Jashn-e-Rekhta – Festival celebrating Urdu

A fortnight ago, when Delhi was abuzz with much activity following the Jawaharlal Nehru University fiasco, a small number of people were quietly trying to bring different communities together through Jashn-e-Rekhta. The Urdu festival, in its second edition at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, was organised for those who knew Urdu, wanted to know Urdu, loved it or sought to know more about it… Rekhta itself means Urdu. Poet Meer Taqi Meer, in one of his couplets, taunts Ghalib: “Ustad Rekhta ke, bas tumhi nahi ho Ghalib”.

Visitors walked through the alleys lined with thought-provoking Urdu quotes and ashar (couplets) by popular as well as unknown poets. Transcribed in Hindi at almost every 50 metres was Urdu poetry by Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal, Meer Taqi Meer, Daagh Dehlvi, Qateel Shifai, Hasrat Jaipuri, Munawwar Rana, Shakeel Badayuni, Prem Kumar Nazar, Anand Narain Mulla. Among these was this couplet by Asghar Gondvi: “Ik ada ik hijab ik shokhi/ Neechi nazar main kya nahi hota.”

There were billboards carrying quotes endorsing Urdu. Indira Gandhi’s statement “Urdu Hindustan ki secularism ki zubaan hai” and couplets like “Vo kare baat to har lafz se khushboo aaye, aisi boli vohi bole, jise Urdu aaye” by poet Ahmad Wasi created an apt ambience for the free flow of the language. Couplets in bright shades of ‘symbolic’ green, saffron and yellow peeped through wind chimes and tinkle bells on trees. The message was clear: Urdu has nothing to do with any religion or region.

The three-day affair was divided into around 60 programmes, which included mushairas, qawwalis, live performances, dastangoi, panel discussions, recitations, film screenings, plays, baitbazi (antakshri of Urdu couplets) and book launches. The sessions were held in makeshift venues with enticing names — diwan-e-aam (open to all), diwan-e-khas (for special discussions), bazm-e-ravaan (for poetic renditions/book launches) and kunu-e-sukhan (children’s corner).

An example of nafees or fine Urdu was set through the poignant dramatic presentation “Kaifi Aur Main”, performed by Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Mumbai-based ghazal singer Jaswinder Singh. Directed by Ramesh Talwar, the play took the audience through a narrative journey of India’s eminent writer-couple (Kaifi and his wife Shauqat). It spoke of their pangs of love, marriage, life after marriage, India’s freedom struggle, Shauqat’s days at IPTA (Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association), Kaifi’s rebel, womencentric verses, his illness and death, Shauqat’s loneliness and eternal longing for him, all through their letters to each other. The story of their life told through ghazals and Kaifi’s film lyrics left many among the audience moist eyed.

What could be a better treat for visitors than to hear Gulzar recite live! The octogenarian participated in back-to-back programmes. His Guncha was released by Urdu scholar Gopi Chand Narang at the fest.

In an animated conversation, “Ye Kaisa Ishq Hai Urdu Zubaan Ka”, he asked, “Urdu ko kisi mazhab se jod kar dekhne ka kya matlab hai? Yeh to muhazzbon (decent) logon ki zubaan hai, mohabbat karne walon ki zubaan hai.” His baritone voice met with a thunderous applause, especially from youngsters.

The session “Filmon Mein Urdu Ke Rang: Kal Aur Aaj” saw the presence of film personalities like Imtiaz Ali, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Shabana Azmi. Imtiaz Ali said, “Since it was an unsponsored programme, we could speak freely. We had like-minded people, quality music and good food. A common thread united all of us emotionally. It was like a homecoming”.

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