Amid a cacophony of cluttering powerlooms, a motley bunch of doctors, lawyers and powerloom owners gather almost every fortnight in Bhiwandi to discuss and savour the cadence and nuances of Urdu poetry.
Those gathered are members of “Bazm-E-Yaaraan-E-Adab” (gathering of literature lovers), a group of 30 men who gather to discuss and analyse the works of legendary poets, such as Mirza Ghalib and Mir Tawqi Mir as well as contemporary Urdu poets.
“The idea is to create a greater understanding of Urdu poetry. Almost no one from our group is a poet. We set up this group to get a greater understanding of Urdu poetry and also promote Urdu literature in whatever way we can,” Abdul Jaleel Ansari, the general secretary of the Bazm-E-Yaaraan-E-Adab, said.
Apart from these discussions, the group also set up a WhatsApp group in which Urdu poetry is shared. It also holds programmes in the city to promote the understanding of Urdu amongst the masses.
Keen to confront the view of Urdu as being a foreign language, and a language exclusively of Muslims, the group had, in August last year, celebrated the composite literary tradition in which Hindu writers have enriched the Urdu language. It had then held a mushaira (an event in which poetry is read) in which only non-Muslim Urdu writers were invited to recite their compositions.
“There has been a growing perception these days that Urdu is a language of only Muslims and is alien to India. Incidentally, it has been non-Muslims who have played a big role in making Urdu literature what it is today. Munshi Chandrabhan Brahman, who served in the court of Shah Jahan, was one of the foremost Urdu writers. The first publisher, who provided yeoman service to Urdu, was Munshi Nawal Kishore, who also came up with the first Persian-to-Urdu dictionary. By holding the mushaira, we wanted to showcase the contribution of non-Muslims to the Urdu langauge,” Ansari said.
Interestingly, even though all the present members of the groups are Muslims, the initiative to set up the group was floated by the late Bhiwandi corporator Balkrishna Mukund Mali.
“It was Mali’s idea to float this organisation. He understood the power of literature and arts in bringing people together. Till 1995, when he died, he used to be the leading light in holding programmes and mushairas in Bhiwandi,” Ansari said.
The group, meanwhile, has no plans to expand its base further, but plans to promote regional literature as well.
“We want to reach out to each and every section of society. While our initial plan was to make non-Urdu speakers aware of the richness of the Urdu language, we are now keen on showcasing the literature and poets of other languages to the Urdu speaking community,” Ansari says.