For the love of Urdu

Sanjiv Saraf had limited exposure to Urdu during his childhood days. The lyrical language often was the medium of conversation among his grandparents, but he never got to study it. But his love for Urdu never vanished.

So in early 50s when he was relatively free from many worldly responsibilities, he decided to utilise his time in learning the language he always loved. It is the age of internet and he thought why not begin from home. But he was surprised to see that the online space was devoid of a credible source of information and tools to learn the language. “There was absolute shortage of information and learning exercise about the language for those who wanted to read the script,” recalls Saraf, founder of Rekhta foundation which organises Jashn-e-Rekhta festival that celebrates the language in various forms.

So this single-minded quest led to the birth of the foundation and later on the annual festival whose first edition was received well in 2015. “What was surprising in the first  edition was that many  youngsters attended the festival and this shows that the language hasn’t lost its charm,” he says.

The second edition has an eclectic line up of luminaries whose constant efforts and lyrical prose have kept the language alive. From names like renowned lyricist Gulzar and Javed Akhtar to versatile actress Shabana Azmi, and from popular Pakistani poets like Zehra Nigah to artistes like Rafaqat Ali Khan – the three-day festival will engage with these stalwarts during discussions and performances.

“This year, there is going to be a full day for children because we feel that they should be introduced to the language at a younger age. We also have a food festival where cuisines that were influenced by different speaking people like the ones living in Hyderabad, Lucknow and Delhi will be served to people,” he says.

The idea, according to him is, to expose people to various facets of the language and how its contours have been altered in different cities. Apart from panel discussions, the festival will also have an Urdu bazaar, a calligraphy corner, qawwali and Dastangoi performance, dramas and plays and mushaira. The festival will open with Akhtar and Azmi featuring in a romantic saga Kaifi aur Mein on Friday evening.Jashn-e-Rekhta will take place at Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts from February 12 to 14.


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