A Memorable First of the Virtual Stage: Urdu Mushaira
By Dr. Muhammed Afzal Shahid

New and novel innovations and inventions have shaped our beautiful world. The Internet is the most powerful invention of our time. It seamlessly fulfills our communicative needs within and beyond national and international boundaries. The application space of this wonderful resource seems to have no bounds. Some thoughtful individual came up with a unique idea to challenge, test and exploit the power of the Internet. 'What if', they thought, 'we hold a traditional Urdu Mushaira (poetry session) where poets, administrators, audience come together from all over the world, despite great differences in space and time'. This is exactly what happened on January 29, 2005 when Amjad Sheikh of Urdulife.com (Sweden) and Dr. Rafi Tabassum of 'Qalam Dost' magazine (Pakistan) jointly hosted an International Urdu Mushaira on the virtual stage of the Internet. While it was mid-day on the West Coast of the USA, late afternoon on her East Coast, evening in Europe, late night in the Middle East, early hours of next dawn in Pakistan and late morning in Japan, this first of its kind poetry session started.

The Internet-based 'paltalk' provided the basis for true broadcast where one spoke while all other responded with their written appreciative feedback and comments, readable to all, as they listened to poets reciting their poetry. Twenty-one poets from different cities of Pakistan, Saudi Arab, Kuwait, France, Sweden, Britain and USA, and more than 100 Urdu poetry lovers came together from all over the world to listen and become part of the history in making. The formal poetry session opened at 1:30 am (Pakistan time) with recitation of verses from the Holy Qur'an followed by 'naat' (verses in praise of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH); both beautifully recited by Fareed Shah. After inviting the presiding poet of the session, Professor Mahmud Ahmad Ghazni (Pakistan), and the chief guest Dr. Muhammed Afzal Shahid (USA), Amjad Sheikh, declared that the main object of the poetry session was to utilize the power of the Internet as a readily available, and virtually cost-free, resource for promoting Urdu, and for other similar causes by setting a precedent. He invited Hijaz Akhtar (Karachi, Pakistan) to conduct this first ever real Mushaira on the virtual stage of the Internet.

The captivating 'nizamat' (conduction) of Hijaz Akhtar kept the session alive and vigorous. He was supported by on-line administrators Iqbal Ghali (UK), Janbaz Ali (Japan) and Dr. Rafi Tabassam (Pakistan). Poets were called to recite their poetry in a pre-defined order, as is a common tradition in such events where more senior poets read at gradually later time slots. At his/her turn, each poet/poetess was introduced, listened to and graciously thanked. The diverse style of their reading ranged from simple reading to melodious singing styles. Thought provoking poetry enthralled the audience who recorded their written appreciations as they listened. Diversity of poetic thought covered a wide range; love, social justice, cultural landscape, mystical dimensions, and down-to-earth realities of real life as we all endure and enjoy. A few examples of poetry are shown below. Expressing the true nature of this first of its kind Mushaira, Amjad Sheikh read: (Though not worthy of reading, I was dragged into here and had to read as I came on-line. What a poetry session where the Conductor is at one place, poets are at many places and the audience is spread all over the space-time domain!) Dr. Rafi Tabassum expressed his desire in this couplet: (I endeavor consciously to eradicate every thing that creates divisions in humanity.) A four-line piece from Dr. Shahid read: (I speak only to complain.

How fortunate are those who remember Allah (SWT). True, one achieves what one truly desires; be it mere reward of words.) Professor Mahmud Ahmad Ghazni, the presiding poet of the session to come last, read some powerful and thought provoking poetry. He is a sensitive poet with keen observations of beauties and burdens of real life. His unique style of reading his poetry was simply beautiful. Using dove (bird) as a symbol, how nicely he described: (How simple, innocent and crazy is Dove that it implores her captor to grant her wings of freedom.) He asked another important question in the couplet: (How many eons more will it need to erase discrimination between black and white knowing well that both white and black babies have absolutely the same make-up.) The all-enthralling poetry session lasted almost four hours. All proceedings of the poetry session were recorded and are available for listening at the link shown below. http://www.urdulife.com/mushaira/virtual_mushaira.html In his closing remarks, Dr. Tabassum (in Pakistan) said that call for dawn-prayer is being made. Thus keeping in line with the tradition of Mushairas, this first, unique and memorable Mushaira of the virtual world of the Internet also came to a close at dawn

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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