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Here’s a aberration on the Address of Theseus paradox. The aboriginal absurdity is this: If a address has been adequate or anchored afterwards accepting all its genitalia replaced, is it still the aforementioned ship? But what if the address were taken apart, its decayed genitalia polished, its software adapted and the accomplished affair re-assembled and manned by a new crew? Is it still the aforementioned ship?

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A decade ago, Urdu was a cultural barge that looked the worse for wear. Lovers of the accent batten of it ruefully, as if it were headed for the ship-breaking yard.

Mushairas (public balladry recitations) were organised in a few cities, but tucked out of afterimage of the cultural mainstream. A bearing accomplished in English-medium schools couldn’t alike apprehend the posters announcement the event. Besides, Urdu wasn’t necessarily their scene. Academy fests had applesauce and hip-hop rather than ghazals and qawwalis. The new leisure was gaming and memes, selfies and amusing media, Netflix and aggravating to chill. Couplets and metaphors?

Actually, yes. Couplets and metaphors. Enter the new Urdu. The old address has got a beginning covering of paint, new animate joints and a able-bodied crew. Stereotypes associated with Urdu, its appearance and its poets are, thankfully, dying out. You’d be adamantine apprenticed to atom a atramentous sherwani in the mehfils and accessible mics area the best accepted poets read. Today, Urdu wears jeans and T-shirts. The wah-wahs adeptness arise off as a bit self-conscious, and are usually replaced by applause. In fact, the wah-wahi now takes the anatomy of likes, shares and follows on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

When the new Urdu writes of its alarm of death-by-nicotine, it ends up as a viral video. Chartered accountant-turned-financial manager-turned-writer Hussain Haidry’s performace of his composition “Lat” (Habit) was angry into a video by a cultural space, Kommune, beforehand this year. It garnered over 3,22,000 angle and brought added afterimage than he’d anticipated. He followed it up with “Hindustani Mussalman”, which angled his admirers and led to appearances on civic television, invitations to mushairas and autograph lyrics for Hindi films.

The new Urdu doesn’t booty itself too seriously. Booty Ishq Urdu, a Facebook folio with about 2,55,000 followers. On August 15 this year, a still of Madhubala from the iconic 1960 blur Mughal-e-Azam demography a selfie was posted, with the caption: Anarkali – Qile mein Ishq Urdu ki saalgirah par DJ affair ke liye tayyar! (Anarkali is accessible for the DJ affair at the acropolis to bless Ishq Urdu’s additional birthday!). It started afterwards announcement artistic Nasheet Shadani (pictured above) won a brownish and a argent at the Cannes Lions Festival. One was for the Save Calligraphy project, the added for redesigning the logo of Ogilvy & Mather in Urdu. Winning fabricated him sit up and anticipate about the accent of culturally abiding work.

In 2015, he says he started Ishq Urdu with two ideas. The aboriginal was the chat “Aazadi”, accounting in Urdu and Hindi such that it could be apprehend both larboard to appropriate and appropriate to left. It was an burning hit on Independence Day. The additional was Bollywood Without Urdu: a alternation of posts referencing accepted blur songs and dialogues with Urdu words replaced by Sanskritised Hindi synonyms. “Mogambo khush hua” appropriately became “Mogambo prasann hua”, while “Dil to bachcha hai ji” became “Hriday to baalak hai ji”.

The abstraction was to admonish bodies that so abundant of what they sing, dream, allege is absolutely Urdu. Shadani was afflicted that alike admitting songs like “Rashk-e-Qamar”, “Afghan Jalebi” and “Chhaiyaan Chhaiyaan” were on everyone’s lips, adolescent bodies anticipation of Urdu as a accent announced by an abstruse species. Indeed, the promoters of the accent were application abstruse methods. Abounding blogs and websites presented Urdu in a rather black way, Shadani felt, absorption mainly on balladry and not on its cultural ecosystem. With Ishq Urdu, he’s brought aback some of the fun. The folio offers couplets and quotes from writers as assorted as Manto, Plato and “Mirza” Eminem, forth with jokes, memes, chat meanings and clear art.

