15 June, 2021

Irshad, Irshad

There will always be parvanas. The flame will always draw them.

Illustration by Sorit
Irshad, Irshad
If creative persons have a deep need for appreciation, then nothing facilitates it better than a mushaira—a gathering of poets face to face with a live audience, reciting their latest compositions and getting immediate response. Koi mere dil se poocche tere teer-e-neemkash ko/ Yeh khalish kahan se hoti, jo jigar ke paar hota (Someone ask my heart about your half-slung arrow; would it have festered so had it pierced right through?) The shama placed in front of him, Mirza Asadullah Ghalib would have first read this couplet at a mushaira in the first half of 19th century. For many gathered there, the words would have pierced right through. And they would have made it their own and quoted it profusely.

Mushaira is a living tradition, perhaps even older than the Urdu language in the subcontinent. It's a tradition that came to India in the 1600s, from the Arab world and via Iran, at a time when speakers of Arabic, Farsi and Turkish came to a subcontinent that already had a vibrant and varied tradition of verse. In those days, when the...

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