Leading Urdu scholar Professor Gopi Chand Narang passed away on Wednesday at Charlotte in North Carolina after a brief illness, his son said. He was 91 and is survived by his wife, Manorma Narang, and his sons Arun Narang and Tarun Narang, and grandchildren.
He was born in 1930 in the small town of Dukki in Baluchistan, located on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. After earning his doctoral degree in Urdu literature from Delhi University in 1958, Professor Narang took an academic position at St. Stephens College in Delhi, which proved to be a segue to a permanent place in the Urdu Department of Delhi University in 1959.
He did stints as a visiting scholar in several foreign universities, including Wisconsin University at Madison, Minnesota University in Minneapolis and Oslo University in Norway. From Delhi University he moved to Jamia Millia Islamia University where he headed the Urdu Department.
Professor Narang won many awards and honors, including Padma Bhushan in 2004, Sahitya Akademi and Ghalib Awards in 1995, and the President of Pakistan’s Sitara-e Imtiaz Award in 2012.
He held the Professor Emeritus position at Jamia Millia and Delhi University. In addition to teaching, Professor Narang was Vice-chairman of the Delhi Urdu Academy (1996-1999) and the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language – HRD (1998-2004) and Vice-president (1998-2002) and President (2003-2007) of the Sahitya Akademi.
Several Urdu magazines have published over the years special issues to celebrate Professor Narang’s life and his contributions to literature. Many leading media organizations, such as Doordarshan and BBC, have produced rare recordings and documentaries on his work and services. Dozens of books and dissertations have been published offering critical appreciation and evaluation of his work. Working with Surinder Deol, author and literary translator, Professor Narang published English translations of his major works on Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib, and Urdu Ghazal in recent years.
Distinguished novelist and short story writer Intizar Husain once stated: “When he comes to Pakistan, Professor Gopi Chand Narang represents India in one piece. I can’t say this about anyone else. When he occupies the stage, we feel that India in its entirety is addressing us.”
Prominent Hindi writer, Kamleshwar, while talking about the critical literary contributions of Professor Narang to the Urdu language, mentioned that every Indian language needs one Gopi Chand Narang.
Jnanpeth Awardee fiction writer Qurratulain Hyder described Professor Narang as a “renaissance man” of Urdu.
Poet Gulzar called him “do paaon se chalta dariya, ek paaon pe thehri jhiil, jhiil ki naabhi pe rakhi hai, Urdu ki raushan qindiil (a river moving on two wheels. A lake balanced on one foot. Settled on the lake’s navel Urdu’s bright paper lantern.)