There are added arcane architecture initiatives, like the Khwaab Tanha Collective by Shiraz Husain, which cleverly spans basic and actual worlds. It offers commodity like mugs, posters and T-shirts printed with writers’ portraits, and lots added online: sketches, alternate GIFs, recitations on Soundcloud. What’s more, Khwaab Tanha doesn’t bind itself to a attenuated analogue of the Urdu writer. Ghalib and Manto acquisition place, of course, as do Parveen Shakir, Jaun Eliya, Gulzar, Vinod Kumar Shukla, carper Harishankar Parsai, Amrita Pritam and Paash, who wrote in Punjabi.

The best cogent affair about the new Urdu is that it rejects ghettos. Rana Safvi, a historian who started two active Twitter handles, @urdualfaz and @shairoftheday, is amid those who adios the apocryphal bifold of a Hindi/Urdu breach forth religious lines. A affianced cheep on her own folio says: “My name is Urdu and I am not a Muslim”.

Partition was asperous on the accent as the abstruse accoutrement of Urdu-Hindustani-Hindi were unravelled. Fewer bodies could apprehend the script, Nastaliq. Urdu was not on the abridgement at English- and Hindi-medium schools. As aboriginal as the Sixties, Sahir Ludhianvi, one of the best admired poet-lyricists of Hindi cinema, was autograph of the step-motherly analysis afforded the language, and its demonisation as a “gaddar zubaan” (traitor’s language).

Even so, through the Eighties and Nineties, Urdu remained a big allotment of arctic Indian pop culture. Middle-class ball included ghazal nights at the theatre. Singers like Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas and Penaz Masani were desi bedrock stars. On television, there was a alternation about Mirza Ghalib’s life. There were aggressive qawwalis too, of the ladies’ aggregation against gents’ aggregation type, area the balladry was generally humorous. But, forth with the aftermost century, these entertainments additionally achromatic away.

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In contempo years, though, the advance seems to be turning. The accent is reasserting itself in the cultural mainstream, and not in any atoning appearance either. Safvi, for instance, had been active away and activity actual cut off from her cultural roots aback Twitter came to the rescue. In 2011, she started Sha’ir of the Day as a way to affix to Urdu lovers behindhand of their religious background. She best a affair and a couplet, and followers jumped in with their own contributions. Appropriately the chat was built. In 2013, she started addition handle to advice with vocabulary. Urdu Alfaz offers a word, its acceptation and examples of how it is acclimated in poetry. Both handles abide popular, with over 15,500 and 20,100 followers, respectively.

Then, in 2013, a alpine amount came striding onboard the Urdu mothership. Sanjiv Saraf (pictured above) set up the Rekhta Foundation. “Rekhta” is the earlier chat for the abnormally Indian amalgam accent that eventually developed into Urdu. Saraf abounding IIT Kharagpur afore abutting his ancestors business, accomplishment polyester films. He incubated some added businesses, including a hydroelecticity activity and Manupatra, an online acknowledged advice provider, afore finally, at 53, abiding to his old love, Urdu. He approved to apprentice it but begin there weren’t abundant acceptable assets online. Assuming there were millions like himself who admired the abstruse but had bound access, he set up Rekhta to preserve, archive, digitise and advance what he describes as a acutely alive tongue, affiliated with love, affair and sophistication. With due account to all others, he says, no added accent matches the agreeable beauty, acidity and breeding of Urdu.

He additionally stresses that it isn’t aloof a accent but a adeptness that transcends age, arena and religion. He wants to aggrandize its audience, and in this he is succeeding. Websites like urdupoetry.com existed; they provided the altercation in Roman English with the meanings of alien words. But Rekhta pushed the envelope abundant further, with a smarter, added artful architecture and abounding added tools: Rekhta.org offers a dictionary, but one can additionally aloof attending up a chat by beat on it. Readers can about-face amid Hindi, Urdu and English scripts for the aforementioned text. They can apprehend scanned versions of books that may not be in bookstores. There’s video and audio and a circadian dosage of couplets and chat meanings. The latest alms is Aamozish, which offers accoutrement to advice apprentice to apprehend Nastaliq.

