Sacramento Mushaira Highlights Urdu and Punjabi Poetry
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Glimpses of the mushaira organized by PACAC-Greater Sacramento at SHAZ Restaurant in Sacramento
A new organization by the name of Pak-American Culture & Arts Council (PACAC)-Greater Sacramento held a unique evening at the SHAZ Restaurant in California’s Capital city to the delight of close to 100 people present. Sometimes jokingly referred to a “Cow Town” as far as South-Asian cultural activity is concerned, the community here in the Sacramento area has no shortage of talent but the focus on such literary activity has historically been left to numerous cultural organizations in the San Francisco bay area, at a two-hour driving distance from here. Musical programs and philanthropic efforts are now no strangers to the Sacramento social scene but the mushaira (Urdu poetry recital) is an effort undergoing rejuvenation after more than a decade.
After a fine SHAZ restaurant dinner, Naeem Syed, who performed the emcee/Mezbaan function here, welcomed the mixed Pakistani-Indian audience. He invited host Khalid Saeed to say a few words about the program. Khalid, who wears many community leadership hats (American Muslim Voice etc.), explained the purpose behind PACAC, to set up a forum where our culture can be shared right here in Sacramento instead of our community traveling to the bay area. He quoted Urdu poet Habib Jalib and read Piyar ki Roshni (The light of love). He also asked the udience to give their feedback to guide such future programs.
The “keynote” speech (if there is one in a mushaira) was given by Dr. Sudipta Sen, currently Director at the University of California Davis Middle East/South Asia Program. “Urdu is one of the most beautiful languages in the world,” he said. He added that the program at UC Davis was looking forward to greater community support and would like to bring in more speakers especially for Pakistan studies. Dr. Sen said that it is the nature of poetry to open up so many possibilities and that the greatest gift that we can give our future generations is the gift of language.
Next Naeem Syed began the formal mushaira. Each participant was given around five minutes to present his/her own poetry or that of another poet (which most of them did). Two poets that distinguished themselves by presenting their original work were Dr. Nirmal Mann and Dr. Zia Zafir. The list of readers besides these two included Maqsood Ali, Samina Sundas, Asif Haq, Durriya Syed, Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Dr. Seema Minhaj, Javaid Akhtar, Najmi Minhaj, Shahid Choudry, Haq Nawaz, Javed Iqbal & Khalid Saeed.
The content presented was from both the Urdu and Punjabi language realms. The original intent of the organizers was to have a mazahia (humorous) mushaira but more serious verse-dominated. What was especially interesting was that the choice of poetry presented gravitated towards one poet in particular. The name and work of Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911 to 1984) kept on coming up. This is the year of the Faiz centenary, one hundred years since the birth of one of the finest Urdu language poets from the South Asian region. The fact that Faiz Sahib can bring together Pakistanis and Indians in a place so far away from his origins over 25 years after his death is a testimony to his universal appeal.
(Readers are invited to visit http://www.faizghar.org/index.html for more information on Faiz Ahmed Faiz)