The facade of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The Embassy of India in the United Arab Emirates in collaboration with Vertex Events, Dubai and the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, hosted an evening of Indian poetry and ghazals as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (Festival of the Nectar of Independence) on August 21.
Titled â€˜Jashn-E-Hindâ€™ (â€˜Celebrating Indiaâ€™), it commemorated 75 years of Indian Independence. The rousing banquet included shayari (poetry) and ghazals (a lyric poem with a fixed number of verses and repeated rhyme, normally set to music) and was attended by Chief Guest Sunjay Sudhir, Ambassador of India to the United Arab Emirates, Consul General of India, Dubai, Dr Aman Puri, officials from the Consulate General of India, Dubai, a host of dignitaries and distinguished guests, besides poets and poetesses.
Akbar Verjee, Diplomatic Relations, Ismaili Centre, Dubai, offered the introductory remarks. Amiruddin Thanawala, former President of the Ismaili community in Dubai, in his welcome speech said that â€œIndia at 75 is a young democracy with an aspirational economy.â€ He noted that the Ismaili Community enjoys a â€œdeep and abiding, avery special and longstanding relationship with India.
â€œMany members of the Ismaili Community live in India. The present Aga Khanâ€™s great-grandfather spent his later years there, and his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, considered India as his home.
â€œHe built the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India, which historically holds great significance and is also the headquarters of the Gandhi National Memorial Society.
â€œThis majestic building is closely linked to the Indian freedom movement as it is where Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi (the Mahatmaâ€™s wife), and close aides were confined for some years.â€ In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India declared the site as a museum and monument of national importance.
Thanawala said that eight of the eleven agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) are engaged in India in fields as diverse as sustainable agriculture, water and sanitation, cultural development and restoration, early childhood and womenâ€™s development, humanitarian assistance, health and education; the first Aga Khan School was established in Mundra, Gujarat, India, in 1905.
â€œSince its opening in 2008, the Ismaili Centre has been committed to collaborating on programmes of quality and depth, bringing to it international cultural programmes across various disciplines and influences,â€ he concluded.
â€œWe will continue to host, numerous performing arts, cultural, educational, and social activities in collaboration with diplomatic missions, governmental and civil society organisations.â€ Ambassador Sunjay Sudhir said that Jashn-e-Hind was one of the biggest mushairas/kavi sammelans of its kind. (Mushaira is an evening social gathering where Urdu poetry is recited and Kavi Sammelan is a meeting or convention of poets).â€œSeventy five years is an important milestone in any countryâ€™s history and few countries are as strong as India now,â€ he said.
India is a showcase of 22 official languages and 20,000 dialects. One of the results of the interaction of many cultures is the evolution of the â€œGanga-Jamuni Tehzeebâ€.
(Gangaâ€“Jamuni Tehzeeb or Ganges-Yamuna Culture, is the high culture that arose in the central plains of northern India, and is a syncretic fusion of Hindu Ganga-Jamuni society with Islamic Persian culture.
Flourishing in the Indo-Gangetic plains, it also conveys Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. The Tehzeeb includes a particular style of speech, literature, recreation, costume, manners, worldview, art, architecture and cuisine which more or less pervades, besides the plains, Northern South Asia as a whole and the old city of Hyderabad in South India.
Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb is a poetic phrase for the distinctive and syncretic Hindu-Muslim culture).
The Ambassador said that the â€œHar Ghar Tirangaâ€ campaign (A Tricolour in every House) was successful, including in overseas environments such as the UAE. (The Indian flag is affectionately called the Tricolour, referring to the three colours that form it).
He said that the Rulers of the UAE promote tolerance and the openness of life which has fostered poets. He added that he had the honour of receiving the Aga Khan in India when he was based in New Delhi. â€œThis occasion will increase mutual understanding at all levelsâ€, he said.
Poems were recited by Sapna Moolchandani; Haider Amaan Haider; Irfan Izhar; Dr Tariq Qamar; Mehshar Afridi; Shabina Adeeb, Sana Bagnani and Manzar Bhopali.
Bagnani presented a stirring poem on Freedom. Moolchandani argued that if someone thought himself as a shore, â€œthen consider me the sea.â€ Adeeb paid fulsome tribute to her motherland India. Dubai based poet Haider recited: â€œDilo main pyaar ki khushbu basaye rahte hain Hum Hindwale hai, duniya pe chaye rehte haiâ€.
â€œThe fragrance of love resides in our hearts We Indians affect the world with it.â€ He added that he wished people would â€œget away from the heat of hatred, and plant a tree of loveâ€ where they would find shade.
The verses were greeted with loud and heartfelt applause each time they were presented. Pushkin Agha, Founder and CEO of Vertex Events, invited Ambassador Sunjay Sudhir to present mementos to the verse makers.
The Ismaili Centre, Dubai, incorporates spaces for social and cultural gatherings, intellectual engagement and reflection, as well as spiritual contemplation. It strives to build bridges of friendship and understanding, and serves to enhance relationships among faith communities, government and civil society.
The design and construction of the Centre takes into account Dubaiâ€™s climate, indigenous building and craft traditions and methodologies, and coherent landscaping. The objective has been to allow innovation to draw on tradition, while preserving symmetry, rhythm, unity and continuity.