One of the singular attractions of Delhi in spring is attending a mushaira when there’s a nip in the air and a couplet on your lips. The city, for long the playground of such extraordinary sukhanwars as Mirza Assadullah Khan Ghalib, Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim Zauq and Momin Khan Momin, has an enduring legacy of shamas being lit during night-long soirees where the greatest of poets recited their verses. It reached its zenith during the first half of the 19th century, during the heyday of the Indo-Islamic Ganga Jamni syncretic tradition.
After Independence, even as the subcontinent was splintered, the ethos of poetry continued. Even as connoisseurs in India quoted Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s couplets, the greatest of Pakistan’s ghazal singers couldn’t stop raving about the andaz-e-bayan of Ghalib’s deewan.
One of the oldest mushairas in the city that has an exalted muqaam among the poets of the subcontinent is the Shankar-Shad Mushaira, started in 1953 by Murli Dhar Shriram, the founder of DCM Industries, who wrote Urdu poetry under the nom-de-plume Shad. The annual get-together, which generally takes place in March, is hosted at Delhi’s Modern School at Barakhamba Road.
Lucknow-based poet Anwar Jalalpuri says, for the exponents of poetry, reciting their work at the Shankar-Shad mushaira means you go up a few notches in the eyes of your contemporaries. “That is because they’ve never compromised on the standards of their poetry. The tawwajoh (focus) is on the quality of poetry and not on tarannum (singing your verses).
Also, some of the most celebrated poets from Pakistan – such as Himayat Ali Shair, Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui and the late glamorous Pakistani poetess Parveen Shakir – have made an effort to be here,” adds Jalalpuri.
Another city mushaira that has been attracting popular poets such as Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi, Javed Akhtar and Nida Fazli to the Capital for the past decade-and-a-half is the Jashn-e-Bahar Mushaira started in 1999. “Every year, on the first Friday of April, the mushaira attracts around 5,000 people from all walks of life,” says founder Kamna Prasad.
“The mayar (high standard) of the mushaira attracts both the khawas-o-awaam (the connoisseur) and the commoner,” she adds. In 2001, the late maverick painter MF Husain even painted the backdrop for the mushaira in a matter of minutes.
Both the Shankar-Shad Mushaira and the Jashn-E-Bahar Mushaira are open to lovers of Urdu poetry. Look out for newspaper announcements and information on where passes can be collected.
From HT Brunch, January 11, 2015
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