The oriental peoples reacted in two ways to the Western cultural challenge, beginning with the early nineteenth century. And we must not forget that the challenge was overwhelming. The invaders brought Racine and Shakespeare but also battle-ships and rifled guns. There was no way to stop them. Moreover the human nature being what it is, power was accompanied by arrogance. The West had left the Orient behind, not only in knowledge and technology but also in the organisation of trade. So even an illiterate Western soldier treated the "lower races" with contempt. Savages had no problem dealing with the impact. They simply turned into Englishmen, Frenchmen etc at least in appearance if not in reality. But those who had a developed culture of their own, though by now stagnant and decaying, had to make a choice and all did, some earlier than others. Most tried to modernise what they had, instead of attempting to replace it. The Egyptian and Levantine Arabs chose to model new Arab literature and theatre on the European haute culture. Egypt built an opera house, for whose opening Puccini composed his Thais. Ahmed Shawki, (1868-1932), the poet laureate of Egypt, was an important figure in the Arab nahda (or renaissance) of the late nineteenth century. The movement was almost entirely in response to the Western cultural impact and resulted in the modernisation of the Arabic language. Shawki, among other things, reinterpreted the great Arab love story Laila Majnoon. Poetry cannot be translated. So it is best rendered in English in prose. Qais goes late in the evening to the tents of Laila's father to borrow fire and runs into Laila. He tells her, "How many times have I asked the dawn if you sighed in the middle of the night. How many times have I questioned the winds, which, I thought, must have rustled your perfumed dress; or a gazelle whose eyelids stole the black of your eyes." Good poetry. But it lacked the base of a popular theatre. South Asia accepted Western influence towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the novel appeared in Urdu and Bengali, followed by the short story. But our music was too developed and rich to allow us to be impressed by any other. The region had a tradition of operettas on religious themes. And Amanat's secular opera, Indar Sabha, was so good as to be patronised by the ruler of Awadh himself. However the popular theatre was primitive. So the West's influence on it was immediate. Here it was helped by the existence of a community theatre among the Parsis. They were also traders. They commercialised the new theatre, first in Gujrati and then in Urdu. However, culturally, it remained at a common level until replaced by the cinema.Mirza Ruswa and Abdul Halim Sharar tried to raise the theatre's cultural standard by writing plays in the classical language and discarding its touch of vulgarity, specially in the comic scenes. But no theatrical company accepted them. Ruswa's Laila Majnoon, really a semi-opera, had good poetry and good speech: Wahi dasht-e-Najd hai, wahi kohsaar hai, / Wahi hijr-e-yaar hai,wahi jaan-e-zaar hai. Its locale was Najd but it appeared that a Lucknow family had been transposed to the Arabian desert. No harm there. Racine's Greeks and Romans are seventeenth century Frenchmen and women. The basic problem was that, while the middle class could tolerate the rahas, the story of Krishn in classical music and dance, it still thought that going to the theatre for a play, even a verse-play, was in bad taste. This did not affect the commerciality of the popular theatre as the masses patronised it in hordes. But it kept it at a common level until the end. Ruswa's Laila Majnoon was rejected because, in spite of its good standard, it was of a didactic nature, trying to raise the level of the mass's taste. Today we read it only because their author is also the author of Umrao Jan Ada.