Jashn-e-Rekhta cancels annual event in light of Covid-19 pandemic
Late Christmas eve, Rekhta Foundation announced the cancellation of what would have been the seventh edition of Jashn-e-Rekhta, a three-day festival celebrating Urdu language held annually in December in Delhi. Known to host mushairas, qawwalis, dastaangoi, celebrity conversations, calligraphy, food stalls and so much more, Jashne-e-Rekhta could rightly be attributed with reviving the syncretism Urdu brought with it when it entered the sub-continent. It has to its stellar repertoire artistes such as late poet Rahat Indori, actors Waheeda Rehman and Shabana Azmi, filmmakers Imtiaz Ali and Nandita Das, lyricist Javed Akhtar and singer Harshdeep Kaur among others.
Founder of Rekhta Foundation Sanjiv Saraf, says, “Untoward circumstances have compelled us to scrap the 2020 festival. Like everyone else, we thought that Covid-19 will be a temporary crisis and we were still hopeful of hosting the annual event.” Citing that the digital realm is cluttered with online events, Saraf and his team is channelizing all their energy into “keeping the audience engaged in the landscape with something more meaningful.” He adds, “We are producing multi-media content of celebrated art forms of Urdu that are being recorded at Rekhta Studio. They will be broadcast and streamed throughout the year.”
The studio, which was a long time in the making, will also help bring to the fore new and unheard talent. “We are working on series of biopics on noted poets. We already have a presence on various podcast platforms,” says Saraf.
Although the team is gung-ho about expanding its digital reach, there is a certain pang of missing out on creating a live event. “Nothing beats the euphoria of a live festival wherein the audience is not only a spectator but also participates actively. It is the audience that gives this festival its heartbeat. For three days every year, Urdu lords over Delhi. A sea of Urdu lovers, especially the youth, throng to listen, to learn, to enjoy. The love for the language has been most rewarding,” adds Saraf.
Rekhta’s literal meaning is scattered, a vernacular language that may have had its roots in Persian, but one which found its footing in Hindostan. Jashn-e-Rekhta, then, means a celebration of this language, its adaptability and resilience. Saraf, celebrating this spirit, concludes with a couplet by poet Sahir Ludhianvi: “Hazaar barq gire laakh aandhiyaan utthe vo phuul khil ke rahenge jo khilne vale hain.”
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