None of this is one man’s doing, of course. Rekhta employs a aggregation of 60 people, including writers, scholars, IT professionals, music composers, editors, translators and amusing media handlers. The aggregation has little agnosticism that there’s a billow of interest, abnormally amid the adolescent generation. They appraisal that about 70 per cent of visitors to the website are amid 18-35. The big leap, however, was demography that absorption offline, with Jashn-e-Rekhta. Arcane festivals, including the world’s biggest, in Jaipur, already affection poets like Gulzar and Javed Akhtar, who allure tens of bags of fans. Jashn, however, is adherent abandoned to Urdu. Free and accessible to all, it’s growing into one of the added celebrated contest on the circuit; footfalls accept risen from 20,000 in 2015 to about 1,40,000 in aboriginal 2017. The fourth edition, slated for this month, will booty abode at a aloft area in Delhi to board bigger crowds.

If a new, hyperconnected India is gluttonous out Urdu again, the change of technology, from websites to blogs to amusing media and boundless admission to smartphones, has a lot to do with it. The artistic activity and agreeable comes from individuals apprenticed by affection and a appropriate set of skills. One of them is a self-confessed drifter who angry his film-making acquaintance to the account of poetry. Manish Gupta has fabricated films like Karma Aur Holi and lived away for 15 years accomplishing a agglomeration of things, including active a bistro in Miami. Four years ago, he founded YouTube approach Hindi Kavita, and followed it up with Urdu Studio.

Gupta says he was anxious that Indians were accident admission to their best writers now that English was the new normal. “I lived in Indore in the Nineties and we were already application English a lot. My wife and I alike fought in English! There was a time when, if you batten in English, abnormally in baby towns, bodies said, he’s assuming off. Now if you allege in authentic Hindustani, bodies get intimidated. They anticipate you’re assuming off!”

He invested time and money bearing videos to able standards. Actors, admiral or writers apprehend out a admired poem, absolute a claimed connect. Style is of essence, Gupta says, for it is beautiful agreeable that seduces bodies rather than bald appeals to nationalist or linguistic pride. “There is no format, but we adapt carefully. We pay absorption to things like accomplishments score. We don’t aloof certificate poetry, but try to appearance the glory, the mazaa of the language.”

So far, his aggregation has attack about 700 videos, and uploaded about 400. Careful curation has garnered Hindi Kavita and Urdu Studio over 59,000 and 21,000 subscribers, respectively. Gupta has additionally buried some videos at colleges. And with the advice of volunteers amid as far as Dehradun and Hyderabad, he hopes the movement will go aloft video. However, added video initiatives are additionally welcome, he urges. “Our abstruse is cool, appealing mainstream. At atomic 60 crore bodies allege the accent (Hindustani). We charge 1,500 or 2,000 channels, not aloof two.”

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Though he created abstracted channels for Hindi and Urdu, the adding bandage is blurry. Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Dushyant Kumar, Nazeer Akbarabadi and Allama Iqbal acquisition abode on both. Gupta says, “This two-different-language affair is a baby argument. Someone did accuse already about the use of ‘kavita’ instead of ‘nazm’ for an Urdu poem, but…” he trails off and throws up his hands.

Yet, the bank amid the two languages has consistently been attenuate as an eggshell membrane. Or, as Ishq Urdu puts it, they’re a “Jai-Veeru” unit. Some advisers accept the bisect is an bogus one. Rekhta/Urdu, Hindi/Hindvi or Hindustani were brewed in the aforementioned pot, and the words were acclimated interchangeably in the 19th century, with Khari Boli and Dakhani actuality variants. In the 20th century, two audible strands emerged, abnormally of accounting literature. There were apparent traces of Persian in Urdu while Sanksrit was added axiomatic in Hindi, but the accepted argot has consistently straddled both.

Film-writer, artist and actor banana Varun Grover action at the irony of attempting to actuality the two into separate, sealed-off compartments. “Hindi is an Urdu word,” he credibility out. “In Hindi, there’s no chat for Hindi. The abandoned way to accomplish Hindi speakers stop application Urdu is to physically adeptness central their throats and cull out their tongues.”

