"All we had to do was to give Urdu a medium to keep it interesting"
Young People from Bhopal, India are making a real effort to preserve and promote Urdu Culture in the ‘City of Nawabs.’
This is through various social gatherings and events.
Recognised for its ‘Ehteraam’ (respect), ‘Guftagoo’ (conversation) and ‘Rubaroo’ (face to face), the Urdu language is rapidly attracting the young population from Bhopal, also known as the ‘City of Lakes.’
Bhopal traditionally acted as a Baithak (sitting) to elevate the Urdu Culture of poetry, dance, qawwali and mushairas.
And in the 21st century, Bhopali youth are taking active measures in the reinvigoration of the Urdu language. A range of events are organised within each calendar year.
Some of these events take place frequently, while others are hosted periodically.
Let’s take a closer look at how the young people from the ‘City of Nawabs’ are re-energising Urdu Culture:
Shaam-E-Sukhan and Mojeza
Poetry and Mushaira are two areas where the youth of Bhopal have given their voice to.
Shaam-E-Sukhan is a programme where young people can express poetry as an art form.
These young poets use this platform to reflect emotions and love through the beautiful language of Urdu.
The city also hosts Mojeza (Miracle), which is a Mushaira (poetic symposium) held every two months.
The youth of Bhopal gather together in a mehfil, presenting Urdu ghazals and other forms of poetry to express and highlight various genres and topics.
Poet Jayant Danish Chhibber exclusively tells DESIblitz about the two events he organises and the impact on the youth:
“The youth has started to find its voice and found beautiful impactful words through Urdu.
“What our events have done, is to inject the new generation with a fervour to read and listen to Urdu poetry and literature.
“All we had to do was to give Urdu a medium to keep it interesting for this generation as well. I organise two events in and around the Bhopal area, Shaam-E-Sukhan and Mojeza.”
Femme Fridays Open Mic: Women’s Poetry Event
Arranged by women, Femme Fridays is a semi-curated open mic event, which has been taking place every week.
Young women meet up every Friday for poetic discussions and writing poetry. Each week there is a new theme.
Women were invited to the open mic, based on the poems they had submitted through various platforms.
The organiser of Femme Fridays, Lavanya Rana highlights the integration of more than one language, revealing:
“People these days prefer to be bilingual and incorporate the use of two languages in their work too.
“We have seen many young ladies who are not trained in Urdu, but still try and use words from the language in their poems, stories and songs.
“Predominately English speaking youngsters are learning Urdu to be able to use it in their writings as well.”
The event is held at the Baithak Art House in Bhopal.
Shehri Nashist, Bait Baazi and Sufi Kathak
Shehri Nashist is a small city session in Bhopal where young poets from all walks of life come together to share their poetry.
Unlike the Mushaira, these sessions are hosted on a much smaller scale.
Bait Baazi, the equivalent to ‘Antakshari’ is another gathering which is promoting Urdu culture.
Bait Baazi, which is a tough genre and game of Urdu poetry is also getting popular amongst the youngsters of Bhopal.
The competition begins with the first person reciting a few lines of a poem or a song.
Taking the last letter of the couplet used by the previous player, subsequent participants have to respond with another verse.
Sufi Kathak has seen the fusion of triple art forms in the city including mystical music, Kathak dance and the Urdu language.
Earlier in 2018, a classical Sufi dance event was held at the Shaheed Bhavan, Bhopal catching the attention of the youth from the city.
The performance of V Anuradha Singh enthralled audiences in this unique show.
Char Bait, is a relatively relaxed sociable event held in Bhopal.
From a historical perspective, Char Bait is a unique Urdu singing tradition, which links back to Afghanistan.
It is believed that soldiers in their spare time would recite a poem containing four lines.
In early 2018, a ‘Char Bait Muqabla’ (4 line poem competition) took place at the Ravindra Bhavan auditorium in Bhopal to commemorate the 80th death anniversary of legendary poet, Allama Iqbal.
In remembrance of Iqbal, the two-day event titled Yaadein Iqbal was attended by youngsters and eminent names connected to Urdu literature and poetry.
A Char Bait Festival is also coordinated every year in Bhopal. Talking of this Ustad Mohammad Muktar from Bhopal says:
“We wait for the Char Bait festival to be organised every year. Sometimes we gather at each other’s houses or at a common point in the area and start char bait.
“I have with me 7004 baits that are written by my Ustad.
“It’s been 35 years that I am participating in the event and over the years, a lot of youngsters too have shown interest in this.”
Jashn-E-Urdu and Six-Day Theatre Festival
The Madhya Pradesh (MP) Urdu Academy has been spearheading the promotion of the Urdu language.
Secretary of the Academy, Nusrat Mehdi discloses that the events they coordinate help people understand the less familiar points about the language.
“The academy has been working regularly to enrich the Urdu culture in the city.
“Apart from the events, we conduct classes for ghazals, calligraphy and offer a diploma course in Urdu.”
Every year, the Academy organises Jashn-E-Urdu, a celebration of the language featuring various social activities.
In late 2017, Ravindra Bhavan played host to the gusto three-day festival, which had a special focus on youngsters.
The event is a combination of various modern day art forms including, music, dance, dialogues, film, paintings, calligraphy, as well as Urdu language, literature and education.
During a session on ‘Urdu and Movies,’ famous actor Shawar Ali spoke about the Khoobsoorati (beautifulness) and Tehzeeb (Purification) of the language.
He also mentioned how Urdu helped him to get his first opportunity in Bollywood:
“Urdu is a language with all the sweetness. It was because of Urdu language that I got my first break in Bollywood.”
Director/Producer Fauzia Arshi also a panellist in the session commented about the soul of this event saying:
“Jashn-E-Urdu is a positive concept to keep up the spirit of Urdu language.”
As part of the festival, there was also a literary event named Mehfil’s Open Mic. In front of a packed audience, 32 young people recited their Urdu poems and ghazals.
Organised by Bhopali theatre buffs, a six-day drama festival at Antarang Hall, Bharat Bhavan was also held in late 2017.
The festival featured several plays, along with a seminar, ‘Urdu Plays Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.’
Watch Jashn-E-Urdu video here:
There are many other events going on in Bhopal. There are groups which sit together and read and recite.
It seems there has never been the need to revive Urdu Culture in Bhopal.
Even though the new generation might not know it fully, the average person in Bhopal knows more Urdu than the average person in the rest of North India.