Nazm Is Gaining Ground in Mushaira: Javed Akhtar
By Dr Zafar Iqbal
Washington, DC: “Nazm is gaining ground in mushaira,” said Javed Akhtar—the famous poet, film lyricist, and screenplay writer— while presiding over the 41 st Annual International Mushaira organized by the Aligarh Alumni Association in Washington on November 7, 2015.
Nazm, which is a major part of the Urdu poetry normally written in rhymed verse and also in modern prose style poems, is a significant genre of Urdu poetry. “I was very pleased to see that a number poets have recited magnificent nazms in addition to ghazals and the number of female poets also presented excellent poetry at this mushaira,” he added.
Javed Akhtar has recently released a five-volume collection of poetry written by Akhtar’s grandfather Muztar Khairabadi. At the request of the audience he described the 10-year journey that culminated in the publication of the Khirman. He mentioned how the oft-repeated ghazal Na kisi kii ankh ka noor hoon, na kissi ke dil ka qarar hoon/Jo kisi ke kaam na aa sake main woh ek musht-e-ghubar hoon , ascribed to Bahadur Shah Zafar was actually written by Muztar. He elaborated that eminent literary critics such as Niyaz Fatehpuri, Ale Ahmad Suroor and Gopichand Narang had long argued that this verse was not found in Zafar’s complete works published in 1887 by the Nawal Kishore Press, and was definitely Muztar’s.
The discovery of this ghazal, written in Muztar’s own handwriting and carrying his takhallus (pen name) Muztar, finally puts to rest any doubt about these much-quoted and often-sung verses, wrongly said to portray Zafar’s anguish when he was exiled from Hindustan to Rangoon. Another testimony, more by way of criticism of the ghazal’s weakness but nevertheless an acknowledgement of its authorship by Muztar, comes from a contemporary, Shah Muhammad Mumtaz Ali ‘Aah’ in 1928—barely a year after Muztar’s death.
Akhtar received thunderous applause when he recited his nazm, Yeh khail kiya hai. At the request of the audience he also recited Woh Kamra and Waqt.
Welcoming the audience Association’s President Farzana Farooqi briefly apprised the gathering about the activities of the Association. She informed that the Association had been in the forefront of organizing high-quality literary and cultural activities for the last 40+ years. It was this Association, which started the tradition of international mushaira in North America. Her speech was followed by rendition of Aligarh University Tarana, Yeh Mera Chaman Hai, which was written by Akhtar’s maternal uncle Majaz Lakhnawi. More than 600 Urdu lovers that included diverse sections of the Indo-Pak community came to this event that was held at a newly-constructed spacious Gaithersburg High School, Gaithersburg, Maryland, a venue well suited to a grand literary environment.
The mushaira was skillfully moderated by Dr A. Abdullah, whose golden touch has been a key factor in making the ambience and effect of these mushairas memorable. Dr Abdullah said that with a modest beginning of poetry recitation by a few Urdu lovers in 1975, the Mushaira has now entered the 5th decade. “Forty years of untiring efforts by the Washington Aligarh Alumni Association and support of the community, this Mushaira is now the expression of common heritage of all Urdu lovers in this area. It has become a reference for the introduction of Washington in the Urdu world. To preserve this history and the prestige of this Mushaira is the responsibility of every one,” he added.
Dr Mohammad Akbar thanked all the poets, guests, and audience for their continued support. He also acknowledged the hard work of the volunteers.
Besides Javed Akhtar, twelve poets recited their kalam in their own unique style. Other well-recognized poets included Lata Haya and A. M. Turaz (India), and Seema Ghazal and Sarwat Zehra (Pakistan). The local poets from USA, who also recited their kalam (poetry) were Abdullah, Akram Mahmood, Hana Khan, Khalid Irfan, Razi Raziuddin, and Sabiha Saba.
Samples of poetry of some poets are as follows:
Lata Haya — Hindi ki beti jise Urdu ne paala hai—a popular poet from Rajhasthan said:
Main ke aurat hoon, meri sharm hai mera zevar; bas Takkhallus isi bais to "Haya" Rakha hai
She was applauded for her poem about Urdu. She also brought the emotions of the audience to a high pitch with her soulful recitation of a poem she had written five days after her mother's death.
Who zid, who shararat aur akaRpan chala gaya; MaaN jab chali gaee, mera bachpan chala gaya
Incidentally, Dr Abdullah’s mother had also passed away five days before the mushaira and this poem brought tears in his eyes and many in the audience were also affected.