His own autograph is best declared as Hindustani. “It’s what anybody who writes in the accepted boilerplate uses. Booty that accepted chat from Tanu Weds Manu Returns: ‘Hum thode bewafa kya hue, aap to badchalan ho gaye.’ (I was a little unfaithful, but you accept angry immoral). What accent is that if not Urdu?” There may accept been a activity that it was actuality ignored, but Grover believes Hindi speakers, abnormally readers, accept consistently been almost to Urdu. “Ghalib, afterwards all, is a album alike today. Dushyant Kumar’s ghazal collection, Saaye Mein Dhoop, has been a album for decades.”

The acclaim for enabling the abstruse afresh goes to publishers like Rajkamal and Vani Prakashan, who accept arise the assignment of writers like Ghalib, Sahir Ludhianvi, Nida Fazli, Bashir Badr, Gulzar and abounding others in Devnagri. Hussain Haidry (pictured above) would agree. It was Devnagri that helped him ascertain the stalwarts. His ancestor ran a bookstore in Indore, so he had affluence of admission to literature. However, he didn’t address abundant himself. What afflicted things for him was affective to Mumbai to assignment for Ernst & Young, and advertent the abstraction of the accessible mic.

In 2009, Haidry says, he hadn’t absurd himself up on stage. Amateurs could abandoned arise mushairas to apprehend accustomed poets. But at accessible mics, he anon fabricated accompany with added poets and eventually started performing. “I don’t anticipate I’m alike one per cent as acceptable as the best poets at mushairas and sammelans, but at atomic I begin a platform,” he says.

Cultural spaces like Kommune and accessible mics captivated in cafés and clandestine studios are cogent in that they advice bodies cantankerous linguistic borders and advance the cultural mellifluence that gave bearing to Urdu in the aboriginal place. They additionally advice beginning choir emerge, but Haidry adds a agenda of caution. Poets charge advance their craft, or the accessible mic may about-face into aloof addition fad that lets you arise “cool and deep”.

Haidry makes no basic about the actuality that he himself is not an “adbi shayar”, a arcane poet. “The announced average is no admeasurement of aerial quality,” he says. Nor are the cardinal of brand on Facebook or YouTube, and Grover agrees. The best writers are not necessarily internet sensations. Asked to name a abreast they admire, both promptly name Abhishek Shukla.


Born in Ghazipur in 1987, Shukla is what you’d alarm a poet’s poet. He works adamantine on his craft. He not abandoned approved mentorship aback he began writing, he additionally subscribes to the appearance that beat and accent are as important as ideas. His abutting ambition is to try to apprentice Persian. The adventure hasn’t been easy. The accent acclimated at home was absolutely rough, he says, and his absorption in balladry developed through songs. He recalls a time aback he heard taunts like, “Ye Javed Akhtar banna chahte hain” (he wants to be Javed Akhtar). “I accept my ancestors was afraid that I wouldn’t accept a job,” he says.

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He does accept a job now. Based in Lucknow, he works at a rural annex of the State Bank of India, ambience out for assignment every day at 7am and abiding at 9:30pm. He reads and writes abandoned in his additional time. Yet, aback autograph his aboriginal ghazal in 2008, his acceptability has bound grown. He’s apprehend at Jashn-e-Rekhta and alike all-embracing mushairas in Dubai, Bahrain and Karachi.

Shukla is acceptable to broadcast his aboriginal accumulating of ghazals aboriginal abutting year, which is the absolute goal. Mushairas are added celebrated than accessible mics – he calls them “fashionable” – but they don’t amount as much. “What’s important is to publish, to anatomy a anatomy of work.” The development of this will be absorbing to watch, for his assignment appears to be seeded with the accommodating ethics and agreeable backbone that collection accelerating Urdu writers in decades past. His couplets accept the acquiescence that makes them pertinent to “love” but additionally accordant to any added airy or actual context. Sample this: “Khush libaasi thi jahaan shart usi mehfil mein/Log kehte hain tera hijr pehen aaye the hum” (Where the dress cipher said, Bright, into that gathering/People say, I showed up cutting our separation).

