The remarkable Delhi instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It was time for poet Gulzar Dehlvi, who was seated on the stage, to perform his duty.
One evening The Delhi Walla was at the Ghalib Academy in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. A mushaira, or a meeting of Urdu poets, was about to began, in which the poets were to read out their poems on the stage. A number of Delhi's eminent verse writers were present; they included Iqbal Firdausi, Munir Hamdam, Rauf Raza and Javed Niyazi. Each had a badge pinned on the chest, which said ‘Poet’. The two women poets of the evening were Iffat Zarreen and Shabnam Siddiqui.
A giant wax candle was placed in front of the stage. In the old times when there was no electricity, and hence no mike, Delhi’s nighttime poetry meets--and they almost always took place during the nights—were held in the glow of a solitary candle. The room remained immersed in darkness, while a flickering lamp was placed beside the poet whose turn it was to read from his works.
The auditorium inside the Ghalib Academy, however, glowed in white light. There was also a podium and a mike. But the tradition demanded the candle to burn continuously over the course of the evening. The venerable poet Gulzar Dehlvi was given the honor to ignite the flame. He got up and lit the candle with a cigarette lighter. This was a signal to get on with the evening’s task. The audience cheered. It was a beautiful moment.
The flame of Delhi Poetry