Had it not been for the one-and-a-half kilometre walk to the Diwan-e-Khas, the large hall at the Red Fort would have been echoing with Ghalib’s verses in the coming days, as part of the celebrations of the great poet’s 210th birth anniversary.
Dancer Uma Sharma, the force behind the mega event, says she had considered seeking the approval of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to use the precincts of the Red Fort for the birth anniversary celebrations being organised in collaboration with the Delhi Government and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
But on recalling the experience she had with the ASI in 1998, she got cold feet. Then Sharma and ASI had locked horns over the venue for anniversary celebrations. Besides, the long walk to get to the Diwan-e-Khas deterred her. "It would have inconvenienced the people," Sharma said.
So she has now decided to focus on Chandni Chowk and Nizammudin for the three-day festival beginning on December 26.
The festival, "Yaadgar-e-Ghalib", explains Sharma, "is three evenings of multi-dimensional performances beginning with Remembrance, going on to Dedication and concluding with Nostalgia". "On the first day, we will recreate the ambience of Ghalib’s times and bring it alive in the historic Chandni Chowk area," she said.
Chandni Chowk is significant because Ghalib used to frequent it. That apart, Sharma decided to make it a "people’s festival" by involving those living in Chandni Chowk. So there will be a procession of people carrying candles from Town Hall to Ghalib’s haveli in Gali Qasim Jaan in Ballimaran.
The evening will feature poetry recitation by Ahmed Faraz, a well-known poet of Pakistan. That apart Zehra Nigah, Pakistan’s only renowned woman poet, will also attend the event.
Sharma, whose forte is to dance to the verses of Ghalib, will dedicate the second day of the festival to a Kathak recital. This will be followed by a mushaira (poets’ symposium) titled "Kahte hain ke Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayan aur".
Though the lawns of the Town Hall are no match for the Red Fort, every effort will be made to rekindle the spirit of the olden days by bringing in tongas (horse carriages) and cycle rickshaws on the streets. All shops will remain open on the mushaira night and the entire street from the Jain temple leading up to the Town Hall will be illuminated.
On the concluding day the scene will shift to Ghalib’s Mazar at Hazrat Nizammudin Aulia where homage will be paid to the poet. Apart from the ghazals and qawwalis by Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Abdul Hameed Sabri, Ghalib’s letters will be read. Sounds like a perfect evening out.
E-mail Kumkum Chadha: kumkum @hindustantimes.com