The novel coronavirus pandemic may have forced people to stay apart but digital platforms and social media are helping them to stay connected. People are observing physical distancing but they are virtually together.
The virus outbreak has disrupted the regular gatherings and events around the world but people have turned to the digital world to stay connected. In Qatar, various community and literary groups have started conducting their regular programmes online as people are not sure when the health crisis is going to end.
Guzergah-e-Khayal, a forum associated with Bazm-e-Urdu Qatar, an old literary group promoting Urdu language and literature in Qatar, recently organised a symposium called ‘Online Urdu Classical Mushaira’. The online poetic symposium was hosted by Dr Faisal Hanif, founder president of the forum.
Different poets from within Qatar and from outside took part in the mushaira and recited the poetry of diverse classical Urdu poets. The reciters were dressed the way the classical poets used to dress in their lives. The poetry of Kaleem Ajiz was presented by Iftekhar Raghib, Nazeer Akbarabadi by Wazir Ahmed Wazir, Nasir Kazemi by Dr Faisal Hanif, Jiger Muradabadi by Mubasir Eman, Josh Malihabadi by Fayaz Bukhari Kamal, Allama Muhammad Iqbal by Muzaffar Nayab, Bahadur Shah Zafar by Abualkhair Khan, Momin Khan Momin by Shahbaz Shamsi, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Jaleel Nizami (aka Shair-e-Khaleej), and Mir Taqi Mir by Mohammed Rafiq Shaad Akolvi.
Guzergah-e-Khayal forum was founded in 2009 to enhance understanding of classical Urdu poetry and, in particular, critically appraise and learn Mirza Ghalib’s poetry and philosophy.
“This event was the first virtual experience for many Urdu poets hosted by Guzergah-e-Khayal, who has been conducting monthly Ghalib symposiums for the past 10 years. The purpose of this convention was to reminisce the work of great Urdu poets and to keep alive the art of Urdu poetry and literature,” said Dr Faisal while talking to Community.
He added: “This event took place on Zoom online platform. The dress code was set to resemble the essence of classical Urdu poets of old times. This event was orgnised particularly to pay tribute to the era of classical Urdu poets by reciting the poets’ poetry and representing him in its authentic form. The great poets of classical era left behind a vast sea of their incredible creative work from which the participants in the symposium were assigned to recite their personal favourite ghazal or poem.”
Dr Faisal said he was satisfied with the response of participants. “The response of participants towards the online virtual event was considered interesting by most even though it is deemed as not a perfect substitute of face to face interactions. Overall, the symposium was enjoyed by the majority due to the availability of comfort of their home and access from different parts of the world as it did not demand physical presence. Conducting the event online allowed many poets from all over the world with similar interest to gather and join the conference and play their part.”
Sharing his views about online mushaira, he said: “The classical Urdu symposium always has a particular ambience. There has been little consideration so far given to the idea of online symposiums. Other actives have been taking place online but no mushaira. As the necessity is the mother of invention. We resorted to the technology to continue our literary activity. There are some old poets who do not like online mushaira. However, a majority liked the new way of mushaira.”
Dr Faisal sees the online mushaira a good substitute for the real time mushaira but not a perfect alternative. “Many people think that the online mushaira will go away once things return to normal but I do not agree with them. Both kinds of mushaira will continue parallel from now on. It is comfortable for everyone to stay at home and get connected. People even from outside Qatar joined us for the mushaira. There are some poets who have left Qatar but can also join us now. The technology has become lot easier to use since everyone is using smart phones.”
He added: “In the early times, the mushaira actually used to be attended only by the poets who would listen to each other’s work. Poets also understand the poetic thoughts better and appreciate it in a proper way. With the passage of time, audiences started gathering in the mushaira. Now poets love to have audience in large numbers. With the digital technology, poets can also have audience. We will continue holding both real time and online mushaira in future.”
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