To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi – “I am proud of the fact that Urdu is a language born in India and belongs to India”. Nearly 70 percent of its vocabulary is from the Indian subcontinent, as well as the grammar and syntax. Anyone who understands or speaks Hindi is most likely understand and speak Urdu.
Urdu is erroneously, yet commonly, considered a “foreign” language. For many years, the script has languished and the language, in spite of its richness, was fading from public consciousness, and were it not for our film industry, would probably have become a mere relic.
For the Love of Urdu
I can wax endlessly on how Urdu touches the heart and mind of anyone who comes in contact with it, how it lends itself to more art forms than any other language, be it literature, music, films, art, theatre, dance, oral storytelling etc. How Urdu is not merely a language but an entire culture unto itself: Sophisticated, sweet, sibilant, evocative, lyrical and timeless.
It is this beauty that has endured through tumultuous ages and kept Urdu alive in the hearts of its devotees.
Hindustani, as we know it colloquially, spread across our great country from Kashmir to Mysore, from Punjab to Bihar. It is a part of most of our lives – the Indian penal code, land records, and even parliament proceedings.
Unfortunately, a language which was the language of the masses gradually faded into the oblivion of our own making. There has been no substantive or effective engagement for its preservation and increased accessibility. Rekhta Foundation was born out of the simple thought of making gems of Urdu poetry available to those not conversant with the Urdu script.
We took the language to the people with Rekhta.org – world’s largest online repository for Urdu poetry and literature free, with content available in Persian, Devanagari and Roman. With over 25,000 Ghazals and Nazms by over 2,600 poets over the last few centuries, it garners a readership of over 18 million visitors annually from across the globe.
Preserving this wondrous language, our Project of e-books has over 28,000 books, with 1,000 e-books being added every month to its repository. We are currently scanning and digitising books, periodicals and manuscripts kept at 13 libraries across the country.
We aim to educate and enable people read and write the Urdu script and gain access to the world of incredible Urdu literature and poetry in its original script for which an online Urdu portal called Aamozish has been launched. Aamozish is a fresh new way to learn Urdu.
With its customised lessons by experts, combined with audios, videos, alphabets and text animations along with their proper pronunciations, the online course is an unconventional yet scientific approach to help you master reading Urdu. Mobile-friendly, the course is a pioneer in online Urdu learning. Already 10,000 registered users are benefitting from this website every day.
Rekhta Foundation organises various one-off events from time to time to build awareness, as well as appreciation for the Urdu literature and culture amongst the youth and the uninitiated, Jashn-e-Rekhta being the marquee festival held every year.
Never had I imagined that there was such a tremendous latent appetite for this beautiful language. The project acquired a life of its own, and we became mere passengers riding a tiger which kept taking us in new directions.
Technology to Preserve Culture
We at Rekhta have used the two most important tools available to us to preserve and make the language accessible: the internet and technology. Our e-books digitisation project is ever growing and requires investment for IT infrastructure. With printers of the language running in thousands in the subcontinent, there is huge scope for aggregation and digital intervention to provide a unified market for both buyers and sellers.
My fellow countrymen are doing their part in various domains, and we at Rekhta are doing ours. We need people, to engage, collaborate with us, and more importantly, open your hearts and mind to the idea that is Rekhta. We have reached this far because we have had patrons like you believing in Rekhta. A hope that we can do our part in a way which reconciles the hopes of each with the good of all. I believe it’s a hope worth hoping and a conversation worth having.
Every year we celebrate Jashn-e-Rekhta, our flagship festival, in Delhi. This year, the dates are 8, 9 and 10 December. I invite all of you to the Jashn: Come partake the festivities and get a first hand immersive experience of URDU.
(Sanjiv Saraf is the founder, Chairman and principal shareholder of Polyplex Corporation Limited, which is among the world’s largest producers of PET films. Sanjiv is a voracious reader; passionate about Urdu poetry and has recently learnt the language. He is a lover of art and music.)