Kotwal Nama Is A Collection Of Thoughtful Essays By A Policeman

Kotwal Nama Is A Collection Of Thoughtful Essays By A Policeman
In the world of cut and paste, where ChatGPT and AI have taken over, it seems that the only trait distinguishing humans is the power to think, create, expound and put forth a concrete example for the use of the world – and even this seems to be an anomaly! Yet, we come across a remarkable anthology of essays in Urdu titled Kotwal Nama (Height of Decadence), written by Dr Syed Kaleem Imam and published by the National Book Foundation.

The prologue transparently reveals the writer's intentions. Kaleem Imam, a retired civil servant, philosopher and humanitarian, calls for:

میری سنو جو گوشِ نصیحت نیوش ہو

What does one expect from a retired civil servant who is a philosopher and a humanitarian?

غالبؔ صریر خامہ نوائے سروش ہے..

The very idea of Kotwal Nama suggests the concept of decadence, dating back to the 18th century, especially from the writings of Montesquieu, the enlightenment philosopher. He suggested that the decline of the Roman Empire was due to moral decay and loss of cultural standards. Dr Imam explores the same hypothesis, narrating his autobiography seeking hope and catharsis.

He readily admits that he is more suitable as a teacher than a bureaucrat. A poignant read, Kotwal Nama analyses the quest for the rule of law, good governance and a more just society. What catches the reader's eye is the scheme of carefully selected essays, respecting yjr social norms of any ethical society.

As an essayist, Kaleem Imam maintains all the fundamental steps of this genre of literature while adding some new techniques to revitalise this branch of Urdu literature. He uses empiricism avidly in Kotwal Nama, exemplified by “Jo mijaz e yaarmien aaey” – a good example of the narrator's empirical synthesis.

Kaleem adopts an aphoristic style of writing, using very short, witty and clever sayings to highlight the truth and invoke reasoning skills. He is sharp and talented, incorporating aphorisms in most of his essays, making general statements that resonate with people's everyday lives.

His ideas are put forth in simple and lucid statements that are short but witty and clear, using the analytical method to deliver lengthy ideas.

"Brevity is the soul of wit," it is often said. This perfectly describes Dr Kaleem's essays, which are all concise and never exceed 1,000 words in length.

At the outset of his essays, he declares that his discussions are based on thesis, observation, and personal experiences. The experience-based discussions are evident in essays like “Yoom e aazadi Kay lamhat....kal, aaj aur kal.”

On the other hand, Kotwal Nama doesn't forget to entertain its readers. Kaleem's essays are replete with entertainment, using devices such as anecdotes, striking illustrations, humorous logic and arguments. Kaleem weighs the pros and cons of every question, balancing both the merits and demerits, as seen in “Aqal par pardah.”

He employs allusions – historic, mythological, religious and literary – to add further force of conviction to his writing.

From beginning to end, this poignant and humorous account of a retired policeman is engaging, thought-provoking, suggestive, logical and epigrammatic.

His essays on rape, suicide, and addiction are particularly powerful.

Dr Kaleem pays respects and honours the sacrifices of the police services, evident in "Hawaldar Adeel Hussain Kay Naam."

Kotwal Nama addresses political, social, and cultural decay, raising thought-provoking questions about our inadequacies and powerlessness in the face of these phenomena.

The book is available from the National Book Foundation and its website, presented thoughtfully with a photographic journal illustrating the importance of people in the author's life.

It's an easy and gripping read for all, narrating history in its own unique way.