ROCKVILLE, MD.—More than 400 Indian and South Asian American connoisseurs and aficionados of Urdu poetry from across the country, flocked to the 45th Annual International Mushaira on Nov. 16 at the Radisson Hotel in Rockville, Md., organized by the Aligarh Alumni Association of D.C. (AAA-DC) featuring Javed Akhtar, to pay tribute to the legendary late poet Kaifi Azmi on his birth centenary.
The Mushaira opened with Akhtar discussing the life and legacy of the iconic poet, enlivening it with anecdotes based on his first-hand knowledge and interactions with Azmi. He then went on to recite a portion of his long nazm that described the various aspects of Azmi and explained that Azmi’s philosophy of life and his actions were in sync.
Akhtar, a legendary poet and a lyricist himself, who was also an erstwhile member of Parliament, said Azmi practiced what he preached as were manifested in several of his poems, including his famous ‘Vo Kamra Yaad Aata hai.’
This was followed by a number of poets regaling the audience, and they included, Ambareen H. Amber from Pakistan, Aalok Shrivastava — who, like Akhtar had also traveled from India for the event — and popular poets including, Humaira Rahman, Sabiha Saba, Parvin Shere, Qaiser Abbas, Dr. Razi Raziuddin, Mohammad Jaweed, and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.
While Akhtar has been a regular presence at the AAA-DC Mushairas, Srivastava and Ambar were making their debut, and were also well received, especially Srivastava’s brand of humorous poetry that had the audience in stitches.
As in decades past, Dr. Abdullah, who has over the years polished and mastered the art of piloting these literary gatherings with great dexterity, conducted the Mushaira, and his introductions of individual poets showcased a delightful fusion of wit and knowledge.
Professor Tariq Mansoor, vice-chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), introduced by local entrepreneur and community activist Suhail Farooqui, was the chief guest.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal, one of the stalwarts of AAA-DC, told India Abroad that “every year, the AAA-DC hosts the Sir Syed Day lecture and dinner to honor the historic contributions of the founder of AMU and for his contributions of lifting the morale of Indian Muslims and pushing them to acquire modern, secular education in order to succeed in the new order unfolding at that time.”
He said that each year, “The Association invites a prominent scholar from the realm of academia, journalism or politics to talk about some aspects of Sir Syed’s mission as applicable today, and this year, it was our pleasure to invite Prof.Tariq Mansoor to be the keynote speaker at the event,” which followed the Mushaira.
While Mohsin Khan, Secretary AAA-DC, served as the compere for the Mushaira, Afzal Usmani served as the emcee for the evening, while Dr. Razi Raziuddin, the current president, welcomed the guests and poets and a AAA-DC team led Masood Farshori sang the AMU Tarana (anthem) with the hundreds of alumni joining in with great passion and zeal, as has been the tradition during these events.
The vote of thanks was delivered by Frank Islam, the noted D.C. area entrepreneur and philanthropist, who has continued to be one of AMU’s leading benefactors, donating several million dollars to his alma mater for the construction of buildings for specific areas of study.