Keeping alive the 'mushaira'

When Saeed Naqvi suggested I hold a mushaira in my flat, I readily agreed to do so.

Saeed has a phenomenal memory and he delivers poems with panache that no one can match. So invitations were sent out. Around 40 men and women showed up.

Among the Indians was cabinet minister Farooq Abdullah, Justice Markandey and SY Quraishi, chief election commissioner. Among the Pakistanis was Zulfiqar Gardezy, deputy high commissioner of Pakistan. There were a lot of young men and ladies. Amongst them was the beauty queen Dilshad Sheikh who spends her winter months in Delhi and lives in the neighbouring block. That is the reason I did not grumble about the prolonged chill. Before he began his recital, Saeed asked me to explain why I was so enamoured of Urdu poetry.

I replied, “Urdu has more musical vocabulary than any other language I have heard. Its chief exponent Mirza Ghalib also happens to be my role model. He was agnostic.
Ham ko maaloom hai jannat kee haqiqat lekin
Dil key khush rakhney kho Ghalib yeh khayaal achcha hai
(I know the truth about paradise
But it is a good idea to beguile the mind.)

I too am an agnostic and proclaim it from the house tops!
Although he was poor, he liked to drink hard liquor:
Qarz kee peetay they mai
Lekin samajhtey they key
Rang laayee meyree faaqa mastee ek din
(I drank liquor on borrowed money
But believed my poverty will add colour to my life one day.)
I too like my two hefty pegs of single Malt whisky before my evening meal.
He had an eye for beautiful women. So have I. I am lucky in having Begum Dilshad Sheikh living in the neighbouring block. She drops in when I beseech her company.
So the mushaira got going with Saeed Naqvi holding forth. I assumed I would know some couplets he would recite. I could not recall any of the poets whose works he recited. That put me in my place.

The mushaira went on for more than the time I had allotted for it. Reeta Devi who has assumed the role of keeper of my health burst in and screamed “Get out all of you! I know what happens to him when people drop in at his drink time. He loses night’s sleep.” I pleaded with her “Give us another five minutes.” She graciously granted us more time. But not more than five minutes. Not a second more.

New mag in the market
My Friday evenings are devoted to reading India Today edited by M J Akbar and Outlook by Vinod Mehta. Last Friday, February 10, I noticed change of format and contents of the material in the Outlook. I was dismayed. Vinod Mehta has quit his job as he thinks that at 70 he is too old to edit a weekly magazine. He is talking through his hat. If I can go on scribbling into the late nineties he could surely go on for another ten years or more.

Meanwhile, we have a new monthly magazine in the market. Kamna Prasad has launched ECO which is an acronym for ‘Earth Care Optimised’, dedicated to mainstreaming the green agenda. So far I have known Kamna for organising annual Jashn-e-Bahar mushairas in different cities of India. She manages to get Urdu poets from all over the world to recite their latest compositions. I hope her venture goes beyond depicting scenes of traffic jams in our cities and the need to conserve our tiger population.

Kamna’s husband is our Ambassador in Paris. She prefers to stay in Delhi with her two adopted daughters. Not many people know that her brother is the husband of Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Life spans

The horse and the mule live for 30 years,
And know nothing of wines and beer;
The goat and sheep at 20 die
And never get a taste of Scotch and rye.
The cow drinks water by the tonne
And at 18 is mostly done
Without the aid of rum and gin.
The cat in milk and water soaks,
And then in 12 short years it croaks.
The modest, sober, bone-dry hen
Lays eggs for others, then dies at 10.
All animals are strictly dry,
The sinless live and swiftly die.
But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men
Survive for three score years and ten.
And some of them though very few,
Stay pickled till they’re 98.
(Courtesy: Suresh Bhalla, Toronto)

For married men
Never laugh at your wife’s choices
You are one of them.
Never be proud of your choices:
Your wife is one of them.

(Contributed by Vipin Buchskey, Delhi)

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