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Missing mushaira MANNERS

The mushaira was at its climax. Poets like Gulzar, Gopal Das ?Neeraj?, Manzar Bhopali, Rahat Indauri, Kumar Vishwas among others were sharing the stage at Ganna Sansthan auditorium on Saturday night. The august audience was enjoying the poetic treat.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 00:20 IST

The mushaira was at its climax. Poets like Gulzar, Gopal Das ‘Neeraj’, Manzar Bhopali, Rahat Indauri, Kumar Vishwas among others were sharing the stage at Ganna Sansthan auditorium on Saturday night. The august audience was enjoying the poetic treat.

Among the audience were Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh, Governors of Haryana and Jharkhand, Dr AR Kidwai and Syed Sibtey Razi, litterateurs etc. Gopal Das ‘Neeraj’ came to the mike and started reciting his couplets which instantly received applause.

Suddenly, one thought that something was wrong. A poet seemed uncomfortable as he shifted uncomfortably making odd gestures towards the poets. “Hey, look Rahat Indauri’s medicine has started having its effect.

Perhaps, it’s a result of overdose,” commented someone from the audience.

It did not take long to realise what one meant. For the ‘medicine’ was no ordinary one. It was something that most poets take before the mushaira or a kavi sammelan to pep themselves up. “Mood banta hai,” as a poet explained later.

Fine. Having attended several kavi sammelans and mushairas over the years and spent sometime in company with some of the top names of poetry, one was aware of the popularity of the ‘medicine’ among the poets. But, on Saturday night, many among the audience were shocked to see a top ranked poet who is often referred to as “mushairon ka Shahrukh Khan” losing control over himself on stage.

When his turn came to recite, Rahat Indauri, fumbled continuously with the lines. And though he recovered and recited some of his popular poems in his inimitable style and received accolades from the audience, his actions on stage after his ‘performance’ (there are many poets who feel that Rahat Indauri would be half as successful minus his on-stage antics), that surprised several people including those aware about his “love for the magic medicine”. Time and again, he kept falling over, sitting awkwardly and blabbering on stage. One wondered whether this indeed was a mushaira/kavi sammelan in Lucknow?

When Gopal Das ‘Neeraj’ was reciting his poetry, Rahat Indauri got up, took the shawl that a fellow poet was presented, stumbled his way through to ‘Neeraj’ and virtually draped the cloth all over him including his face. He then made his way back to his position and just before taking his place, shouted, “Yeh… mera (hic) shawl nahi hain… yeh (hic) doosre ka hai…(hic)..”

Everyone laughed. But, after the laugh came the realization. The standard of poets and poetry has deteriorated over the years that poets have no hassles in attending a mushaira/kavi sammelan in Lucknow, drunk to their gills.  As if Rahat Indauri’s act wasn’t enough another poet, (thankfully he wasn’t drunk!), Kumar Vishwas—a prominent name in Hindi poetry from Ghaziabad besides being a lecturer at a degree college took to the mike sometime later.

Though his brilliant poetry was well received by the audience, it was Vishwas’s comments and the diatribe he launched at Raees Ansari, a good poet who was compering the show, that were not in keeping with the “ethics” of the stage.

Sample this. There was a movement behind him while Vishwas was reciting his couplets. He turned back, found an aged person standing and commented disdainfully—baith ja (sit down). He did. Still, Vishwas commented, “cigarette ke jalne ke baad bhi filter baki reh jaata hai,” at the old man’s hair, which were standing!

But, Vishwas’s main grudge against the compere was that he called him late.
“See, everyone wanted to be called to recite the poetry when Gulzar, Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh were around. So, many poets even sacrificed their seniority and placed a request to be called much earlier than their poetic stature otherwise demanded. Vishwas commented on everyone from Bachchan to Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh, Mallika Sherawat (comments that many felt were vulgar) and kept on interspersing his verses with comments against the compere much to the embarrassment of those who know how senior a poet Raees Ansari is. What’s more, the compere apparently thinking that since most top names have recited their poems and left thought, Rahat Indauri’s “popularity” would hold back the audience. He, therefore, announced that Indauri would recite again near the end. It was a wise move for new poets like Saba Hillauri showed that they too hold lot of promise. People stayed back. But despite repeated announcements in the end, Indauri didn’t (or possibly couldn’t!) arrive as he had stumbled off-stage just then.

“The level of poets and poetry has indeed sunk. There are poets who pass on mere jokes as poetry. Others use abuses, some gauging the profile of the audience, start reciting accordingly. Everybody wants applause and hardly cares about poetry. Mostly those poets who dramatise a lot are scoring over bigger names,” a poet said. Sic… Hic!!!