Bazm-e-Urdu’s ‘Mushaira Zinda Dalan’, held during the recent Sharjah International Book Fair, was a rip-roaring hit with nearly 3,000 people flocking to the Sharjah Expo Centre Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: When Dubai-based social club Bazm-e-Urdu set out to revive a long-forgotten form of Urdu poetry, few thought it stood a chance.

Mazhaiya Mushaira (“humorous Urdu poetry symposium”) that enjoyed its heydays in Hyderabad in the mid-Sixties, was last staged here in 1998.

Whether it would have any takers after 20 years, in a modern UAE, now remained to be seen.

As it turned out, the passage of time had sharpened, not dulled the appetite for satirical and humorous poetry in the country.

Rip-roaring hit

Bazm-e-Urdu’s Mushaira Zinda Dilan, held during the recent Sharjah International Book Fair, was a rip-roaring hit with hundreds of people flocking to the Sharjah Expo Centre last Friday.

Till way past midnight, the hall resonated with uproarious laughter as octogenarian Pakistani humorist Anwar Maqsood and the likes of Kaleem Samar Badayuni, Nashtar Amrohvi and Emirati Dr Farooq Zubair had the audience in stitches with their quick-witted repartee and wisecracks. For many, it was a trip down memory lane when evenings solely dedicated to humorous Urdu poets were an annual feature in Dubai.

Bazm-e-Urdu’s ‘Mushaira Zinda Dilan’, held during the recent Sharjah International Book Fair, was a rip-roaring hit with nearly 3,000 people flocking to the Sharjah Expo Centre

Pakistani expat Syed Azhar Ali Zaidi, who first brought Mazhaiya Mushaira to the UAE and under whose mentorship Mushaira Zinda Dilan was held last week, said he was overcome with nostalgia.

Going back in time

“Seeing so many masters of satire under one roof, I felt I had been transported back in time. We used to organise Mushaira Zinda Dilan in Dubai every year until the late 90s, but somehow it petered out, so it’s heartening to see it make an emphatic comeback,” he said.

Bazm-e-Urdu founder Rehan Khan said they were optimistic about the response but didn’t expect it to be so staggering. “When all 2,000 seats were occupied, people sat on the floor. Hundreds had to be turned away from the door as there was no space left,” he said. Longtime expat Zahoorul Islam Javed, who is a poet himself, said he’s not seen a bigger turnout of Urdu lovers in the UAE in nearly forty years.

The UAE currently hosts about 20 mushairas annually.

But none of them belong to the genre of humour.

As Farhan Wasti, who has been organising Urdu poetry sessions in Dubai since 2009, puts it, good wit and satire never really go out of fashion.