Celebrating the quintessential spirit of Urdu, its composite culture, inclusive ethos, creative richness and linguistic grandeur, was the three-day Urdu mela (fair) at the Jashn-e-Rekhta in Delhi recently from February 12 to 14. The Sabri Brothers from Rajasthan, who are famous for theirqawwali, set the ball rolling with a stupendous performance.
Delhi, once the Urdu hub, as during the Mughal era has regained the lost pristine glory by umpteen Urdu activities in the city, like — the mehfils (congregations) of mushairas(Urdu poetry, dastangoi (story-telling), play (based on a Krishna Chander story), reading from Urdu classics, critical appreciation, qawwali (musical saga), ghazal sarai(recitation of Urdu poetry with panache), baitbaazi (verse competition) baithak (dialogue) and nashist (discussions) besides other language attractions in Urdu.
Eminent litterateurs, artists and lovers of Urdu like Javed Akhtar, Mahesh Bhatt, Shabana Azmi, Gulzar, Anwar Masood (poet of light-hearted poetry from Islamabad) Gopi Chand Narang, Zia Mohyeddin, Wasim Barelvi, Asif Farrukhi (writer from Lahore), (poet from Karachi), Tabish Abbas, Farhat Ehsas, Shahid Rassam (artist from Karachi), Hameed Shahid, Ziya-Us-Salam (The Hindu scribe), Shakeel Adil Zada (Karachi-based writer), Hameed Shahid (Lahore-based Urdu critic) Shamim Hanafi, Rajesh Reddy, Mohammed Alvi, Khushbir Singh Shad, Ashok Vajpeyi, Kumar Vishwas, Rana Safvi, CM Naim, Saeed Alam and many more adorned Urdu celebrations for three days. Almost 30 Pakistani authors too came this time.
What pleasantly surprised this author was the total houseful at all the different venues on all three days. In fact the non-stop flow of visitors almost more than a lac all the three days proved that Urdu was still thriving and not on oxygen, as some of its connoisseurs always cribbed and claimed. The massive gatherings also prove that the masses don’t castigate Urdu as the language of Partition or of terrorists.
“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’stehzeeb (culture) is Urdu tehzeeb!” says Sanjiv Saraf, IIT Kharagpur alumnus and the founder of Rekhta, on the occasion of one of the biggest congregations of Urdu anywhere in the world.
For the rejuvenation of Urdu, Rekhta foundation employs a team of around 50 people, including IT professionals, composers, translators and social media experts at its Noida office. He doesn’t buy the story that Urdu is dying,
One reason for Urdu’s growing popularity among the youth is its easy availability online in Devanagri and Roman script, according to Bandeep Singh, photo editor, Fortune India.
According to Rhea Suri, who relished the Urdu love poetry bedecked upon her on the Valentine’s Day, “Umpteen college-goers are showing liking for Urdu as they feel it is the best language to express matters of heart in the poetry of someone like Ghalib or Sahir Ludhyanavi.” Urdu seems to be on the threshold of regaining its long lost magnificence and the wait may not be too long.
That Urdu, often considered to be a language responsible for Partition in 1947is on a fast track of becoming the lingua franca for thousands of its lovers at the three-day Jashn-e-Rekhta celebrations in Delhi’s Indira Gandhi National Art Center.
Urdu, celebrating the composite heritage of the language in all forms was evident at each nook and cranny of the Urdu fiesta. Farhat Ehsas describes Jashn-e-Rekhta as a festival to celebrate the quintessential spirit of Urdu, its inclusive ethos and creative character. A part of the establishment, he’s proud to declare that today, Rekhta has become the biggest Urdu networking hub.
