“DEBATE”: Written in Urdu by Sir Syed: “Bahas-o-Takrar”

“DEBATE”: Written in Urdu by Sir Syed: “Bahas-o-Takrar”

When dogs sit together, they first give each other a nasty look. Then a faint buzzing noise emanates from their nostrils. Then a tiny jaw opens, teeth start to show, and a sound emerges from the throat. The mouth then stretches up to the ears, and the nose presses against the top of the head. Their molars are seen clearly. Then they stand up with harsh cries and cling to each other as foam oozes out of their mouths. One dog’s hand is around the neck, and the other dog’s leg is around the other dog’s waist. One’s throat is in the other’s jaw, and the other’s ear is in the other’s mouth. A dog bites the other dog and overtakes it—the frail guy bolts away with his tail crushed against its back.
A similar dispute takes place among the uncivilised persons in an assembly. The first gentleman meets them and invites them to sit with him. Then comes the slow chat. Someone raises his hand. “Wow, it’s not like that,” says the other. “Wow, what do you know?” he exclaims. “What do you know?” he asks. They both shift their eyes. The trumpet is getting louder—the direction of words shifts. The eyes darken, and they become frightened. The mouth corners widen. Teeth get exposed, the drool begins to flutter, and the foam reaches the corners of the mouth. The breath comes in and out swiftly; the veins are dilated and stretched. The eyes, nose, brows, and hands begin to move unusually, and harsh sounds emerge. Sleeves roll up; arms stretch out, one’s neck is in another’s hands; the other’s beard is in someone else’s fist, and free-style wrestling begins. If someone intervenes and separates them from each other, they roar and move in opposite directions. And if no one steps in, the weaker guy gets a good beating, shakes out his clothes, rubs his head, and leaves.
As civilisation progresses, the number of debates diminishes. Somewhere it is limited to a threat; elsewhere, it turns to abuse; somewhere it turns to making faces, and the issues settle to breathing profusely. However, during all these events, dogs’ assembly effects exist. So, men need to avoid arguing with their friends in a dog’s way.
There are differences of view among humans; an argument is a criterion for determining it. Let me tell you the truth: a gathering of friends without debate and fun appears tasteless. However, culture, decency, love, and friendship should not be ignored.
Therefore, my dear compatriots, do not forget decency and culture when you wish to say something contradictory to someone or deny what they say. Be even more casual if you are talking in the same room. Put your face, tone, voice, format, and words together to reflect civilisation and dignity while remaining true to yourself. Always use the “apology” in a denial conversation, such as, “I didn’t understand,” “Perhaps I was duped,” or “Perhaps I made a mistake.” Though it sounds strange, your speech makes it understandable. When the word is reversed two or three times and no one changes their mind, do not say anything else. End the argument by stating something amusing like “I’ll think about it again.” End the dispute with a joke or something like that. Assure your friend that these two-or three-time reversals of arguments have caused no pain in your heart and that you did not intend to hurt your friend with this reversal of arguments. Because quarrelling or doubting for a long time gradually reduces the love between the two and gradually breaks the friendship, which is a precious thing and might slip from your hands.
When meeting with people who hold opposing viewpoints, avoid allowing disagreements, repetitions, and debates to go on for as long as feasible. Because increased speech offends both parties, try to complete it as soon as possible when you notice that your speech is becoming longer, faster, and louder. And make your heart cool with laughter, both among yourself and others. I want my people to think about the conclusion of debates in their assemblies.

[from Anwar Sidiqi’s Intikhab Mazameen Sir Syed (p. 22-24)]

The translator is a senior lecturer in economics. [email protected]

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