Though a departure from its glory days, the Shankar-Shad Mushaira held another kind of magic

Delhiites kept their annual date with Urdu shaiyari at the 46th Shankar-Shad Mushaira the other day. But just about. Unlike the past when scores of people could be seen at the gates of Modern School on Barakhamba Road, pleading with the security men to let four people in on a pass meant for two, and many could be seen straining their ear to hear the poetry wafting in the air, this time the auditorium itself was not fully occupied.

With a handful of vacant seats, it was a blessing in disguise for the assembled lovers of Urdu poetry. The bolsters in white ghilaf were helpfully left as a backrest on side seats. The sound system was unusually noise-free. And the inimitable Malikzada Manzoor was in crackling form, bringing life to an evening that could well have petered out due to the absence of more poets.

There were 11 poets, including two from Pakistan, a far cry from the days when the event saw more than a score of luminaries. Undaunted, Malikzada refused to take refuge under the big names. Of course, help was not far to seek for him: sharing the masnad were the likes of Waseem Barelvi, Bekal Utsahi, Javed Akhtar and Shahryar, among others. Realising that the likes of Tejinder Ada, Meraj Faizabadi and the two satire specialists, Khamakha and Jhanjhat, could not hold the interest of the discerning lovers of poetry — and the bigger names could only be brought in the latter stages – Malikzada more than adequately filled in the gap.

Talking of Javed Akhtar, he said, “I have in the past introduced here on this stage his father Jan Nisar Akhtar and his father-in-law Kaifi Azmi. Now I bring to you Javed, who has, however, gone beyond keeping a lofty tradition alive.” His words to hail in Waseem Barelvi similarly had wit and wisdom about them. As was the case with his poetry. “Khwab ka rishta haqeeqat se na joda jaye, aeena hai, isey pathar se na toda jaye,” he recited to warm applause. In fact, the evening had only a couple of other heart-warming moments.

Insightful couplets

One such piece came from Waseem Barelvi, whose insightful couplets had the people asking for more. “Aaonsuon mein kai dard dhalte nahin, sare gham ghar se nikalte nahin…” he recited to demands of encore. As was the case with the low-key presentation of Shahryar. Much like the underrated Naeem Akhtar who, incidentally, opened the evening. He, in his own words, was supposed to have been the sacrificial goat, but he managed to carve out his own niche with couplets like, “Zara sa josh kya dariya mein aaya, samundar ki burai kar raha hai”.

However, the redoubtable Javed Akhtar disappointed. He was strangely off colour. The first couplet he recited in a way summed up his performance. “Chhod kar jisko gaye thhe aap, Ab main koi aur hun, wapas to aakar dekhiye”. Well, in this case the change was not for the better. And one came back longing for vintage Javed Akhtar.

Never mind. The mushaira, in a land where ghazal is often pronounced gajal, went some way in soothing frayed nerves.

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