Borrowed from the text within the story, the title also welcomes the reader to learn more about how Naiyer Masud developed this enchanting tale and what historical aspects informed it. The following text is summarised from a conversation between the author and Sagaree Sengupta.
One of the purposes Naiyer Masud ascribed to writing Taoos Chaman ki Mayna was to “offer a corrective” to the ill reputation Nawab Vajid Ali Shah of Awadh had acquired through the representation of this period in history as decadent. Initially written as a story for children, Taoos Chaman ki Mayna aimed to highlight the positive aspects about life in those times and allow children to gain an understanding of their past by reading about its earlier traditions and culture. A feedback from his friends Mohammad Umer Memon and Mahmud Ayaz encouraged Naiyer Masud to rewrite a version for adults.
Much of the story’s background (without giving the story away) is borrowed from history. In fact the main plot around which the story weaves itself, is according to Naiyer Masud, real. Apart from the very familiar Vajid Ali Shah and his Minister Vazir-e Azam ‘Ali Naqi Khan, other characters such as Darogha Nabi Bakhsh and Darogha Ahmed Ali Khan have resonances of real characters from history. There was in fact a Darogha Nabi Bakhsh who was the Captain of the Badshah’s animals, and another person Amjad Ali Khan, described in records as the first photographer of India, informs the character of Darogha Ahmed Ali Khan in the story.
Chote Mian yaad hain?
Kaun Chote Mian?
Ama wohi jin kay paas tasveer utaarnay wala vilaeyti baksa hai.
Naam lo bhai, hummay to urfiat he yaad rehti hai.
And then there is the Ijaadi Qafas or the Wondrous Cage that is central to the story. According to the author he came upon a handwritten draft of a poem (a small masnavi) that describes an Ijaadi Qafas, and a statement that mentions that a Vazir e Azam had ordered the cage to be made and that the Baadshah had come to see it. While the masnavi did not mention the specific minister or the king, Naiyer Masud used these historical references to formulate the background of his story and build the narrative around Vajid Ali Shah and Ali Naqi Khan. The masnavi also describes the cage in great detail and Naiyer Masud expands upon this description in his writing vividly. Vajid Ali Shah’s fondness for gardens is aptly depicted in the story through descriptions of the Tiger Garden (Asad Chaman), the Peacock Garden (Taoos Chaman) and Qaiser Bagh on which Masud has written an extensive article as well. However Naiyer Masud is very clear that he does not dwell on the details of any particular thing in his stories, because he does not intend to use the story as an excuse to give exact descriptions of things in those times. (1)
(1)Sagaree Sengupta, “An interview with Naiyer Masud”, Annual of Urdu Studies, 13 (1998): 123-125, accessed 13 January 2013, http://www.urdustudies.com/pdf/13/11senguptaInterview.pdf
NEW CLIPS ON SOUNDCLOUD
Hear Asif Farrukhi speak on Naiyer Masud and listen to an excerpt from the reading of Taoos Chaman ki Mayna