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Mushaira, Kavi Sammelan or Poetry Festivals

The Urdu poets, Hindi poets and other language poets complain of the dying tradition of Mushairas, Kavi Sammelans  and Kavi Darbars.  They were prominent literary events till about 25 years ago, but are fast losing their charm. At a recently held Faiz Lecture in Delhi, Tariq Ali lamented the demise  of  Mushaira in Pakistan. It was a highly respected scholar ruing the dying tradition, who still held the view that tradition of poetry won’t die.  Another from India lamented the end of the Kavi Sammelans.

However, nobody tried to analyse the reasons. There can be no two opinions that poetry will always be around so long as emotions exist. Emotions shall always be experienced by all people as they grow from innocence to maturity in life. The journey of life is like that. He who treads this path shall undergo a vortex of emotions. Emotions of pleasure and pain are bound to give birth to poetry. Both our sweetest as well as saddest thoughts create songs!

What has changed, however, in the contemporary world is the entry of more enchanting forms of expressing emotions. Visual media, information revolution, social networking and SMS lingua are only some of the most disruptive technological intruders in life that are responsible for decline in the popularity of poetry recitations. The kind of leisure needed to enjoy Mushairas or Kavi Sammelans is simply not available in today’s fast life. People want to do so many things at the same time. There is information over supply. People grow fast and attain maturity rather early in life now, as compared to the era when poets used to hold sway. Take for example the gender debate today. Nobody ever objected to liberal images and similes of women’s beauty in Urdu poetry 25 years ago. Even the physical features have undergone terrific change. A usual reference in Urdu poetry related to the long hair of the beloved. Today they stand replaced by short hair. The expressions, metaphor and jargon, all seem to relate to times gone by. The Doordarshan Urdu channels stand unrebuttable testimony to this fact. If poetry refuses to incorporate change, it can not remain relevant. If it is not relevant, it dies. That is what is impacting poetry generally in India. Whatever little gets published in Hindi or heard in translation from other languages, does not enthuse. Similarly Urdu has also lost moorings. The world has changed so much in the past 25 years but the Indian society has failed to keep pace with it. The 10% upper strata of society never had any interest in fine arts, excepting as patrons. The young generation is assimilating change through education. It finds the poetry unimpressive. Comparatively poetry written in the advanced countries, now severely affected by the economic meltdown, is  impressive. That is because they are writing from experience and their pain is producing inspiring poetry in a language that suits the contemporary knowledge society. Their idiom, metaphor, simile, all are natural. In comparison ours looks somewhat artificial. It will happen in India too and both Mushaira and Kavi Sammelan will be revived, but only after getting free of the old generation, which has ruled the roost far too long!

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