Kahin kuch door se kaanon mein padhti hai agar Urdu
To lagta hai ke din jaadon ke hain
khidki khuli hai, dhoop andar aa rahi hai...
For years poets, academicians, critics and artists are lamenting how Urdu, once a popular language of India, is vanishing away from popular discourse. But after seeing a huge crowd at the recently concluded Jashn-e-Rekhta and their eagerness towards this shireen (sweet) language, it can be said that Urdu has got a kiss of life. Now, many feel there is a resurgence of Urdu, especially among what are commonly known as non-Urdu wallahs.
When Rekhta foundation first started the Urdu fest in New Delhi in 2015, it had expected 2,000-3,000 people, but a little over 18,000 people turned up. That number went up by five times last year, reaching to 85,000. This year the turnout at the fest got even bigger as the foundation showcased the rich literary and cultural heritage of the language through panel discussions, mushaira,qawwali, dastangoi, ghazals, baitbaazi, book exhibition and calligraphy workshop etc.
While inaugurating the fest (on February 17) Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan said, “Urdu is not restricted to any particular religion. It is Hindustan’s language. And I pray to God that the entire world should feel its beauty, its romance, and may it flourish more and more.”
“Religion had nothing to do with Urdu and Hindi in the past. Christopher King did a survey which tells that in 1879 the circulation of Urdu newspapers were eight times than those of Hindi papers in India. Everyone... Hindu, Muslim or Punjabi were well-versed in Urdu. This proves the fact that religion had got nothing to do with it then,” renowned historian Irfan Habib said at a session Dilli Jo Ek Shahr Tha at the festival.
Talking about his love for Urdu, famous lyricist poet Gulzar noted that it is the only language that is capable of turning strangers into friends. He recited:
Ajab hai yeh zabaan, Urdu
Kabhi yunhi safar karte agar koi musafir sher padh de Meer, Ghalib ka
Woh chahe ajnabi ho, yahi lagta hai woh mere watan ka hai
Badi shaista lehje mein kisi se Urdu sun kar
Kya nahi lagta ke ek tehzeeb ki awaaz hai, Urdu
Gulzar, however, felt the need of preserving Urdu script. “While Urdu is expanding its reach, I feel the Urdu script is shrinking and losing its place. And we need to support and preserve it now,” he said.
Talking about the power of expression of Urdu as a language at a session titled Urdu ka Adaalati Lehja, former chief justice T S Thakur said if a picture is worth a thousand words, a couplet in the language is worth “two thousand words.”
Abhī kuchh log baaqī haiñ jo Urdu bol sakte haiñ --Anonymous
To celebrate the vibrancy of Urdu, the third edition of Jashn-e-Rekhta will be held at IGNCA in New Delhi from February 17-19. The inaugural function will be graced by poet-lyricist Gulzar and sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan followed by a musical performance of Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash.
Besides panel discussions and mushaira, the festival will also have interactive sessions like Khuli Nashist and baitbaazi etc. As a part of Alfaaz Aapke, Awaaz Hamari, RJ Sayema has invited ghazals and short stories written by people, many of which will be read by her at the festival.
To add to the spirit of the festivities, the Jashn will host a sufi evening with Hans Raj Hans, qawwali by Dhruv Sangari and ghazal singing by Vidya Shah.
The three-day festival will witness Gulzar in a conversation with Javed Siddiqui at a session titled Hum Sooratgar Kuch Khwaabon Ke.
Sessions like ‘Ghalib, Hali and Urdu Renaissance’, ‘Jab Filmein Urdu Bolti Thin’, ‘Dilli Jo Ek Shahr Tha’, ‘Urdu ka Adaalati Lehja’ and ‘Urdu Mein Hindustani Tahzeeb ka Jashn’ etc., have also been planned.
Famous historian Irfan Habib, critics Gopi Chand Narang and Shamim Hanfi, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, .former Plan panel member Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, poets Wasim Brelvi and Farhat Ehsaas, actors Prem Chopra, Sharmila Tagore and Anu Kapoor are some the prominent personalities who are expected to attend the event.
