Urdu Foundation’s Mushaira Magic in the Silicon Valley
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Pictures above: Glimpses of the mushaira organized by the Urdu Foundation of North America in Newark
Perhaps a fresh revival of the mushaira is neither taking place in India nor in Pakistan but in North America and the Middle East, because of affluent expatriates yearning for poetic connections to the homes they left behind. Interestingly, a new crop of poets is emerging in these Diaspora communities
For many Urdu enthusiasts, the format and structure of the mushaira is a wonderful social and literary device.Interaction between poets and audience adds dimensions to the understanding and appreciation of the artistic expression of a poet who uses nature's language to interpret the world for society. A poet benefits greatly from imagination, "a very high sort of seeing," as Emerson said. A poetic rendition may not always have realistic details, but, by using imagination, the poet depicts an inner reality, a poetic expression that often seems wild.
Italian Nobel Laureate Salvatore Quasimodo believes thatpoetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader or listener recognizes as his own. Mushaira gives an opportunity to wander into another life and yet does not detach one from reality. It is just an extension of the real life. It allows us to dream and only those who can dream can see the truth or grasp the imagination of a poet.
The Urdu Foundation of North America gathered a galaxy of eminent Urdu poets from across North America to regale the Urdu enthusiasts at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark/Fremont recently. The six-hour Mushaira featured Ashfaq Hussain and Zamin Jaafi from Canada, Eshrat Afrin, Sarfraz Abd and Parwaz Jaafri from Texas, Humaira Rehman and Maqsat Nadeem from New York, and Fayyaz Sahib and Naseem Farogh from Maryland.
Tellingly, almost all these poets are sahib-e-deewaan/sahiba-e-deewaan. Zamin Jafari: Gul Afshani-e-Guftaar; Sarfaraz Abad: Wo Zulf Pareshan Hai Abhi; Ashfaq Hussain: Aitbaar, Hum Ajnabi Hain, Aashian Gum Karda; Ishrat Afreen: Dhoop Apnay Hissay Ki; Arif Imam: Kashkol; Muqsit Nadeem: Gudaaz, Khuda Bhi Roya; Humaira Rahman: Indemaal, Intesaab and Faiyaz Uddin Saeib: Mom Ke Shehr MeiN Dhoop
Local poets included: Tashie Zaheer, Naseer Humanyoun, Farooq Taraz, Lubna Manzar, Fayyaz Saba, Arshad Rasheed, and Wiqar Khan.
Zamin Jaafri chaired the event while Ashfaq Hussain was the chief guest. Master of the Ceremony was Ahmar Shehwar, President of the Urdu Foundation of North America which organized the grand mushaira.
In his observations, Ahmar Shehwar pointed out that North America not only has an indigenous crop of talented Urdu poets but a number of prominent Urdu poets too who have migrated from India and Pakistan. However, these poets, who commanded high esteem and respect in their native land, don’t get that much attention in their adopted homeland. Urdu Foundation will endeavor to highlight the work of these personalities to the Urdu lovers in North America. Shehwar said that his Foundation’s mushaira was a first step in this direction.
Ahmar Shehwar went on to say that there are a number of major organizations here which occasionally hold international mushairas and invite poets from India or Pakistan but poets from North America are often neglected. He pledged that the Urdu Foundation would try to fill this gap.
Poetry is usually considered a light entertainment but a poet/poetess cannot remain indifferent to the serious incidents happening in the society. This was best reflected in the poetry of Humaira Rehman and Nasim Farogh which subtly portrayed the strife and target killings in Karachi.
Humaira Rehman says:
Kisi bhee sane,he ke muntazir reh,ne lage heiN
Ye ham taareekh ke kis mod par rehne lage heiN
Purani ek hijrat ke taqa,azouN ke mutabiq
Musafir umr saari dar-ba-dar reh-ne lage heiN
Nasim Farogh says:
Kab-tak-Aazaadi-ki qeemat ham adaa karte raheiN
Aur sadqa kitni naslouN kaa utara jaega
Khatm kardo naf-ra-touN ko, warna mit gaega sab
Surkh ho jaaega parcham, chand-tara jaega
Perhaps, Sarfraz Abd also hints at the same situation:
Kitni nas,louN ka khoon baqi hai
Qarz hijrat ka kab adaa hoga
Interestingly, when Sarfraz Abd recited the following ghazal, it refreshed my memories of a Dubai mushaira where he had amused the audience with his melodious voice:
Sabza ZaroN me jaa ke kiya hoga
Zakhm-e-dil aur bhee hara hoga
Aaj izhaar-e-mudda’a hoga
Jaan jaegee aur kiya hoga
I will digress here to recall that the late Salim Jafri was the one who started the mushaira craze abroad in the 1980s. He brought famous Indian and Pakistani poets to Dubai and introduced to Gulf audiences the old tradition of mushaira. The Dubai mushairas soon became a rage and mushaira-mania spread from there. When Salim Jafri died in 1997, the Dubai mushairas died with him. There was no one after him who was able to organize them with his inimitable style. I watched Salim Jafri’s mushairas keenly from Kuwait where I was working for electronic and print media.
Going back to Sarfraz Abd, his following verses touched the audience:
Who kis ke dar pe heiN sajda guzar kiya ma’loom
Jo muntazir heiN mere khoon se wazu ke liye
Aur aaj ke mufti-o-waaiz se jo suntan houN khitab
Dastras-se meri Islam nikal ja-ta hai
Ashfaq Hussain’s poems “Zooming” and “Zindagee ke chaar ushre” stole the show with their strong touching message. It may be pointed out that Karachi-born Ashfaq Hussain (now settled in Canada) is a leading modern Urdu poet and author of more than 10 books of poetry and literary criticism. He has been awarded pride of performance by the government of Pakistan for his contribution to Urdu literature. Ashfaq Hussain is considered by many as the foremost expert on the life and works of great contemporary Urdu poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmad Faraz and also on Progressive Writers Movement.
Ashfaq Hussain’s ghazal also captivated the audience:
Soorat-e-haal badal-jaa-tee hai ek lamhe meiN
Aadmi apne iradouN meiN atal kese ho
Sochte kuchh heiN, amal kuchh hai, nateeja kuchh hai
Aisee soorat meiN koi mas’ala hal kaise ho
Mere mehboob ka Urdu se hai, rishta kam, kam
MeiN nu aandi nai Panjabi te gal kaise ho
The six-hour Mushaira ended on a light and humorous note when Zamin Jafri amused the audience with his three hilarious poems – Ijtehad, Molvi Sahib Jannat MeiN and CNN.
It is said that humorous poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom. This was true of Zamir Jaafri’s poetry. His three renditions had a very strong message on some very important issues facing our society.
Zamin Jaafri’s poem CNN is political in nature and shows that the poet has a deep insight in the mechanism of international politics and economy:
JahaaN JahaaN bhee hai dunya me ma’adni dolat
WahaaN ho tale ya dhaat kee koi soorat
Rahe na dast-e-MusalmaaN me wo kisee soorat
Aur hai unki atmee taqat se bhee hameiN wehshat
At the end of the mushaira, Urdu Foundation President Ahmar Shehwar thanked the volunteers and financiers who helped in making the event successful. He particularly thanked Khalid Rana, Javed Ellahi and Syed Sarwat for their wholehearted support.