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Urdu hai jiska naam hamin jaante hain Daag, saare jahan mein dhoom hamare zabaan ki hai (I know the language that is called Urdu, and it’s become known across the world). These words by poet Daag Dehlvi come to mind when Sanjiv Saraf talks about Jashn-E-Rekhta, a festival of Urdu literature starting Saturday.

“The inclusive ethos and creative richness of Urdu has made the language popular across borders," says Saraf, founder of Rekhta Foundation, a non-profit which works for the development of Urdu, and curator of the two-day festival. “Jashn-E-Rekhta is meant to give a flavour of Urdu so that the audience is drawn to the language for more learning," he adds.

Saraf is presenting Jashn-E-Rekhta in the Capital in collaboration with the India International Centre (IIC). More than 60 poets, authors and artistes from India, Pakistan, Canada and the US—including Satyapal Anand, Javed Akhtar, Gopi Chand Narang, Mahmood Farooqui and Munawwar Rana—will take part in Urdu recitation, dastangoi (a form of storytelling), plays, musical renditions (ghazals), mushairas (poetic symposiums) and panel discussions. An outdoor fête will feature street plays, a book exhibition and a calligraphy art corner.

Lucknow-based Rana, 63, who will be part of a panel discussion, “Mushaire Ka Badalta Rang-Roop (The Changing Face Of The Mushaira)", on Saturday says: “In the past four centuries, the mushaira has undergone many changes, from being an elitist affair to becoming an out and out public event." The panel, moderated by journalist Ravish Kumar, will include poet-politician Kumar Vishwas and US-based Anand. “Mushaira was originally about love and friendship. Now politics has made its way into it," Rana adds.

The same day will see another session, “Internet Ki Duniya Mein Urdu (Urdu In The Time Of Internet)". “The Internet has revolutionized the exchange and propagation of all languages, making it easier for lovers of Urdu to share material across the globe. With technological changes, Urdu will continue to evolve and not die, as many people assume," says Lahore, Pakistan, based Ali Madeeh Hashmi, writer and psychiatrist and grandson of Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Besides Hashmi, the panel will include Karachi, Pakistan, based writer Ajmal Kamal and Lalit Kumar, founder of Hindi poetry website Kavitakosh.org.

A highlight will be Akhtari, a tribute to ghazal singer Begum Akhtar on her birth centenary, by vocalist Vidya Shah, who has trained under Begum Akhtar’s disciple Shanti Hiranand, and dastango Danish Husain. “In 2012, Shah approached me to collaborate for a performance that was more than just songs. After sifting through musical material, recordings and never-seen-before interviews, and meeting friends, we came up with a musical offering that was not just biographical but anecdotal," says Husain.

The second day will include a recital of ghazals by Radhika Chopra and ustad Hamid Ali Khan as well as a play based on Saadat Hasan Manto’s Tetwal Ka Kutta. Directed by Danish Iqbal, the play will use the famous parable to talk about the relationship between India and Pakistan, and Manto’s “dislike" for Partition. “Manto is yet to get his due when it comes to Urdu writing. Through this play, we pay tribute to him and ask a pertinent question, ‘If both sides of the border share the same language and culture, what’s there to fight about?’" says Iqbal.

Jashn-E-Rekhta will be held from 14-15 March at IIC, 40, Max Mueller Marg. Timings vary. Click here for the schedule.

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