Contrary to the belief that Urdu is dying, some aficionados of the language have, in fact, helped it in gaining ground among Delhi’s youths -- both Muslim and non-Muslim. The younger generation's love for the language can easily be gauged by their presence in a huge number at recently held mushairas (poetry recitation), baitbaazi (verse competition), dastangois (story-telling) and dramas like Ghalib ke Khatoot and Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere etc.
The city’s youths attentively listened to actor Tom Alter’s recitation of Mirza Ghalib’s poetry at the recently concluded Jashn-e-Adab at India International Centre. They equally enjoyed Sham-e-Sher, an evening to celebrate poetry of renowned romantic poet Akhtar Shirani, in November last year.
While Vishal Bagh, a young poet, got acclamation for his couplet Daanishmandon, raasta batla sakte ho; Deewana hoon, virana tak jaana hai from renowned poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, Shiraz Husain -- a young artist –showed his effort to revive the forgotten poetry of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Ismat Chughtai and Majaz Lakhnawi etc., at Jashn-e-Adab. Shiraz makes paintings, diaries, post-cards and T-shirts, etc., with couplets of these legends on them.
Another budding talent Khaja Qausain Hashmi, a B.Sc student at Jamia Millia Islamia, is quick enough to write 12-line composition about the real essence of life after watching the newly-released movie Dear Zindagi. He recites, “Jab koi lehar chu kar guzar jaye; Jab koi rang char kar utar jaye; Jab koi shaam has kar mukar jaye; Tab zindagi hoti hai Dear zindagi …”
While Shiraz has a portal called Khwaab Tanha Collective (solitary dream) to showcase his love for the language, Qausain has a group of friends in their 20s who write, recite and literally inhale Urdu.
There is a crop of budding talents like Vishal, Qausain and Shiraz, who help keep Urdu alive in the city.
“There are so many brilliant writers among us but they don’t get the exposure. We bring them and the established scholars, poets, writers and journalists on the same platform through various literary forms such as storytelling, plays, baitbazi, mushaira and ghazal,” says Kunwar Ranjeet Chauhan, secretary of Jashn-e-Adab festival.
Another young and avid lover of Urdu, who writes under his pen name Bezaar Khizr-e-rahwi, divides his time between his high pressure job of marketing communication and holding adabi nashishts (literary sittings) with the lovers of this language. He says that many young non-Muslims approach him to learn the nuances of Urdu language.
“Urdu is certainly the sweetest language and the poetry of Ghalib, Faiz, Iqbal and Meer is definitely one of the best and powerful in the world,” says Hemant Mishra, who is pursuing graduation from Jamia Millia and regularly attend Urdu programmes.
Appreciating the inclination of today’s youths towards this beautiful language, Javed Akhtar, however, feels that they need to read more of Urdu literature. “Read literature as much as you can so that you can enhance your Urdu vocabulary,” he suggested youngsters interested in shayari at an interactive session in the Capital last month
Whether one hears an upcoming poet Nitin Raja saying, "Urdu sa hai wo yaar mera; Nafasat bhi hai nazakat bhi hai or an established poet Manish Shukla, reciting,“Baat karne ka hasin taur-triqa sikha; Humne urdu ke bahane se saliqa sikha”, it is now generally felt by many Delhi-based Urdu lovers that the language is moving ahead with times.
Besides Jashn-e-Adab and Sham-e-Sher, the recent past has seen the city hosting a lot of activities to promote the Urdu language.
Events like Jashn-e-Rekhta, a three day Urdu festival, Jashn-E-Qalam, a storytelling event showcasing Saadat Hasan Manto’s Padhiye Kalma, Pierrot’s Troupe’s Jashn-e-Ghalib, showing three plays based on Mirza Ghalib, young poets’ meet and mushairas like Jashn-e-Bahar and Shankar-Shad have played their part to encourage youths by bringing country’s most distinguished Urdu litterateurs, poets, critics, Journalists, lyricists and ghazal singers, etc. to the city.
Jamia Millia Islamia, Ghalib Institute and Delhi Urdu Academy also hosted many mushairas last year which were widely attended by students of all streams.