Dr Abdullah, who was moderating the mushaira, brought the humorous poet Khalid Irfan of New York to the podium to change the somber mood. Khalid charmed the audience with his sophisticated jibes on the religious and political leaders and ongoing skirmishes between the neighboring countries—India and Pakistan.
PaijamoN ka design ko badal daala to kiya gham hai; Hamari beewioN ke gharare to eik jaise haiN
Pareshan haal hai public magar donoN muulkoN ke; Meerasi, cricketer aur filmi sitare to eik jaise haiN
Expressing his appreciation for Aligarh Alumni Association’s dedication of more than four decades to promote Urdu in North America, Khalid said that Association’s contribution will be written in golden words in history.
Dr Sabiha Saba , a neurobiologist by profession, congratulated the Association for organizing a top-class mushaira every year. She also expressed her gratitude by acknowledging the Association for establishing her in poetry and literature. She recited a few poems. A sample is given below.
Awwal-e-ishq ki who beytabi Kaisi manzil se hum guzar aaye
Aap aaeN to phi Saba mahke Mahfil-e-bey baar meiN samara aye
Turaz —a young Bollywood poet - delighted the audience with dramatized presentation of his poetry. His rendering reminded the audiences that poetry reading was once a performing art as well. He was very impressed with the standard of the mushaira and audience.
Tumhare wastey yeh ghum uThane wala hooN Ruko ae aaNsuo meiN muskurane wala hooN
Akram Mahmood’s poetry expresses concerns of present-day trials and tribulations, especially those encountered by immigrants.
Yeh hijr-e-musalsal ka wazeefa hai meri jaaN Ek tark-e-sukoonat hi to hijrat nahiN hoti.
Sarwat Zehra is a medical doctor by profession and has been writing ghazal, geet, and nazm. She is a rising female poet belonging to Fahmida Riaz’s school of thought of expressing concerns of women.
Bint-e-Hawwua hooN main, yeh mera jurm hai Aur phir shaiyri to kaRa jurm hai.
MaiN tamasha nahiN apna izhaar hooN Jaanti hooN mera bolna jurm hai
A number of people from the audience expressed their thanks to the Association for organizing this excellent mushaira. Mr Kaleem Kawaja—a senior community leader—expressed his views in the following words, “In the last about ten years some other Urdu wala groups have held mushairas in Washington and elsewhere in the United States and Canada, but almost none of them have been able to develop the aura, flavor and reputation of Asli Aligarh Mushaira. Go to any other mushaira in Washington or other cities in the US and you will hear people comparing them to the Washington Aligarh Mushaira.” Youn to hotey hain mushaerey aksar; laikin Aligarh Association key mushairey kaa haiy andaaz kutch aur, he added.
Dr Moazzam Siddiqi—a prominent literary person and former Chief of Near-Eastern Languages at Voice of America - said that the Mushaira organizers deserve credit for inviting more female poets. Most of them are very enthusiastic and presented quality poetry. Historically, poetry recitation used to be more of a performing art and Lata Haya and Turaz enthralled the audience by presenting their poetry in that old style.
Dr Renuka Misra—International Coordinator of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) - said that she had been associated with the Aligarh mushaira religiously since she arrived in Washington more than two decades ago. It is a real pleasure to see that the standard of the mushaira has been progressively rising. It was a real treat to see more female poets’ participation in this year’s mushaira. I feel that that more time should have been provided to Lata Haya and Turaz.
Mr Bharat Bhargava—a retired Senior Executive of the World Bank - said that it was one of the most successful mushairas ever. Every poet participated with vigor and kept the audience engaged. The organizers did an incredible job and Dr Abdullah was amazing, as usual.
Mr Naimullah Qazi—a senior community member - wrote: This year's mushaira was very good. Audience enjoyed it fully. Everyone appreciated the way it was conducted. Poets were also very comfortable with the Washington audience.
Professor Dr Maina Singh, wife of India’s Ambassador in Washington and a literary personality, was accompanied by Mr Shiv Rattan, Counsellor Community Affairs. Embassy of Pakistan was represented by Mr Nadeem Hotiana, Minister for Press. Notable personalities included presidents and office bearers of community organizations such as the Association of Indian Muslims (AIMS), the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), Washington Hyderabad Association (HAWAMA), Hindi Association, India Cultural Coordination Committee (ICCC), and the University of Karachi Alumni Association (UKAA).