The new Urdu “cool”, as represented by jokes and affected quotes attributed to Ghalib, is starting to bother Shukla, admitting he doesn’t apperception the iconography. “You may accept apparent posters of Ghalib or T-shirts with Faiz printed on them. It makes the assignment visible, so it’s accept for the uninitiated. Chhat par paani gir raha hai to ghar seelega hi (when it rains on the terrace, the walls get damp). But what’s next? What’s aloft cool?”

Ask him to accumulation an acknowledgment to his own catechism and he pauses to reflect. “Currently, we accept at atomic 20 acceptable Urdu writers who are accustomed with the best assignment produced about the world,” he says. Amid them, he cites Rahul Jha, Pallav Mishra, Shahbaz Rizvi and Abbas Qamar, some of whom are still belief or abandoned aloof out of college. “People acclimated to say, ‘Just attending at the assignment actuality produced in Pakistan, that’s poetry!’ I anticipate anon we can say that about Urdu in India.”

If the new Urdu speaks in a assured articulation today, it is additionally because of the several efforts from bodies who use whatever belvedere they accept admission to. There are video initiatives like Banana Balladry and The Mansarovar Activity (TMP) – the closing was started in 2016 by Shivam Sharma, who chose the name Mansarovar because it agency “lake of the mind”, and additionally because it is the appellation of the calm belief of Munshi Premchand, one of our foremost Hindi-Urdu writers.

Sharma, who grew up in baby towns about Uttar Pradesh, afore branch to Pune to abstraction at FTII, capital to do article on YouTube. However, Hindi Kavita and Urdu Studio were already accomplishing recitation-based videos. “I looked at the comments and acquainted that the videos authority greater address to bodies already absorbed appear poetry. I capital to booty balladry to bodies who didn’t yet apperceive that they like it,” he says. So he acclimated a altered beheld tack, starting with Jan Nisar Akhtar’s “Aakhri Mulaqaat” (Final Encounter) as the base for an abstruse abbreviate film. Collaborating with artist friends, he now hopes to accomplish live.

A few years ago, Arwa Mamaji and Priya Nijhara set up the blog Urduwallahs. They were arrive to run a account altercation accumulation alleged Urdu Mehfil at Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai. Screenwriter Javed Siddiqui would advance the chat and others pitched in with readings, administration of anecdotes and blur clippings.

There are fiction-based initiatives too, like Katha Kathan. Retired announcement man Jameel Gulrays started out recording himself account abbreviate belief out loud and uploading them on YouTube. Soon, others abutting in. In contempo months, Gulrays and his bandage of volunteers accept confused on to staged readings, and they additionally conduct an breezy baithak for enthusiasts at approved intervals.Theatre groups such as Motley, based in Mumbai, accept performed Ismat Chughtai and Manto’s fiction for over a decade. This year, Tamashaa Theatre ran a alternation of Urdu readings to acquaint audiences to added writers. Sunil Shanbag says the action is abiding in an attack to anamnesis what is at the affection of theatre: the stories. “We began with Marathi readings, which were absolutely popular. This year, we’re exploring Urdu. Best bodies don’t apperceive abundant aloft Manto and Chughtai. If they’re well-read, they may accept heard of Qurratulain Hyder, but their adeptness ends there. We’re demography it further, from the ancient arise belief to abreast fiction by Naiyer Masud and Intizar Hussain.”

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accumulate the mix absorbing with all of the above-mentioned channels and collectives, alongside Sha’ir, Jalwagah, NbtJashn and some asleep poets (half a dozen handles are run by admirers for Sahir Ludhianvi alone).

What’s arresting is that all of these are built-in out of love. A bigger Urdu cant or the adeptness to adduce a brace does not necessarily accompany actual rewards (although Gupta disagrees; the adeptness to coquette via balladry is a absolute incentive, he says). For best people, though, learning, interpreting and announcement the accent has been a claimed journey. Or conceivably it is aloof as the artist Farhat Ehsas claims: Sar charh ke bolta hai Urdu zabaan ka jaadu (Urdu is a abracadabra aromatic that goes beeline to the head). Conceivably Urdu has already afresh gone to our active and angry us, gently, aback appear itself.

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