Often-sung verse, ‘Na kisi ki ankh ka noor hoon, na kisi ke dil ka qarar hoon, Jo kisi ke kaam na aa sakey main woh ek musht-e-ghubar hoon’(I’m the light of no one’s eyes, the throb of no one’s heart, I’m that fistful of dust that can be of no use to anyone), was wrongly ascribed to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal king.
It was actually written by Muztar Khairabadi (1865-1927), grandfather of Javed Akhtar, who said at a Jashn-e-Adab function here recently that the Devnagri version of the former’s collection of selective poetry would be released soon.
“Though some literary critics had earlier argued that this verse was not found in Zafar’s complete works, published in 1887, it was the discovery of this ghazal, written in Muztar’s own handwriting and the manuscript while shifting my house in Mumbai ended the controversy,’’ he said.
The last couplet of this ghazal attributed to Khairabadi reads: “Na main Muztar unka habeeb hoon, na main Muztar unka raqeeb hoon; jo bigad gaya woh naseeb hoon, jo ujad gaya woh dayaar hoon.” (Neither is Muztar her dear, nor is he her confidant; I am the fate that turned bad, the house that got destroyed).
Last year, Akhtar had released ‘Kharman’ (harvest), a five volume collection of Muztar’s poetry.
The complete ghazal is as follows:
Na kisī kī aañkh kā nuur huuñ na kisī ke dil kā qarār huuñ
Jo kisī ke kaam na aa sake maiñ vo ek musht-e-ġhubār huuñ
Maiñ nahīñ huuñ naġhma-e-jāñ-fazā mujhe sun ke koī karegā kyā
Koī aa ke sham.a jalā.e kyuuñ maiñ vo bekasī kā mazār huuñ
Na maiñ ‘muztar’ un kā habīb huuñ na maiñ ‘muztar’ un kā raqīb huuñ
Jo bigad gayā vo nasīb huuñ jo ujad gayā vo dayār huuñ
While moving out of Bhopal in 1923, Muztar -- a magistrate -- left many of his papers, which a friend kept safely but could return that only to his son Jan Nisar Akhtar. The carton, carrying those papers would later be sent to Javed Akhtar. But it took many years before Javed Akhtar would find the time to go through its contents.
Wo shakhs mohazzab hai jisko yeh zabaan aayi” -- Ravish Siddiqi
To regain some of the lost glory of Urdu, the lovers of the language organized a lot of activities in Delhi in 2016. The city, once a hub of Urdu during the Mughal era, witnessed Jashn-e-Rekhta, Jashn-e-Adab, World Urdu Conference, various saminars, dramas and mushairas (poetry recitation) etc. this year.
The love for the language, kept the audience glued to their seats in all these programmes, featuring some of the country’s most distinguished Urdu litterateurs, poets, critics, journalists, lyricists, ghazal singers, dastangos (story-tellers) and qawwals etc. The most heartening was the attendance of youths in those programmes which showed their liking for this beautiful language.
In the first week of February, National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) organized three-day World Urdu conference titled, “Two Hundred Years of Urdu Journalism: Past, Present and Future Prospects” at Delhi University. It saw paper presentations from Urdu scholars from India and abroad. Cultural activities, including Mushaira and play Main Urdu Hun, were also be part of the event.
Kamna Prasad, Urdu activist and the founder of the Jashn-e-Bahar Trust, invited a galaxy of Urdu poets like Dr Pirzada Qasim, Amjad Islam Amjad and Abbas Tabish from Pakistan, Farhat Shahzad from USA; Zamin Jafri from Canada and Dr Zubair Farooq from the UAE for annual Jashn-e-Bahar mushaira on a breezy early February evening at DPS, Mathura Road. Famous Indian poets Waseem Barelvi, Popular Meeruthi, Aalok Shrivastav and Farhat Ehsaas also made their presence felt with their meaningful poetry at the event
While Shrivastav said, “Ye sochna galat hai ke tum par nazar nahin; Masroof hum bahut hain, magar be-khabar nahin”, Barelvi recited, “Woh mere chhere tak apni nafratein laya to tha; Maine uske haath chume aur bebas kar diya.”
