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Thursday February 02, 2023

A mushaira as a homecoming

November 28, 2022

LAHORE:Depending on one’s perspective, the mushaira at the Punjab Institute of Language and Culture (PILAC) could be described either as a resounding success or a dismal failure. By no account was it anything in between.

The event was organised jointly by Wijdan, the social organisation, and the PILAC to honour poet Nasira Zuberi. Amjad Islam Amjad presided over the recitals, ably compered by Sophia Bedar. Khalid Sharif was the guest of honour. The presidium also included Saadullah Shah, Nazeer Qaiser and for a while the PILAC chief, Dr Sughra Sadaf.

The failure part first: the session got under way an hour late and nearly half the participating poets either arrived too late to allow the compere to present them in the traditional order of seniority – which she said made it awkward for her and for which she apologised, profusely and repeatedly - or had to leave early. To top it off, Amjad, being helped up the poorly designed steps tripped and had what momentarily looked like a nasty fall raising concerns first for his safety and eventually for that of other senior poets. Fortunately, he was not hurt and sought immediately to reassure all present on that account. In fact, he looked a little amused. Others too put up a brave face and Bedar mentioned the popular superstition that such mishaps made serious accidents unlikely in the near future.

The success side was mostly human. The participants, poets as well as the audience, were forgiving of the disappointments and took them in their stride. There was genuine bon homie and great admiration for the readings, no complaints and no hooting. The audience were polite and most of them appeared familiar with the poets and their published works.

For Zuberi, it was a home coming of sorts, as she herself mentioned. Publisher Muhammad Fahd presented a bouquet on behalf of all her admirers in Lahore. Nearly all the poets as well as the organisers looked extremely happy to have her and there was great cordiality. From the start of the proceedings, with a recitation from the Holy Quran by Miqdad, things went like a charm. Dr Sadaf mentioned towards the end that it was the birthday of her daughter and that she had made special effort with her cooking. She invited all participants to dinner with her and won’t take a no for an answer.

Even the hiccup with the order in which the poets were called did not seem to matter in the end. After each poet had read some of their recent Urdu ghazals – only Amjad read a nazm and Punjabi readings were rare – most were requested/ prompted to read a piece or two from their most popular work.

The ‘seniors’ were predictably a pleasure. Even the ‘juniors’ like Syma Aftab read some delightful verses. Besides those already mentioned the poets included Dr Jawaz Ja’fri, Tasneem Hassan, Hameeda Shaheen, Farhat Zahid, Rakhshanda Naveed, Nasir Bashir, Qamar Raza Shahzad and Mansoor Afaq.

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