Three cheers for Urdu

It looked as if spring had already arrived in the capital when one visited verdant lawns of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts during weekend. Multicoloured marquees and stalls had transformed this nondescript space into a busy bazaar which was playing host to the second edition of Jashn-e-Rekhta, a festival that celebrates Urdu in various forms.

And all those forms were in the forefront, wooing not only older generation, but also the millennials.  They were active and enthused participants, willing to explore this language of love.

The synergy between the surroundings, participants and visitors was palpable and so was confusion that came along with this new venue, which was bigger in space and size compared to last year’s destination - India International Centre. For organisers, this was the first big step to announce their arrival into the growing jamboree of festival circuits, but for people it created confusion. As multiple sessions were going on at the same time, visitors initially struggled to reach desired destination in the absence of signposts. But the struggle was temporarily. What was permanent though, was a feeling of familiarity. Those who have attended Jaipur Literature Festival could relate to colourful setting, open air discussion and lively debates, and the addition of food court and Urdu bazaar upped the ante of this three-day festival.

“The city needed something like this for the lovers of the language and for those who want to learn the language. In many ways, it is a relief from many literature festivals because not everyone reads so much. But Urdu is very much a part of our language and the topics on which they discuss and debate are also relatable,” Monica Gupta, a housewife, told Metrolife.

She had attended the session “Zindagi ki Soorat-Gari: TV Par Urdu ke Rang” which threw light on the influence films and television have to reach masses. According to Lubna Salim, theatre and television actress, channels like Zindagi have brought Urdu into our drawing rooms.

“The language was also around us, but we were not listening to it. So when these serials were telecast, people started paying attention to Urdu,” said Salim who was one of the panellist.

The idea that Urdu, as a language, is dying in India was rejected by many, including lyricist Gulzar who in the opening session “Ye Kaisa Ishq Hai Urdu Zabaan Ka”, elaborated on how Urdu is invisible in public sphere. “It would be wrong to say that Urdu is dying.
One of the indicators of my statement is the enthusiasm people have shown towards this festival. We need to popularise Urdu and this festival is one of the ways we can reach out to a larger audience,” he said.

If footfall is a measure to rate popularity of a festival then it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the future of the festival looks promising. This edition had interesting debates on contribution of Urdu in films, Urdu-Hindi Literature and relevance of Saadat Hasan Manto’s literature in today’s time. Chroniclers of Urdu from across the border will also present at the festival and together they exchanged the changing contours of Urdu in both countries.

The presence of luminaries like Javed Akhtar, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Javed Siddiqui and Shabana Azmi, along with a bevy of Bollywood stars like Imtiaz Ali, Irrfan Khan also added might to the festival’s credentials.

The festival is an arrival of a new beginning. But it needs to be better organised in future. Issues like one-point entry, erecting projectors in bigger venues for better viewing and a robust operational system would definitely add to its character. The chances of capital having its own, original and lyrical festival are bright, and this common language could perhaps nurture a stronger bond between India and Pakistan.

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