India Today


- —Mohammad Waqas

Delhi’s Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium turned into a melting pot of Indian culture and literature over three days, December 13 to 15. Baitbaazi (antakshari), humour poetry, Sufi music, literary discourses, book and calligraph­y stalls, regional food—the annual Jashn-e-Rekhta festival left the crowds spellbound.

In the midst of the action stood the host, industrial­ist Sanjiv Saraf, whose Polyplex Corporatio­n manufactur­es plastic and polyester films in India, US, Thailand and Turkey. Saraf ’s other business interest is hydropower, with operations in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhan­d. “I stopped talking about business seven years ago. Now, I do nothing but Rekhta,” says Saraf, an avid Urdu poetry lover who has deployed profession­als to run his businesses so that he “never needs to interfere” there. Now, he dedicates all this energy to promoting language and literature.

Nagpur-born and an IITian, Saraf launched the Rekhta Foundation in 2012, as a common platform for promoting literary works. The inspiratio­n, he says, was the lack of reliable additional material on Urdu literary works. Later, he started a highly popular website with the same name (www.rekhta. org), expanding it into a repository of sorts of the works of 40-50 Urdu poets (these are available in Urdu, Devanagari and Roman scripts). Today, the website hosts the works of 4,455 poets from all over the world, 41,017 ghazals, 7,852 nazms, 26,414 couplets, 76,398 e-books, 6,836 videos and 2,127 audio files. The foundation also publishes books and poetry collection­s. Rekhta’s two-member debut team has grown into a 100-strong group.

Saraf is much against translatio­n from Urdu. “To translate means to separate the soul from the body,” he says, though his book Nava-e Sarosh: Voices from Beyond released at the Jashn-e-Rekhta fest to rave reviews. The anthology carries English transcreat­ions by Saraf of 65 ghazals by 10 Urdu classic poets from Delhi. The Rekhta Foundation’s online offerings include ‘Aamozish’, for learning basic Urdu, and ‘Sufinama’, a Sufi poetry aggregator. Among the upcoming projects are a collection of the works of Hindi poets and litterateu­rs through the website ‘Hindvi’, a dictionary of Hindi-Urdu and a book on qawwali.

Jashn-e-Rekhta began with a bang in 2015, drawing some 18,000 attendees. It was attended by 150,000 people in 2018 and an estimated 200,000 this year. It has become one of the Delhi’s most awaited cultural events. This time, the festival was dedicated to Guru Nanak and Mirza Ghalib. ■


Sanjiv Saraf at the Rekhta Foundation office
PATRON OF LITERATURE Sanjiv Saraf at the Rekhta Foundation office
 ?? Photograph by BANDEEP SINGH ??
Photograph by BANDEEP SINGH

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