WHILE participating in the Urdu Con­ference held in Karachi, I tried my best to attend all the sessions but the sessions were long and our capacity to listen to all the long-winded articles and speeches is limited. Thus I failed to listen and digest all what was said. And as our media is more politically oriented, they care little for cultural events and so most such conferences go unreported.

I feel a little more sympathetic for those programmes which failed to get highlighted though they deserved it. The session reserved for the inauguration of newly published books was one such session. A number of new volumes were to be inaugurated. Those critics who were invited to speak on this occasion had come well-prepared and wanted to talk in detail about these books. But the organisers were in a state of hurry and wanted the speakers to be brief in their comments. I personally felt extremely sorry for a research work on the dastango, Mir Baqir Ali.

The great tradition of dastangoi ends on Mir Baqir Ali. His enjoyed a meteoric rise as a dastango. However, times changed. The induction of the bioscope in Delhi acted as a death-knell for Mir Baqir’s art form. Dilliwallas were so mesmerised by this newly arrived entertainment that all of a sudden they stopped listening to their favourite dastango and rushed to the bioscope.

Disheartened by this behaviour, Mir Baqir Ali bid goodbye to dastangoi. He was seen wondering in the streets and mohallas of Delhi in the garb of a vendor selling betel nuts.

A few writers belonging to the olden times of Delhi have written about him in their memoirs. Now a researcher, Aqeel Abbas Jafri dug out material and compiled a book about him. And the book has come out at a time when there seems to be a revival of the Urdu dastan, for which much credit goes to Shamsur Rahman Faruqi.

Meanwhile two young adventurers made a dramatic entry as dastangos on the stage of Delhi. They were warmly welcomed in the modern entertainment world of Delhi.

Pakistan too did not lag behind. Two young Pak­istanis, Fawad Khan and Nazrul Hasan, appeared at the conference. The Karachi Arts Council had invited them to participate in the conference and recite their dastan to the traditional and modern audiences gathered at the premises. The selected piece was from Tilism-e-Hoshruba. They, clad in the traditional garbs of the dastangos of olden times, presented their art of dastangoi in an impressive way winning enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Now to another session of recitation. Zia Mohyeddin may be taken as the modern dastango, steeped deep in the classical as well as modern tradition of Urdu literature. A full session was reserved for him. He started with Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar whose Fasana-e-Azad appears to be a bridge between the dastan and the modern novel. Then he recited from Ibn-e-Insha’s prose, a fine piece from his humorous writings. He then started reciting from Aab-e-Gum by Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi. There had already been a session with Yusufi Sahib where his newly published collection of writings was inaugurated. Many of his admirers and devotees were gathered there, paying glowing tributes to him.

What was amazing was the enthusiasm of the Karachi­wallas on this occasion. Their presence in an extraordinarily large number gave the look of a mela to this conference. They had come along with their families and appeared very keen to introduce their children to their favourite writers. Armed with cameras they availed this opportunity to photograph the writers. This enthusiasm and gaiety on their part should be seen as a demonstration of the common people in the literature and the writers of their times.

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