In its efforts to keep Urdu vibrant among the public, Rekhta Foundation headed by industrialist Sanjiv Saraf, hosted three-day Jashn-e-Rekhta in mid-February. “No other language can match the sweetness and glory of Urdu that I consider to be the language of love, romance, sophistication and culture. Let me concede that Delhi’s tehzeeb (culture) is Urdu tehzeeb,” said Sanjiv Saraf, on the occasion.
In one of the sessions “Yeh Kaisa Ishq Hai Urdu Zabaan Se”, famous lyricist and poet Gulzar said, “Urdu faqiri mein bhi aristocracy ka mazaa deti hai.” He spoke about the nuances of the language and Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. He recited one of his popular nazms, “Kitaabein", which points to how we seem to have “broken up” with books and how our daily life is slowly losing charm in the wake of digitalisation:
“Jo shaamein unki sohbat mein kata karti thi'n,
Ab aksar guzar jaati hain computer ke pardo'n par...
Kitabein maangne, girne, uthane ke bahaane,
Jo rishte bante the ab unka kya hoga.”
The jashn saw over 100 poets, litterateurs, novelists, journalists, critics, actors, artists and lyricists from India and Pakistan. It included sessions on luminaries of Urdu language like Mirza Ghalib, Sadat Hassan Manto, Kaifi Azmi, Akhtarul Iman etc. Prominent among those participated at the jashn were Gopi Chand Narang, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Gulzar, Shamim Hanafi, Tom Altar, Nandita Das, Imtiyaaz Ali, Anwar Masood and Abbas Tabish. etc.
Plays like Ghalib ke Khatoot, Dara Shikoh, Kaifi aur Main were presented amid huge applause. Students could be seen in huge numbers at the grand mushaira, qawwali, ghazal singing and baitbaazi (verse competition) which were part of the event.
In March, many renowned Urdu poets from India, Pakistan and US like Pirzada Qasim (Karachi), Farhat Shahzad (USA), Javed Akhtar, Waseem Barelvi, Iqbal Ashhar, Dr. Gauhar Raza, Nawaz Deobandi , Dr. Malikzada Manzoor Ahmad and Bekal Utsahi graced the poetic evening at Modern School, Barakhamba Road, for Shankar-Shad Mushaira. Akhtar stole the limelight with his nazm, Ye Khel Kya hai.
Ghazal Ka Safar, an evening that enthralled and left the listeners with a greater appreciation and insight into the beautiful but difficult art of the ghazal, was also organized in the same month at India Habitat Centre.
The city witnessed Delhi Urdu Academy's Mushaira-e-Yaum-e-Jamhuriya in February and Drama Festival in November. This year Saeed Alam’s Pierrot's Troupe held many shows like Ghalib and Lal Qila Ka Aakhri Mushaira at different auditoriums in Delhi-NCR for Urdu lovers. Jashn-E-Qalam, a platform that marries the tradition of storytelling with literature, in Mumbai two years ago, showcased Saadat Hasan Manto’s Padhiye Kalma, Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Chechak Ke Daag and some others at south Delhi’s GreenR Café in July.
Rekhta Foundation held Shaam-e-Sher in November to celebrate romantic poetry and the music of Akhtar Shirani. Danish Iqbal, Salima Raza and Asma presented a theatrical performance where they combined his work with music and anecdotes from his life.
Jashn-e-Adab festival, which was held at India International Centre on December 10-11, saw discussions on the influence of Urdu on Hindi cinema, Urdu and university culture, and the tradition of adab (respect). A mushaira, featuring Javed Akhtar, Farhat Ehsaas, Khushbir Singh Shaad and others, enthralled the audience where Akhtar recited his new composition, Naya Hukumnama.
There were also a recitation of Mirza Ghalib’s poetry by actor Tom Alter, performances by ghazal and sufi singer Kavita Seth and dastagoi by Darain Shahidi at the festival.
In December, Ghalib Institute organised a mushaira and a play Budh Ghalib.
The Urdu world, however, got many shocks in 2016. The year saw the demise of famous poets Nida Fazli, Dr. Malikzada Manzoor Ahmad and Bekal Utsahi.
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