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Umrao Jan Ada was first published in 1899. Based on the life of a courtesan of Lucknow—a woman of great charm with a reputation as a very fine poet and singer—the novel recreates the gracious ambience of old Lucknow and takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the palaces of wealthy nawabs, the hideouts of vagabonds, to the luxurious abodes of the city’s courtesans. It captures the culture and decadence of a lifestyle that has now vanished for ever. It was adapted into a hit Bollywood film in the year 1981.
This translation preserves the full flavour of the original narrative. The poetry, as well as the prose, retains the finesse of the original Urdu, and the translation is therefore as affective as it is comprehensible.
Mirza Mohammed Hadi Ruswa was born in Lucknow in 1857. One of the best Urdu prose writers, he wrote on several subjects, including philosophy and religion. His first published work appeared in 1887. This was followed by both prose and poetry.
The translator, Khushwant Singh, was born in 1915 in Hadali (now in Pakistan). He has written several books on Sikh history and religion, apart from being a prolific writer of fiction. His novels include Train to Pakistan (1956), I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale (1961) and Delhi: A Novel (1993). He has published several volumes of stories, and for many years he has been writing a widely read English newspaper column in India: `With Malice Towards One and All’. He has been the editor of several journals and newspapers, including The Illustrated Weekly of India and Hindustan Times and has served as a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1980-1986. He lives in Delhi.