by Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Kitaab International, Singapore, 2016. ISBN: 9789810989552


Excerpts from the book

“Twenty-five years is a sufficient age for humans to attain full maturity. But what I observe all around me is that people have stopped growing. They are still kids. Everyone behaves like a cantankerous, noisy brat, and disorderliness has become the rule of the day.
There’s a stiff wind blowing. It’s fierce and howling. It is going to impede our movement, making the journey tedious and hopeless. We’ve still a long way to go.” – from ‘Travellers of the Closed-off Road’ (a story in the anthology ‘Nameless Lanes’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Kitaab International, Singapore, 2016).


“Our pains and pleasures are all accepted and relative realities. What do you gain by bleeding sweat and tears when you know that subjugation is your destiny? In fact, innate pessimism is tantamount to death. Try to find ways to be happy! Nature isn’t stingy with its gifts. It doesn’t stop you from enjoying its never-ending wealth – the alluring colour of the rising and setting sun, the freshness and fragrance of the leaves and flowers, the gracefulness of the moon and the sky, and the restlessness of oceans and waves. Why do you ignore the fact that alongside your misery Nature has also imbued you with intellect and awareness? You know that the sea out there has the power to drown our entire world. But you can still enjoy the pleasure of sailing across its water, tearing the waves apart. In spite of being born and bound in thraldom, you alone Miss Rose, of all God’s creations, have the right to rule the world.”
from ‘The Echo’ (a story in the anthology ‘Nameless Lanes’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Kitaab International, Singapore, 2016).


“Peace can hardly be attained through religious books. It is an amrit, the eternal water of life, to attain which, one has to carry out samudra manthan, churning the vast, endless oceans. Only then can that amrit be obtained, which transforms the self, and restores peace. Life signifies change, through which it breathes. Devoid of it, it’s death in life.”
from ‘Salvation’ (a story in the anthology ‘Nameless Lanes’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Kitaab International, Singapore, 2016).


“Look up at the azure sky and its countless worlds; the immense, open space above, and its abysmal depth, like a black monster opening its cavernous mouth ready to devour worlds and oceans together! What an appallingly awesome spectacle! Compare man with nature’s gigantic ferocious aspects! Detestably smaller than vermin! How I wish the sky was as solid and azure as it looks to us! And these stars studded like diamonds everywhere in the sky! Would that they were designed to lighten our dark nights! All our constrained imaginings were disproved Mr. Afzal, when the mystery unfolded that the sky is nothing but a visual deception, and its depth unfathomable; the sun which appears so big and near is in fact millions of miles away; and many more million miles separate it from each of the twinkling stars. All the magnificence and splendour of universe is destined to doom. Look at those stars! Countless myriads of them have lost their twinkle, and those that you see now, are going to meet the same fate. All around you death and decay has braced the universe in its iron clutch. You can’t escape it. Aren’t we inherently vulnerable, Mr. Afzal? Is such a life worth living? I’m sorry if you find my thoughts unconnected, but I do hope you’ll make out my feelings!”
from ‘The Echo’ (a story in the anthology ‘Nameless Lanes’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Kitaab International, Singapore, 2016).