When asked as to what is there for Saraf, the chairman of India’s big corporate Polyplex Limited (Noida) dealing in polyethylene terephthalate films, to eke out of this language of merely sher-o-shairi, he quipped, “Urdu and Ghalib are at my heart and I had desired to serve the language since my days of youth. However, Urdu is not merely sher-o-shairi, ghazal, qawwali, masnawi and marsiah (all different forms of poetic rendition. It’s the epitome of ourGanga-Jamuni tehzeeb (composite secular culture). Urdu is a language born out of our syncretism accruing out of the commonality of cultures.”
Saraf also added that Jashn-e-Rekhta is a platform to showcase the world of Urdu through the eyes and experience of its masters. The aim is to reach out to both the Urdu speaking and the non-Urdu speaking audience. True, evolving, adapting and enduring — has been the story of Urdu in modern times. It’s a language that has the unique distinction of going beyond its script, beyond all boundaries.
Rekhta, a website of collections of old and modern representative poetry, is an online treasure trove of Urdu available in Roman, Devnagri and Urdu scripts with correct and authentic text. On this unique website one can listen to the poetry and find the meaning of difficult words too.
Sukrita Paul Kumar, a lover of Urdu believes that the world is progressing and in this situation, no language can establish a strong connection with its readers without the help of modern technology and that’s why Rekhta. Aided by technology, it’s touching new heights today. The plethora of Urdu websites is testimony to its continuing popularity.
On its e-book section, a huge collection of rare books, manuscripts, and other literary materials and publications are being gathered at Rekhta. This website includes one more specialty; the poets are recorded in audio and video forms in studios and the poetry meets and mushairas are organized here too. Till now 40,000 ghazals and nazms(light poetry) around 15000 poets and more than three thousand e-books have been included in Rekhta. Watchword is quality.
What is true is that even today after fidgeting with umpteen vicissitudes, Urdu has neither been on oxygen or dying as claimed by many. Rather, it’s thriving. Saraf, often desired to collect all of Ghalib’s 1100 Urdu couplets and 6700 Persian couplets to be saved in Devnagri or transcribed in Roman such that even those could have access to the glory of the language that had not learnt it. In fact the uplift of Urdu was always at the back of his mind as a surrogate career.
Farhat Ehsas, a poet associated with Rekhta tells, the project is aimed at attracting the big educational and literary institutes of India, Pakistan and the world so that after their inclusion the research scholars of Urdu, will be able to complete their research works and students can get benefit of this treasure right from their homes through the website.
Speaking on the appeal of Urdu, Dr Ather Farouqui opined, “Urdu Chairs have been set in the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in the UK and also in the universities in Germany, China, Egypt, Jordan and Malaysia. Urdu is the language plain and simple and easily comprehensible whose future is bright. Urdu is the second language read and understood most in India, third in the USA while fourth in Britain.”
In fact, Saraf has a suggestion, “I feel if industrialists like us can just take care of this language, Urdu can soon recover its lost sheen. It also reminds us of the Shankar-Shad Indo-Pak Mushaira conducted by the Shriram Industries and Jashn-e-Bahar by eminent socialite, Kamna Prasad.
Urdu has bloomed and enriched owing to the support from these rich benefactors.
A heaven for gourmands — a food court with authentic Sindhi, Kashmiri, Deccani, Pakistani, Hyderabadi, Lucknawi and Purani Dilli cuisines was the most sought after lunchtime destination. Children’s corner too was set up for their storybooks, paintings and calligraphy kiosk.
A unique attraction was the Urdu Bazaar, a marked locality in the fair showcasing brass artifacts, from Delhi Mughal Art and Chinar-e-Kashmir besides a variety of attars fromAl-Aqsa Perfumers. Sketches and photographs of eminent poets like Ghalib, Momin, Zauq, Mir, Firaq, Faiz etc were also on sale.
This year more than 100 poets, litterateurs, journalists critics, actors, artists, novelists, and lyricists donned the unique Urdu celebration assuring that Urdu is on a fast track.
[The author is an educator commentator on social issues and grandnephew of Maulana Azad and can be contacted at email@example.com]