Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mushaira in Bahrain

Dear Sushil,
I must congratulate you for this ethereal experience.Your narrative is immaculate and compelling.I thank you for sharing this with us. But I'll "doubly" thank you if you could get this DVD for me.
I,too, have experienced the etherealness of such a kavi sammelan in Chennai and Mumbai. So I can relate to what you say.Yes, it is sad that neither the SBI nor the Indian Embassy was represented there.And, mind you, the top brass in both these hallowed institutions is supposed to be among the best and the brightest of this superpower in the making . Urdu poetry is integral to our culture and it ought to be promoted.I'm also convinced that the ordinary Muslims and Hindus are one and the same.But there is a deliberate propoganda to keep them as "the other". While he was in India, Mr Obama lamented the forces of extremism in Islam. I would like to ask him who is abetting these forces for the last hundred years, especially in the last twenty after the demise of the "godless"communism in the erstwhile USSR.
But, my friend, we have to keep the torch of hope burning in its fullest splendour. Let us not be overwhelmed by the forces of ignorance and darkness which dispels simply by lighting a candle.We have to be doubly alert, active and clever to outlive and outsmart the unscientific way of life.

Best regards,

From: Sushil Prasad
Sent: Thu, November 25, 2010 5:00:52 PM
Subject: Mushaira - A Preview of my next blog - for comments please.

Mushaira – An Evening of Poetry

One of my major regrets is that I discovered poetry very late in life. When I was younger , I used to associate poetry only with rhythm and metre. That was the way poetry was introduced and taught in school. It was only much later that I discovered the power of poetry in disentangling troubled emotions and as a means for exploring the depths of human feelings and psyche. A poem by Harivansh Rai Bachchan (Kavi) beautifully illustrates the role of poet in society where he elaborates that the poet’s solitary pursuit of finding means to disentangle emotions help others at large. Poetry is also described as the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility.

These thoughts come to my mind as I think about the lovely Mushaira – a poetry reading / reciting session - that I was extrmeley fortunate to having recently attended. The Mushaira was organized by AMUAAB (Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Bahrain) at the Cultural Hall located on Al Fateh Corniche , Bahrain .

The Mushaira was billed to start from 8 pm . I managed to reach the venue by about 8 pm , with the hope that I was not late. But I was surprised to see that there were hardly a handful of people in the auditorium. I initially put the low attendance to lack of people who would appreciate Urdu poetry in Bahrain . As the evening progressed with little development to show as to by when the programme would start, doubts started building up in my mind on whether it was worth while spending more time here. Since, I had already cancelled my other engagements for the evening I decided to stick around and at least experience some portion of the session before passing any judgment on the programme. It turned out that I was doubly lucky. First time lucky in having decided to come for the session and second time lucky on having stayed around.

The programme finally started a little after 9.15 pm , with the first half hour being spent on introductory speeches followed by reading from the Koran. And then the Mushaira took off and continued for nearly 5 hours to nearly 3 am the next morning. Five hours of exhilarating , exquisite poetry. Poetry sung , recited , clarified , reiterated , made up extempore to suit the occasion or exemplify or elaborate a particular thought process. What sublime thoughts. What oneness of spirit and bonhomie between the audience and the poets. Poetry was used as a collective experience to enable each individual to examine, reorder, and cleanse his or her personal emotions.

By about 10 pm the auditorium was overflowing with people who I assume were largely Indian Muslims. Though I expect there were a fair sprinkling of people from Pakistan and some also from Bangladesh . As the mushaira progressed, the audience and the poets merged into one organic whole with its own life, breath, thoughts, and mood. There were about 14 odd shaiyars (poets) on the stage with one leading poet introducing and commenting on the shaiyars and also compeering the show. There was quite some variation in age, social background, thought processes and styles of the shaiyars. Of the assembled poets, 3 were women and about 10 men. The language used extended from very formal, highly Persianised / Arabicised, difficult to understand or appreciate Urdu to common, easy to listen and understand Hindustani.

There were some light, side moments too, to the evening. As I was entering the venue, a young man accompanied with two young women (or was it the other way round – two young women accompanied with a young man) also reached the Cultural Hall. Their immediate query to the person there was if there was provision for separate seating for women in the auditorium. They seemed to be quite surprised if not also crestfallen to be advised in the negative. Another thing that I noticed was that while nearly all the women in the audience (I assume Indian and Pakistani women living in Bahrain ) were heavily Hijabed, the three women poets on the dias were not Hijabed, though one of them was constantly though unsuccessfully trying to drape her head with her dupatta (scarf?).

The most important realization or understanding that I carried back from the evening has nothing to do with poetry. We as a society, not just in India but also the popular world media have a tendency to look at our Muslim brothers and sisters as backward , semi literate, religious bigots , rooted in medieval irrational thought processes etc. But here was a group made up of nearly 100% Muslims from the middle and lower strata of society getting together to sit and appreciate poetry which was without exception completely secular in thought and content!

During the nearly 5 hours of poetry, there was not a single instance where the content of the outpourings was remotely religious in nature. Yes, there was plenty of romance, a lot of irony, some very deep angst. But of religion in terms of identity or means of support – there was no mention. What one saw was something which was against all stereotypes. Nearly 5 hours of poetry where the topics were strictly secular. I have not attended any other mushairas , but I suppose this would be the general atmosphere of mushairas and not specific to the one I had attended.

It is sad that there was such limited involvement in such a festive, joyous, and enriching experience. It was sadder to note that this event was not attended by anybody from the Indian Embassy (at least officially). Moreover , there was no representation from State Bank of India , one of the main sponsors of the programme.

A couple of weeks later, while I was still feeling the after glow of the experience, I came to know that the entire programme had been videographed and was available as DVDs. I immediately got myself a copy and spent the next 3 evenings reliving the experience at my own pace. This makes me third time lucky.

I consider myself really blessed that I got a chance to discover poetry in this lifetime.

Sushil Prasad
Designated Credit Officer
Credit Management
P.O. Box: 597
Kingdom of Bahrain
Tel: +973 17 207271
Fax: +973 17 212120

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