Last weekend, I attended a Mushaira in an unusual place. I say unusual because, of all the possible places in and around Dehli (as it’s pronounced and written in Urdu), which could be associated with Urdu and Mushairas, NOIDA stands the least probable. To be honest, I was very reluctant in going all the way. But there were two primary reasons which compelled me to go. First, since I had not been to any Mushaira in a longtime, despite being a regular participant of Mushairas for many years. In fact, when I had moved to Delhi in 2000, I would initially attend almost every Mushaira that would take place in and around the city. I specially remember taking the DTC specials in the night while returning from Mushairas that were held at the Red Fort as part of the celebrations for Independence and Republic Day. In my fascination, once I even walked all the way back from Barakhambha to Nizamuddin in the night, after having attended a Mushaira (Shankar-Shad) in SAPRU House. It was only after reaching Nizamuddin that we managed to get some vehicle to reach to Jamia Nagar.
Secondly, this particular Mushaira was a gathering of young poets. Most of the Mushairas that I had attended in the past were full of old men, and only with a few lady poets. The only plausible reason to me was that the organisers didn’t want to take any risk and thus only invited established or known poets. Hence, I felt that it would be an interesting experience listening to young poets, and that too when it’s being claimed almost every day that Urdu is on the verge of demise as the young generation is hardly interested. And if at all, then their interested is limited to ‘romantic poetry’ and Urdu-laced Bollywood songs. So I went along with an Urdu loving friend of mine. The Mushaira was organized by Rekhta Foundation which has been organizing the annual Urdu festival, Jashn-e-Rekhta since 2015 in Delhi.
The hall was full beyond capacity with people sitting on the ground and many standing on the sides. It defied almost all the stereotypes (Old, Bearded, Muslim, Men) associated with Urdu poetry. On the stage, as promised, were mostly young faces in their early thirties and late twenties, barring the Sadr (President) and the Nazim (Compere/Anchor). While the Sadr was an emeritus Professor of Urdu at Jamia Millia Islamia, Prof. Shameem Hanfi, the Nazim for the evening was an assistant professor of Hindi literature at Jamia, Rahman Musawwir. Hence, it was not surprising that there were some poets whose poetry had a blend of both Urdu and Hindi literary cultural traditions. However, what was surprising was the audience and the way they were appreciating the poetry. The majority of the audience was young and belonged to the non-Urdu speaking class or whose mother tongue was not Urdu. There I met an engineering student who had come along with his friends all the way from Faridabad. Another person that I met was a young sub-Inspector of Delhi Police (No, he was not in Uniform!).
It was not only me who was pleasantly surprised by the gathering and by the interest shown by audience but Sadr, Prof. Hanfi also expressed the same surprise. In his presidential remarks, he spoke about it at length, insisting that this is how it should be.
There were some disappointing aspects as well. While there were many ladies and girls in the audience, there was not a single one on the stage and those recited their poems that evening. One hopes that gatherings like these flourish in the months and years to come and also that the gender aspect of it will be taken care of. After all, like Urdu is not just language of Muslims, it’s also not the language of men.
Some of the couplets recited that evening:
Kitaab padhte rahe aur udas hote rahe/ajeeb shakhs tha jiske azab dhote rahe ~Shameem Hanfi
Kuchh log hain jo jhel rahe hain museebatein kuchh log hain jo waqt se pahle badal gaye~Shakeel Jamali
Raat karti hai khamoshi se hifazat din ki din hai ki chand sitaron ko bhi kha jata hai~ Rahman Mussawwir
Har mulaqat pe seene se lagane wale Kitne pyare hain mujhe chhod ke jane wale ~ Vipul Kumar
Gila nahin ke mere haal pe hansi duniya Gila ye hai ki pahli hansi tumhari thi ~Subhan Asad
Teergi se roshni ka ho gaya/ mein mukammal shayari ka ho gaya ~Prakhar Malviya Kanha