Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An Urdu Mushaira in Delhi: Enchanting couplets regale audience

Though litterateurs keep frowning over the decline in standards of mushairas, the truth is that nowhere in the world people still sit till 2 and 3 am in the night to listen poetry.

I had the opportunity to watch the Mushaira Jashn-e-Bahaar recently. And once again I was not disappointed, as several reputed poets recited their ghazals, Nazms and Qata'as.

Watching the most respected Urdu poet--ocatagenarian Pandit Anand Mohan Zutshi Gulzar Dehlvi, [please don't confuse him with the other and equally respectable Gulzar who is known for writing songs also]--at the dais revived the old memories.

Many of the audiences were praying for his health and long life. I start with the couplets of the legendary Gulzar Dehlvi:

aaiin* to ham roz badal sakte haiN
aKhlaaq meN tarmeem** nahiiN ho saktii

ham roz naye mulk banaa sakte haiN
tahziib ki taqseem nahiin ho saktii

[* constitution, ** change ]

Yes, we can change the constitution as many times as we wish, we can carve out new nations but the 'tehzib' can't be divided, the culture remains composite. None but this Kashmiri Brahmin poet who is the reigning king of the Delhi school of Urdu poetry can say it.

Majid Deobandi is known for calling a spade a spade. His ghazals drew fulsome praise, specially the couplet:

kisii sile kii jo chaah hotii to maiN bhii shaayad
har ek masnad-nasheeN ko aalii-janaab likhtaa

For almost half-a-century, Waseem Barelvi has been the most prominent face of the lyrical Urdu poetry that haunts your imagination and keeps you in a state of trance. When he read out his ghazal, the audience burst in applause.

khauf ke saaye meN bachche ko agar jeenaa paDaa
be-zubaaN ho jaayegaa yaa bad-zubaaN ho jaayegaa

The couplet of Shakil Shamsi's ghazal also drew huge appaluse:

ghar nahiiN hotaa chhatoN se aur dar-o-diivaar se
do parinde shaaKh pe baiThenge, ghar ho jaayegaa

For almost a quarter century, Malikzada Manzoor Ahmad, has been conducting mushairas in the country and outside. At times, his poetry hits you straight and occasionally there are layers to get to the meaning. Here is one of the couplets from the ghazal that was liked by the gathering:

tark-e-mohabbat apnii Khataa ho aisaa bhii ho saktaa hai
voh ab bhii paaband-e-wafaa ho aisaa bhii ho saktaa hai

And when Alam Khursheed spoke about 'etedaal' ie moderation, one felt that the poetic evening had reached its pinnacle. It's not an easy task to keep passions in check, the heart doesn't listen to your head--an eternal subject of poetry but interesting nonetheless.

kahiN pe jism, kahiiN pe khayaal rahtaa hai
mohabbatoN meN kahaaN etedaal rahtaa hai

A unique poet of Nazm, Shahid Meer, is not just a rhymster but has understanding of music and all forms of arts. He rarely attends mushairas but when he does, he gets praise from those who appreciate true shaayri.

pahle to chhiin li merii aaNkhoN kii roshnii
phir aaiine ke saamne laaya gayaa mujhe

There were dozens of couplets that could be quoted. Some women poets also recited. Ambreen Haseeb's couplet, which he had earlier read at the AMU women college's mushaira:

ta'alluq jo bhii rakho soch lenaa
ki ham rishtaa nibhaana jaante haiN

Several other prominent poets rendered their ghazals. But it was an emotional moment when Shaharyar, who is not just an exceptional poet of ghazal and Nazm, but has also achieved fame outside the literary world, faced the mike and read out his ghazal. The couplet turned many an eyes moist.

aasmaaN kuchh bhii nahiiN ab tere karne ke liye
maiN.ne sab tayyariyaaN kar li haiN marne ke liye

Jashn-e-Bahaar mushaira, which is organised by the Jashn-e-Bahar Trust and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) was a success. It's true that senior poets are dying, but still there is a galaxy of shaaers in India, that can hold any gathering spellbound for hours.

Cynics may dimiss the mushairas (and kavi sammelans) but the fact is that they remain a glorious institution despite all the shortcomings and the innovations that have crept up in the institution of mushayras lately.

Notwithstanding the presence of some 'performing poets' whose sole qualification is a good voice and who get couplets written from veteran poets, the mushairas play a major role in educating the young generation about the nuances of poetry.

Besides, their cultural significance in the present era remains indisputable.The mushairas have survived centuries. Over the years this institution that is unparalleled elsewhere in the world, has spread to smaller cities and towns and will surely flourish in future.