In ‘Tazmin-e-Ghalib’, theatre person Ashok Lal will recite his Tazmins of Ghalib’s couplets, to explore Ghalib's wordly and metaphysical concerns from a new perspective. Tazmin is adding to an existing couplet or a line thereof. This celebrated old literary practice features a poet honouring another poet by creating and reciting poetry following the metre, rhythm and rhyme of the latter as a standard. The idea is to explore wider meanings and dimensions of the original. Rekhta foundation — an initiative of IIT Kharagpur alumnus Sanjiv Saraf —runs the website www.rekhta.org.
According to Saraf the festival has endeavoured to preserve the rich cultural heritage of Urdu and bring its diverse flavours to the masses. The festival has grown organically to reach more than a lakh people since its inception in 2015.
This is what I have to say about February 14, which many celebrate as Valentine’s Day:
Kahte hain log ke aaj Yaum-e-Ushshaaq hai
Sochtae hain hum ke ye kaisa mazaak hai
Jab sachche husn aur ishq ki baat hai
To phir ye kaisa ek roza bandish-e-mulaqaat hai
Gulab ke phool liye jo aaj pur tapaak hain
Kal kahenge hava-e-dahr ka ye sirf ishtiyaaq hai
Jab sachche husn aur ishq ki baat hai
To unse har mulaqaat mushtaaq hai
Lamha lamha dars-e-akhlaaq hai
Mahfil unki gulfaam aur sab yaddain ufaq hai
Jab sachche husn aur ishq ki baat hai
To phir kya din aur kya raat hai
Har subh Yaum-e-Ushshaaq hai
Aur har shab taroon ki baraat hai
(Meanings of some words used above:Yaum-e-Ushshaaq = Valentine's Day; Ek roza = one day: Pur-tapaak = full of warmth, zeal; Hava-e-dahr = wind of world; Ishtiyaaq= longing, fondness; Mushtaaq = desirous/ eager; Dars-e-akhlaaq = moral lesson; Gulfaam= rose coloured; Ufaq = horizon)
When young Arman Ali Reza Dehlvi started singing this nazm of Iqbal Ashar at a programme to celebrate the Urdu language in New Delhi last Saturday, the audience enjoyed each and every word of this beautiful composition. Arman (in pix below) and his Trippy Sama band really set a sama (stage) for the celebration by singing melodiously Afreen, Afreen… and Ghalib’shar ek baat pe kahte ho tum ki tū kyā hai; tumhīñ kaho ki ye andāz-e-guftugū kyā hai ….”
Arman’s performance was the part of the day-long programme -- Afreen, Afreen — which also saw literary reading and poetry recitation on the themes of wit, humour and satire, dissent, erotica, piety and modernism
In an effort to keep Urdu vibrant among the public, Rakhshanda Jalil, the founder of Hindustani Awaaz, organized the event at the Oxford Bookstore in the Capital. The programme included readings from the works of humourist Dilawar Figar; novelist Mushtaq Yusufi, short-story writer Naiyar Masud; poets Majaz, Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Jaun Eliya, Parveen Shakir, Fahmida Reyaz, Ibne Insha and revolutionary poet Mir Jafar Zatalli among others.
Salima Raza, Sohail Hashmi, Danish Iqbal, Saif Mahmood and Pervaiz Alam read the acclaimed fiction and poetry.
Eminent poet Gauhar Raza (in pix left)recited his poems in the segment, “poetry of dissent”, which also saw Chinna Dua singing Faiz’s “Bol ke lab azaad hain tere…” and “ham dekheñge …lāzim hai ki ham bhī dekheñge, vo din ki jis kā va.ada hai, jo lauh-e-azal meñ likhkhā hai ;jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-girāñ; ruuī kī tarah uḌ jā.eñge..”
In the segment Aqeedat ke Rang, Sana Rashid beautifully sang a hamd and a naat, while Rashmi Agarwal recited Allama Iqbal's famous prayer Ya rab! dil-e-Muslim ko woh zinda tamana de jo qalb ko garma de, Jo rooh ko tarpa de (Lord, fill the Muslim’s heart with a desire so fervent. That it will set his heart aflame and stir his soul.).
The event also saw a mini mushaira, dastangoi and qawwali by Dhruv Sangari.
Prominent among those who attended the function were lyricist Javed Akhtar, writer and columnist Sadia Dehlvi, senior TV journalist Vinod Dua and former DD news reader Salma Sultan.
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.