The Week’s Cilla Khatry had an exclusive view of the 3rd episode of Nepali: A TV Blog, a television series about the broader scopes of Nepali identity, and how our diverse identities connect us as Nepalis.
A preview: At the center of Nepal’s mid-western region, Nepalgunj is the biggest city in the Banke District where, according to the 2001 census, 28% of the population is Muslim.
This perhaps explains why Hindi is spoken more often than Nepali in this particular region. Though quite famous as a business and tourism hub, a lesser known fact about the city is that the Muslim community holds poetry recitation sessions where a group of locals recite shayaris in Urdu and sometimes even in Nepali.
“Poetry connects people,” says Abdul Kaiyum Kadari who recites his works at these sessions. His works are mostly in Urdu while another poet, Hari Timsina, recites poems in Nepali.
The select few words that one can understand in the Urdu shayaris and the rhythm in which they recite it make these poetry recitation sessions a wonderful delight. These sessions see people of all ages gathering to share their works or just sit back and appreciate the wordplay.
Haji Abdul Latif Shouk, who has been a part of these musharaya sessions for over 35 years, shares his views on poetry and how anyone can learn to write shayaris. He believes, though poetry is first and foremost about expressing your feelings, it is equally about language and grammar.
“Poetry is all about feelings and no one can teach you that. But language and grammar can be taught.
Once you know a language properly, it’s not very difficult to get into poetry,” says Shouk, adding that the poets sometimes fund poetry recitation sessions themselves to keep their Urdu language alive.
Their love for their language and homeland – Nepal is expressed in some poems – and it is these particular poems that receive much appreciation and extremely loud applauses during the recitation sessions.
Nepalgunj is home to Prem Prakash Malla who not only sings but also composes his own music and writes his own lyrics, as well as folk singers such as Kanaiya Singh Pariyar, Shankar BC, and Sindhu Malla.
Besides these well-known names, there are a few local poets who are quite popular in Nepalgunj and people throng to hear them recite their works. Mustafa Ahsaan Qureshi and Abdul Kaiyum Kadari are two names that people are familiar with in the city.
But it is not just these men who perform during the recitation sessions, as these sessions are a platform for anyone wanting to showcase their talents.
Even a young girl who sings out her shayari receives much applause, as the crowd listening to her grows more enthusiastic with each passing line.
The love for poetry is mainly what connects the residents of this diverse city. As Kadari said, it is their shayaris that give them a unique identity while simultaneously linking them all with one another.
Nepali – A TV Blog airs on Avenues TV every Saturday at 8:30 am and on Sundays at 9:30 pm.
The series hosted by Yubakar and directed by Tsering Choden will also be available on YouTube <youtube.com/user/nepalitvblog>