Urdu back in bastion
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He spent his formative years in Bhendi Bazaar, the same locality where controversial writer Saadat Hasan Manto lived for some years. Zubair Azmi, 45, says reading Manto, Ismat Chugtai and Faiz Ahmed Faiz was considered a taboo by his working class Muslim family members.
"My parents would chide me for taking interest in the writings of those who encourage 'free sex' and were 'anti- marriage'. Their politics was considered 'anti-national' by most of us. For me, even as a staunch Islam follower, it was just the love for art. I learnt to look beyond their politics," Azmi says. His maternal uncle's interest in cinema and poems inspired him to dabble in art and literature.
Azmi, a lawyer, worked as a legal adviser in a bank for a few years. However, his love for Urdu poems made him look for an alternative. As he pursued his literary interest, he went on to start Urdu Markaz in 1995 — an organisation that working towards reviving the language and its culture. After working for nearly two decades with Urdu and other regional writers, Azmi is set to host the first Urdu festival in Bhendi Bazaar, which was home to connoisseurs of Urdu poetry and literature, such as Kaifi Azmi, Kamal Arohi, Janisar Khan, Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri, among others.
"As a child, I had heard Kaifi sahab speak. Music director Salil Chaudhary would conduct music classes for students at Avami Adara, a library and hall of the Communist party, which also was a commune of the progressive writers. But with time, both the language and the culture faded," Azmi recalls.
To revive people's interest in Urdu, Azmi is organising a three- day annual Urdu festival from January 10 to 12.
On the last Saturday of every month, Urdu and other regional artists of the organisation meet. "They come together for reading out their poems. We organise mushairas, where we discuss and critically analyse poems,"Azmi said.