July 2003 - On the face of it, the name of
this group may be complicated. Bazm in its short form is much easier
to write then the full “Bazm-e-Arbab-e-Sukhan”
(plus the additional “of the San Francisco Bay Area”), but a visit
with one of the keepers of the candlelight of Urdu in California
presents little difficulty and can actually be quite a pleasing
experience. From the English reporting point of view, this may sound
strange, but this reporter goes to Bazm’s gatherings to be culturally
To those of us who still retain the ability to “feel in Urdu” while
writing exclusively in English, a Bazm gathering sometimes becomes a
“must try to attend” part of our social calendar, especially when they
honor (in this case) the most significant name ever to be associated
with the language, that of Mirza Ghalib.
On Friday, July 11, 2003 Bazm held its “Yaad-e-Ghalib” evening at
the Mehran Restaurant in Newark, California where Urdu lovers from all
over this region filled up this venue. Pakistanis and Indians,
Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs amongst them and of various
sub-ethnicities, all had dinner, sat together and enjoyed reminiscing
on the works of Ghalib, in a way celebrating an entire culture which
is associated with this wonderful language.
one of the driving forces behind Bazm welcomed everyone and commented
on how Ghalib was still alive and well in our hearts and minds after
200 years. She said that the Mughal Empire had left behind three great
gifts. 1) The Urdu Language. 2) The Taj Mahal and 3) Mirza Ghalib.
Ali Hasan Cemendtaur a powerful writer and a fast emerging talent
from the San Francisco Bay Area next presented a beautifully narrated
Urdu viewpoint on how Ghalib would address his nephew if he were alive
today. Needless to say Ali Hasan had the audience rolling in laughter
because his sense of “Mazaaq” (Humor) on the “impurities” that Urdu
has been acquiring recently would certainly have Ghalib rolling over
in his grave.
Bay Area resident, Peace activist and Urdu/Punjabi Poet Farooq
Taraz next presented a Nazm (Poem) in honor of the Great Master. In
his poetic tribute Farooq equated the after effects of reading
Ghalib’s writings to a form of spiritual awakening.
of Avtar Magazine next presented his very moving verses after
reminding everyone of the difficulty in deciphering some of Ghalib’s
He said that Ghalib was a “Modern” poet even 200 years ago.
Annie Akhter next introduced the very formidable Urdu Poetess that
now resides in this area Noshi Jilani and Tabla Master Ustad Tari Khan
from amongst the audience. A strong “welcome back” is in order for
Noshi who has been out of the area for what seems like too long time.
Professor Syed Jahangir Hamdani was introduced next. Hamdani Sahib
is an authority on languages in our community and our resident expert
on Urdu and Ghalib. As a linguist, he has read Ghalib’s Persian and
Urdu works and found both of them superb (while almost giving an edge
to the former). Hamdani Sahib went into the life of this greatest of
Urdu writers and said that any true craftsman of literature or art in
general holds a unique position from which he or she observes life and
human suffering. He called this uniqueness a gift from God. He said
that Mirza Ghalib, who was born in Agra and died in Delhi was truly so
gifted, because without any coaching he was a truly exceptional
communicator via his poetry writing. He said that Ghalib’s writing
were now a beautiful legacy for all to learn from and appreciate
irrespective of their religious leanings. Ghalib belonged to all of
humanity. Hamdani Sahib also gave a talk on a slide show presentation
put together on computer by Zamir Khan depicting several paintings and
segments of Ghalib’s poetry.
Urdu Poet Jazib Qureshi next spoke for a few moments and thanked
Annie and Bazm for the holding of such gatherings. He said that
Pakistan certainly needed such an initiative too as people needed to
go back to appreciating literature via books and poetry and not dwell
exclusively on the easy path of the visual media.
A short skit
of sorts was presented with the help of Ashish Joshi (who played
Ghalib) and Tina Mann who did a great job in Mughal era attire while
gesturing to Ghalib’s poetry in song. And the first segment closed
with warm happy birthday wishes to Nagesh Avadhany, another pillar of
the Bazm Group.
The second part of the evening’s activities arrived from Agra, India
via the superb singing of Ghalib’s works by Ghazal Singer Sudhir
Narain, accompanied on Tabla by Pradip Narain. And what a wonderful
voice it was that he brought to us! After listening to Jagjeet Singh
sing Ghalib’s work it is wonderful to report that “Sudhir aur Un mai
Unees Bees Ka Farq hai” (they are very close). The audience was indeed
moved and I’m glad that I acquired his CD’s. The drive home was made
much more pleasurable due
to them. Yeh na Thi Hamari Kismat was the first song sung, but “Mein
Unhay Chairoon aur woh kuch na Kahain” was my favorite along with
In conclusion it would be difficult to list all of the people to
thank for this journey of learning and a window into the life and work
of the greatest writer Urdu has ever produced. Thanks are in order to
all that worked so hard and the wonderful audience who listened so
patiently. But let me leave here with a special mention of a Sikh
gentleman in attendance at this gathering by the name of Surdhol
Kwatra. Mr. Kwatra, a retired music director once had the privilege of
playing music with the late great Master Ghulam Haidar. And for those
who may not know, the late Master discovered for us at least one of
the finest voices ever to sing in South Asia. Her name was Noor Jehan.