At a time when there is a dearth of good quality science-related books in Urdu, obviously because of low demand of such books, it is indeed quite daring of Prof. Dr. Syed Riaz Baqar to write a very comprehensive book that deals with an important issue – the evolution of human life. His book ‘Insani
Irtiqa Ki Kahani’ is a valuable addition to the small pool of well-researched Urdu books written on the subject.
Knowledge is the key to progress and science and history are perhaps the most important components of knowledge. Without history, the human race couldn’t have known how its ancestors lived and progressed over centuries and without science, it would have been impossible to give a logical explanation of the evolution human beings have undergone since the beginning of time. Although the study of various other disciplines is equally important, for a nation to progress, it is essential that its people are well-versed in the afore-stated subjects.
Man has always been curious about his origin as well as the origin of the planet he calls home. In his quest to find answers about life on earth, he has travelled to all corners of the planet and even beyond. He has been successful in finding most answers; however, there still are many mysteries that remain unresolved. Not the one to give up, man has pursued the mission to seek knowledge and, as a result, he has unearthed some basic realities.
From its earliest single unit form to today’s complicated human body, the evolution of life is an amazing phenomenon. During the course of this significant discovery, one has learned amazing facts about the surroundings and other forms of life. The west is lucky in the sense that it has recorded, and continues to do so, the wealth of such information and knowledge in the form of books. Take any topic and you are likely to find a book on it in English, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. This is perhaps the main reasons for the west’s success in every field – from engineering to medicine, information technology, etc.
It is a misfortune of those who speak Urdu – another widely spoken language in the world – that there are very few books available in this language that deal with science and scientific research. In Pakistan, for instance, text books make up perhaps the largest number of science-related books in Urdu. This fact increases the value of Dr. Baqar’s book as it is written in a simple and easy to read manner and is equally enjoyable for both an academic and a common reader.
Although the subject matter of the book – the evolution of life – is heavy in itself, the writer reveals that what motivated him to write the book were the childish queries of his grandchildren about how human life started on the planet. Encouraged by these inquires, he started making a list of questions about the origins and evolution of human beings. The book also answers some basic questions such as what evolution is, what the origin of life was, how a single cell became the most important unit, the mutual relation between humans, the birth of the concept of society, the equation of relationship between man and animal and hundreds of other similar topics.
It is a treasure trove of useful and, at times interesting, information such as at what point man was called a human, why one human race is different from another and how man has strived to better his conditions. A special feature of the book is that it does not dwell on the question of evolution from the biological perspective only – although the writer apportions the most space to summarizing the origin of life as explained by famous biologists. Instead, it also explores human evolution from the linguistic and social perspectives. For instance, while describing how the ancient people of Australia and Polynesia travelled, the writer shares interesting insights into their expertise in making boats and canoes.
The author says he got the idea of writing the book from different phenomena which demanded scientific explanation and sometimes perplexed the common man. The book is, however, more likely to attract readership among academia rather than the ordinary reader because of its scholarly subject and also because despite the best efforts of the author to keep the language simple, it is impossible to do away with certain difficult terminologies. However, to solve this problem, the writer has tried to give the English variants of uncommon Urdu words such as pollen for ‘zar gul’ and sling for ‘falakhan’, which hardly a few would understand in Urdu.
The writer has included some interesting personal information about famous people – biologists, paleontologists and scientists mostly – for those who intend to read the book to increase their knowledge. This concise information provides refreshing breaks in the otherwise serious read.
Another interesting feature is the compilation of photos related to the subject being discussed as well as some personal photos of the author and his family – the latter taken at places which hold historical importance for various reasons. However, a little distracting factor is the transition in tenses in some chapters where the writer has apparently mixed the past with the present which can confuse the reader.
Overall, the book can be a good read for those who are interested in expanding their knowledge. Going through the bibliography, one learns that the writer has read extensively to collect material from hundreds of different sources and has credited them duly. It also goes to the publishers’ credit that they agreed to print the book in Urdu on the subject of evolution.
Book Title: Insani Zindagi Ka Irtiqa Author: Prof. Dr. Syed Riaz Baqar Publisher: Maktaba-e-Daniyal Pages: 393, Hardback Price: Rs.950 ISBN: 978-969-419-040-2
Reviewed by Javeria Shakil