By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
Urdu has its connoisseurs even today! Urdu poetry and ghazals are still popular with Indians coming from diverse faiths. It was proved once again at a literary function that saw the 51st DCM Indo-Pak Shankar-Shad Mushaira at Sir Shankarlal Hall (March 5) when poets from India and Pakistan enthralled the connoisseurs of Urdu poetry.
It was usual bonhomie all over at the packed Sir Shankar Lal Hall of Modern School, Delhi at with the glitterati like ninety-year old Padma Shri Bekal Utsahi, Malikzada Manzoor Ahmed, Prof Wasdeem Barelvi, Javed Akhtar, Nawaz Deobandi, Iqbal Ashhar, Iffat Zarrin, Dr Popular Merathi, Dr Gauhar Raza and Ranjeet Chauhan (all from India), Peerzada Qasim Siddiqui and Kishwar Naheed from Pakista, Azeez Nabeel from Qatar, Dr Abdullah Shahid from US and Farhat Rizvi from Canada reciting their mind blowing creations leaving the enlivened the environs with the echoes ofmukarrar, irshad and Subhan Allah etc. Untouched by the political Indo-Pak tension one could see poets of both the countries hugging, patting, kissing, shaking hands and mingling in most cordial way.
The Mushaira, named after two eminent Urdu and Persian poets of Delhi — late Lala Murli Dhar ‘Shad’ and Sir Shankar Lall ‘Shankar’ — has assumed the character of a literary institution of great importance in the world of Urdu ghazal. Shad was the son of the great Indian industrialist, Lala Shriram while Shankar was his brother. Today the torch bearer for Urdu from the non-Urdu speaking families’ tradition happens to be Madhav B Shriram. The musharira stopped in between but it goes to the credit of Madhav who revived it.
When asked why Madhav Shriram pooled in so huge a money in the mushaira, he said, “ Firstly, I revived this poetic meet as since 1944, it is the legacy of my forefathers like Lala Shriram, Lala Murlidhar Shad, Sir Shankarlal and Lala Bansidhar. Secondly, I want to celebrate the quintessential spirit of Urdu, its inclusive ethos and creative character. He’s proud to declare that today, Shankar-Shad has become the world’s biggest mushaira.”
Bekal Utsahi, who presided over the Mushaira categorically thanked the DCM management who have revived the tradition of mushaira that was slowly dwindling away and also added that this would help create interest in Urdu as a language. Earlier legendry Urdu poets like Josh Malihabadi, Jigar Moradabadi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mohinder Singh Bedi, Kaifi Azmi and Ali Sardar Jafri and a host of other eminent poets have enriched these Shankar-Shad gatherings with their compositions.
As part of the tradition, this romantic couplet of Muralidhar Shad, the founder, was read in the beginning, “Shab-e-hijr mein yaad aaana kisi ka/ Sataye hue ko satana kisi ka!” (O, the apperance of the beloved in the dreams/ No torture like this for the already tortured!). A couplet from Sir Shankarlal was recited as well by Ustad Khalil.
Much like most of the kalam of Aziz Nabeel, Farhat Shezad, Dr Abdullah, Iffat Zarrin and Gauhar Raza though had a mixed bag. As Urdu poetry connoisseurs trooped in quietly, the gathering fro merely gaining momentum to a houseful Sir Shankarlal Hall, the mood wass finally built by eminent poet, Nawaz Deobandi with the gathering appreciating the nuances and subtleties of his craft, “Uskey qatl pe mein chup thha, mera number ab aaya/ Merey qatl pe aap bhi chup hein, agla number aapka hei!”(At his murder, I was indifferent, now it is my turn/ On my murder, you are mum, next is your turn!). If this one drew applause with requests for an encore — incidentally, the next couplet almost blew the roof by clapping, “Hindu-Muslim chahey jo likha ho mathey per/ Hindustan likha hona chahiye aapkey seeney per!” (Let Hindu-Muslim or whatever be written on your forehead/ However, Hindustan in your heart must be inscribed!)
Thunderous applause was also there for Prof Wasim Barelvi at the couplet that spoke of social justice being victimized, “Faisla likha hua rakha hei pehley se khilaf/ Aap ky khak adalat mein safai denge!” (At the altar of corruption, judgement has already been drafted/ No matter, how you argue, you will be defeated). Yet another masterstroke by Wasim was a mirror to personal relationships getting soured. “Tum ne ghar na aaney ki qasam to khai hei,/Aansuon se bhi kaho aankhon mein aana chhod dein! (You have taken a vow not to enter my place,/ Tell the eyes also not to have tears in this case).
Malikzada Manzoor, more than 90m like Bekal Utsahi came out with a stunning couplet, “Tark-e-muhabbat apni khata ho, aisa bhi ho sakta hei/ Woh ab bhi paband-e-wafa ho, aisa bhi ho sakta hei!” (My being solely responsible for the strained relations could be a possibility/ May be he has remained faitjful even today! ”Malikzada, though very indisposed, came continued “Jinhen bharosa nahin hota apni mehnat par,/ Money plant wohi apney gharon mein lagatey hein?” (People who are shorn of confidence,/ Only those grow money plants at their residence!)
The most venerated poet is supposed to narrate at the end as per the Mushaira tradition. Here it was Bekal Utsahi, who stated that though the poets and writers can’t change the world, yet they always try to reform as also is apparent in this couplet, “Pehle tum waqt ke mathhey ki lakiron se milo/ Jaao footpath pe baithe heeron se milo!” (Go meet the hapless poor, unfortunate and unheeded/ They are all like the priceless jewels unpolished!)
For those testing and trying struggles, timeless moments, a little after sunset, a little before sunrise, it was time to pamper oneself. With nostalgia. With love. With care. Now, who will complain if a poet like Iffat Zarrin sums it all up as, “Yeh hei mera ghar, mujhe chahiye imtiaz/ Keh chukey hein hum dusron ko zill-e-subhani bahut!” (It’s time that I’m given what I actually deserve/ Enough is enough as I’ve glorified others!)
Iqbal Ashhar, based in Delhi, read this couplet to glorify time, “Mein waqt ki dehleez pe thehra hua hoon/ Qayam hei meri shaan ke mein Taj Mahal hoon!” (I’m a speck on the horizon of time/ I’m glorified as the inimitable Taj!)
*Grandnephew of Maulana Azad and a commentator on social and cultural issues