Afifa Jabeen Quraishi
Published — Wednesday 28 November 2012
Last update 28 November 2012 1:07 pm
A passion for the Subcontinent’s cherished Urdu language and a love of comics resulted in Urdu Kidz Cartoon, a first of its kind website featuring Urdu comics for children. Riyadh-based civil engineer Syed Mukarram Niyaz founded the website that presents famous comics, such as Archie, Phantom, Tom and Jerry, Dennis the Menace, Garfield and Bugs Bunny — all translated into Urdu by his wife, son, relatives and friends.
“Urdu is a refined language, unlike the language used in Hindi movies/serials. I want to regenerate the original Urdu culture among our new generation,” said Niyaz.
He hails from Hyderabad, India, which has the second largest community of nearly 150-200 million Urdu speakers, after Pakistan.
Niyaz grew up reading comic books in English, Hindi and Urdu in Hyderabad and knows that comics are a great way to initiate a child into the habit of reading.
What Niyaz has done apart from providing a fun Urdu reading platform for children is that he has revived the spirit of old Urdu magazines. He talks of a foregone era as he recalls the 1970s and 1980s when India had many children’s magazines and comic books in Urdu, such as, Khilauna, Phool, Kalyaan, Payam-e-Taaleem and Noor, which published cartoons and comics.
Niyaz feels that many newspapers published in Urdu in his country neglect children by not publishing a single cartoon for kids.
As he found out, translating the comic strips to a much refined and traditional language, while keeping the humor alive is no mean task.
“While translating comic strips I always have to alter a lot according to traditional Urdu tahzeeb (culture). I prefer to avoid slangs such as buddhu, kaminey and gadhey. Instead, I use words like Kambakht, Ahmaq, Khabees and Na-hinjaar etc,” he said.
The 43-year-old father of five looks to his children to help him choose material for the site. His wife, a teacher, helps him select the exact Urdu phrases based on a child’s understanding.
Also in the cards is the introduction of new characters on the website such as Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Flash Gordon, Mickey Mouse, and Laurel and Hardy, in addition to classics such as Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Hansel and Gretel.
Niyaz said the website makes a special effort not to publish stories that promote hatred toward any culture, religion, language, caste, creed and specific religious stories that have contradictory points with respect to basic Islamic principles.
Niyaz’s website also introduces the use of Urdu fonts, a feature not common in most ‘Urdu’ websites, which are mostly image-based, where searching even a single word in the whole content is impossible. It is created by his venture Taemeer Web Development that specializes in the creation of Urdu unicode-based websites.
Launched in February 2012, the website currently features nearly 150 translated stories and 20 comic characters. The response, though, is still less than desirable. Niyaz says it is such because of a lack of marketing.
“There are nearly 5,000 visitors per month; I hope it increases to 5,000 visitors per day,” an optimistic Niyaz said.
The website gets the most number of hits from Pakistan, followed by the US and the UK. The Gulf countries, such as, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, follow next, with India in the fifth position.