THE sound of qawwali and the beauty of poetry transcended many barriers of language and grammar at the ‘Rang-e-Rekhta’, hosted by the Rekhta Foundation Saturday evening at the Tagore Theatre. The event, an effort to promote Urdu, is a tribute to the language, its timelessness, richness and versatility. ‘Rang-e-Rekhta’ is an extension of Rekhta Foundation’s festival Jashn-e-Rekhta: Celebrating Urdu, which is held in Delhi annually and celebrates the spirit and eloquence of Urdu language, literature, art and culture.
It was a cherishable evening for Chandigarh as it got the opportunity to witness a unique show. There was a buzz in the house and the poets and organisers were overwhelmed by the response of Chandigarh towards the effort. “From the entire Urdu world, I want to thank Rekhta Foundation for reviving the Urdu mushaira. This is such a resounding welcome a language, something I have fought for my entire life,” said renowned poet Prof Waseem Barelvi, as he presented some of his best to the audience.
Some of the country’s most distinguished poets- Farhat Ehsas, Manish Shukla, Shams Tabreezi – set the mood for the evening, as verse by verse, they expressed the beauty of the language and their thoughts and emotions. Love, loneliness, the many wonders of nature, conflicts, the universe and its many facets came alive in the language that exudes beauty and delicacy. One of the highlights of the mushaira was the energy and poetry of 92-year-old Pundit Gulzar Dehlavi, one of the living exponents of Urdu and Persian poetry, who says it with pride and joy, “Urdu zabaan meri jaagir hai.” For someone who thinks, speaks, expresses in Urdu, Dehlavi believes that the language can bridge many barriers. “It was at the age of 8 that I began writing poetry, and the language has been part of my being. My father was a scholar, who taught Urdu and Persian. I wrote inqualaabi poetry, against the British and was part of the movement for freedom. I minced no words, and was not afraid of anyone, as my verses challenged the British, their policies and their rule. Aruna Asif Ali loved my nerve and I began to be a part of every jalsa of the Congress, with Pandit Nehru appreciating the purity of my language, and I even read out one of my creations on Independence Day in 1947, at the Ramlila Ground and dedicated the poem to the youth of the country,” Dehlavi said as he went down memory lane and recited some of his poems.
Urdu, he rues, did not get the deserved attention it needed for its promotion after Independence. He recalls how with the support of Maulana Azad, he took out a science magazine in Urdu in 1975, ‘Science Ki Duniya’. The poet writes two hours daily, attending mushairas across the country, and his poetry today speaks of love, romance, beauty, relationships. “Not many want to hear classical poetry. If you want to keep Urdu alive, you have to keep the common people in mind. No one can be alienated. But even today, I speak my mind, against communal hatred and separatist policies. But yes, we need to be aware of cultural and language degradation,” adds the poet, in his trademark Indian topi and larger than life attitude.
Dehlavi is concerned about the fact that the Urdu script is dying, “It’s the soul of the language, we need to keep it alive, and such platforms give the language a new lease of life.” As the audience requested for more, one of the poets aptly remarked, “mushaira kabhi khatam nahin hota.” So, poetry encompasses us in varied ways.
Soothing the soul, spreading the language of peace and love, the Sari Brothers from Rajasthan mesmerized the audience with their powerful qawwalis. “The great Sufis have blessed us, and our music has both Persian and Indian influences,” smiled Farid and Amin Sabri, who learnt qawalli from their maternal grandfather and father, and have been singing since the age of ten. Qawalli, they say is a form that takes us closer to the divine, and is a spiritual experience, transcending the boundaries of language and geography. “We have performed all over the globe, and audiences love the form of music. And now, technology helps them translate what we are singing as music has no language. Through qawalli, we seek the truth, be it on stage, at dargahs, in film studios. We make a special effort to reach out to the younger audience, by explaining them the meaning of the words we are singing, for we want to reach out to a wider audience,” said the brothers,adding that the different compositions by the Sufis reach the same God. Many raags, saaz, phrases, using Hindi, Urdu, Persia, make this form so rich. “We are taking the Sufi tradition forward, and also the magic of Hindustani music. It is a different experience to sing live, and record for films, but both have their own reach and impact,” says Farid, adding that they have sung for more than 70 films. The brothers say they sing for the audience gauging their mood and preferences, but always singing the praises of the divine, an ode to Sufi saints, and then of love, sadness. “There are many variations in language and music, and that’s what make the qawwali timeless.”