Bernard Shaw explained about a play that he had written in verse because he did not have the time to write it in prose. T.S. Eliot countered that Shaw was saying that it was easier to write bad poetry than good prose. No one denied that. But the point was that Shaw had it in him to write good prose, but not good poetry. The two greatest names in Urdu prose are those of Mohammad Hussain Azad and Ratan Nath Sarshar. The first may not now be recognised as a reliable literary critic but, as Firaq remarks, by preserving the stories and anecdotes about Urdu poets, he has preserved a whole world for us. This is a far more important contribution to literature than providing another tazkira of which we have so many. However, it is his narrative, his style, which have enriched our prose beyond measure. His enchanting ease of expression holds us in thrall. But even his beautiful language is not employed anymore, well, for one, where do we find one who will even attempt to do so? Secondly, the influence of English literary criticism has changed ours profoundly. Azads prose, like the Taj Mahal, represents the height attained by our culture at the end of one period and remains inimitable. Azad describes his visit to Shiraz: Shiraz kay dekhhnay ka armaan thha. Ek umr kay baad Khuda nay pura kia. Allah, Allah; Khwaja Hafiz aur Shaikh Saadi ka piyara watan---uss kay dekhnay ka armaan kiyoon na ho? Or introducing Firdausi, he writes that Firdausis father, Ishaq, was a gardener in the house-garden of the ruler of Toos: kay bagh-e-murad mein ye pauda paida hua - aur ussi abadi mein bara hua - sahraii abadi mein uss ki shairi kay liyay koii targheeb ya jabr na thha - bavajood iss kay bachpan say sher kahta thha kay vo uss ka madar-zad jauhar thha - apnay khhaiton mein phirta thha, nahron kay kanaray par baithhta thha - aur jo dil say ugta thha ussay kaghaz par hara karta thha. Maulvi Abdul Haq writes about him: Aab-e-Hayat of the late Azad occupies a distinguished place in Urdu language, in spite of certain factual discrepancies that it contains. If there is hesitation to recognise it as history, look upon it as a story. Its language and style are so polished and the expression so chaste, simple and attractive as to be rarely equalled in Urdu. His place as literary critic is more controversial, although Aab-e-Hayat is probably the most widely-read tazkira of Urdu poets. Most people would not even know the names of the other tazkiras, even the ones written by Mir or Mashafi. The first edition of Aab-e-Hayat caused a storm among the literati, because Momin Khan, undoubtedly one of the great poets, was absent from it. Azad made up for it in the second edition, but the reason he gave for the omission in the first is not convincing. As to the tazkira itself, Azad had said that he had written it to help the evolution of literary criticism in Urdu. He was certainly qualified to do so, as he had had both a classical education and a period of study in the Delhi College, which imparted modern learning. True Azad could not write or speak English, but he read it. His criticism was, therefore, influenced by that of English. It may be outdated today but the enduring popularity of the book is due to his description of the lives and literary activities of the poets discussed in it. Mohammad Hussain Azads father, Maulvi Mohammad Baqar, was the editor of the oldest Urdu newspaper in northern India, Delhi Urdu Akhbar. He had fully and effectively supported the insurrection of 1857 and was hanged by the British for it after the defeat of the uprising. There were warrants against Azad too. But he escaped from Delhi and wandered for two years to avoid arrest. It was only after a general amnesty that he obtained a low-paid job in Lahore, but gradually went up as his abilities were recognised. He is sometimes criticised for agreeing to go to Central Asia and Iran on assignments for the British intelligence, in spite of the fact that his father had been hanged by them. True, but the fact is that the South Asians, who did not yet consider themselves a nation, had accepted their defeat at the hands of the British and recognised the invincibility of the British occupation, if not entirely its legitimacy. So Azad had to earn a living under the rules made by the conquerors. Azads writings range from culture to administration and history. There is an interesting piece among them on the River Jhelum, though only its fragments have been found. He says the river was named after the town and not the other way. About the battle on its banks between Pursh and Alexander, Azad says that the former had blocked successfully the passage of the invader across the river near the town of Jhelum. However, the raja of Taxila, who had allied himself with the Greek, led him to Jalalpur, where the river can be crossed on foot in winters. This enabled the invading army to cross over to the east bank. Apparently, we have never been short of traitors. We know that Pursh was defeated in the ensuing battle, but refused to run away. His soldiers, fighting desperately, inflicted such heavy casualties on an army which had conquered the Persian Empire, that the Greek soldiers refused to go on any further. We should erect a monument to Pursh on the site of the battle to recognise the nations debt to its heroic son. And building a monument does not mean appealing to the government to do so. It should be done by the citizens themselves with public contribution. The writer is a retired ambassador.