In Juhu,every second Tuesday,an Urdu mehfil brews. From life in Mughal courts,letters written in Urdu,and Urdu lyrics in Hindi cinema,to Sufi music and Pakistani fusion,the Urduwallahs,reacquaint the audience with the language.
Independent filmmaker Arwa Mamaji and media professional Priya Nijhara organises these sessions and on their website,www.urdu wallahs.com,Urdu wears both a contemporary and a classic face. They were spotted more than a year ago at Mehfil@Prithvi. Now,they plan to take their fortnightly sessions beyond Mumbai. Recently,Urduwallahs were Outreach partners for Asia Society,India,for a discussion on Manto and the Human Dimension of 1947 with historian Ayesha Jalal,and Mary Richardson,Professor
at Tufts University,chaired by Shyam
The website is not just about couplets and popularising poetry but it also tracks Urdu developments in India and the world, says Nijhara. For instance,there is a snippet on how Gonda in Uttar Pradesh has a place named after poet Jigar Moradabadi,who adopted Gonda as his home,and the meaning of the term dast which is hand,but also connotes skill or authority,with a couplet on it by Pakistani Urdu poet,Saleem Kausar.
Mamaji and Nijhara took a diploma in Urdu from Akbar Peerbhoy College,Mumbai,and found they shared a passion for the language. The platform is meant to create a cultural experience for people who are young and want to be connected to their roots, says Mamaji,who is training for marathons and is an Ingmar Bergman fan.
Through their efforts,Nijhara wants to fight some half-truths,of Urdu being a Muslim language and of royalty. She says,Premchand wrote Urdu stories. It is the national language of Pakistan,but it finds its roots in India. It is a hybrid language,much like Bambaiya Hindi today.