Shayari goes live in the time of corona
Yun hi besabab na phira karo, koi shaam ghar mein raha karo, Woh ghazal ki sachchi kitab hai, use chupke chukpe parha karo, Koi haath bhi na milayega, jo gale miloge tapaak se, Yeh naye mejaaz ka shahar hai zara faaslon se mila karo (Do not roam around aimlessly, spend an evening at home, read the book of ghazal quietly, no one will even shake hands with you if you’ll excitedly greet people by hugging them, this is a modern city, maintain distance when you meet people).
Written some 40 years ago by famous urdu shayar Bashir Badr, these lines make you wonder if the poet had a presentiment of what we were going to face in the future. Badr’s poetry is one of the themes of the ongoing Facebook live session organsied by urdu shayars across India.
Reciting poetry online is proving to be a great way for them to make people stay at home and deal with fear, anxiety, depression and boredom during the pandemic, they say. “The idea is to keep everyone’s spirits high and also stop them from going out for no reason. We have been doing live sessions on Facebook daily since the first day of the lockdown. Poets across India have joined us. We have been able to curate relevant and meaningful content and the response is great,” says Himanshu Bajpai, dastango (storyteller) from Lucknow. On popular demand, Bajpai conducted a session on the work and life of famous shayar Bashir Bard, 84, from Bhopal who is suffering from dementia and doesn’t remember his days as a shayar. Bajpai’s sessions on Khumār Barabankvi, poet and lyricist from Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh and Ali Sikandar, known as Jigar Moradabadi, one of the most famous Urdu poets of the 20th century, were also very well-received.
Another singer and poet, Kailash Joshi from Bareilly sang a ghazal by poet Khalil Dhantejvi from Gujarat — Ab main raashan ki kataaron mein nazar ata hun, Apane kheton se bichhadane ki saza paata hun (I stand in the queue to buy groceries, this is my punishment for parting away from my fields), he sang. “People are walking back to their villages along with children. They don’t know if they will reach on perish on the way, but such is the desire to go back to one’s roots that they don’t care. Our content is striking a chord with people,” says Joshi whose sessions included the work of poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi and Mirza Ghalib, legendary Urdu and Persian poet from the Mughal era.
Another poet, Pallav Mishra from Saharsa, Bihar who has been doing Facebook lives says, “The best thing that came out of this is that many great poems that were forgotten are being shared across the Internet which is a delight for literature lovers. Even those who love solitude and like to stay away from limelight are coming live. We have never experienced something like this before.”
“This initiative also gives out the message of standing by each other in this time of crisis. We took inspiration from a friend Syed Sarosh Asif from UAE who connected poets and poetry lovers from UAE, India and Pakistan,” says poet Shariq Kaifi from Bareilly. A couplet from his ghazal shared in the session says – bimaari ek kaam toh ahccha kar deti hai, yaron ko kuchh der aur ekaththa kar deti hai.
Another poet, Abhishek Shukla from Lucknow who goes live on the page of Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh, says the response to these online mushairas is heartwarming. “People have so many farmaishein (requests). We announce our live schedule on our pages to keep them engaged,” he says.
Indeed, there are few things like shayari to soothe distressed minds.