A Literary Festival Jashn-e-Rekhta: The Tryst of Tradition with Modernity

We all know that Urdu is a confluence of Persian and a version of Hindi called Khadiboli (Hindustani). This syncretic nature of this language once made it popular by the name ‘Rekhta’, which means hybrid. In order to savour this fusion the Rekhta Foundation, founded by Sanjiv Saraf, took an initiative of organizing a festival that is now popularly known as Jashn-e-Rekhta (Celebration of Rekhta). This three-day occasion of festivity, which began in the year 2015, is now considered to be the largest Urdu literary festival of the world. Like every year this year also this program has been organized at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium from 13th to 15th of December. The programs during this occasion highlight not only Urdu poetry but also Urdu literature, Qawwali, calligraphy, performances such as Ghazal, Sufi music, recitations, panel discussions, film talk, calligraphy workshop and includes both shopping experience and a food festival.

Marketing the essence of a language

Portray of poet Mirza Ghalib | Image – Sagar Dey/The New Leam

Urdu has many lovers. And why not… A language that got rich with the passage of time because of the entire gamut of poets such as Ghalib, Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Manto and others, is bound to touch the entire spectrum of emotions that our heart can feel. Obviously, with the rise of the market economy – that always looks for opportunities to sell – these emotions became a juncture for various commodities to get associated with everything that is related to Urdu. One can find Sufis in this carnival not only in Kitchen but also in packaged merchandises. There are fourteen shops showcasing various arts and artefacts related to the historical trajectory taken by this language. Further, twenty-eight shops are there to serve you delicious food, and seventeen bookstores to make you engage with different themes of poetry, proses, and other aspects of this language.  Four other shops are there to offer you information regarding newly launched products in this industry.

Image – Sagar Dey/The New Leam

Calendar-Arts, Coffee Mugs, Lamps, T-shirts and other such items have tried their best to keep most of the revered mystics, authors and poets alive. Yet I don’t know why I couldn’t find any of them talking to me there. Indeed, there is a huge crowd busy tasting food and consuming all the forms of commercial art, but I couldn’t find anybody creating one. Fortunately, all of a sudden I found an inspiration to create a new work of art when I came across a funny comic of Ghalib in front of my eyes on a poster.

Image – Sagar Dey/The New Leam
Image – Sagar Dey/The New Leam

Diversity in Unity

Image – Sagar Dey/The New Leam

Though there are customers for these products yet not all visitors carry the same temperament for them. The heterogeneity amongst the visitors generates a plethora of meanings for everything sold in this carnival. Those for whom Urdu is merely a language for them these items provide them with a feeling of awe. They love to become familiar with Urdu by taking selfies at this festival. On the other hand, there are some who believe that they can enhance their love for a language by buying/consuming the reified entities of those who contributed to its development, and there are also consumers who buy only for the shake of decorating their homes and for maintaining their status in their society. For some customers, a small segment of the market here represents those periods of history in which Urdu became a vital force of social transformation.  However, one can also find that there are visitors only for the sake of attending music shows, calligraphy workshops, and to have a glimpse of the superstars here. 

Image – Sagar Dey/The New Leam

Whatever the reason may be, but one thing is for sure, and that is you will definitely enjoy this moment of togetherness here. This small write-up is just an aspect of various dimensions you will find in this vivid occasion. You will find more than just what I have tried to describe through my words. Trust me, every generation has something for them in this vibrant space as I have already mentioned that it is a tryst of tradition and modernity. Hence, don’t forget to experience it.


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