By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, Nov 11 : While the last few years have witnessed a dramatic increase in the activities organised by the Ghalib Institute to acquaint the younger generation with the great poet — papers, lectures, the Urdu Drama Festival and inviting students from schools, colleges and universities; the pandemic seems to have increased the reach of the poet Mirza Ghalib — all thanks to specially structured programming for the web and social media by the institute.
“Our physical programmes would generally witness an attendance of 200-300 people, now the audience members have increased to more than 15,000 from across the world for our specially curated web-based programming conceived during the lockdown. In fact, we plan to carry on digital activities including lectures, dramas and storytelling sessions through social media platforms and our own YouTube channel and website even after Covid-19 becomes a thing of the past,” says Dr. Syed Raza Haider, Director of the Ghalib Institute in New Delhi.
Credited for metamorphosing the institute by making it more ‘accessible’ and bringing it closer to people, and not just research scholars and experts in Urdu, Dr. Haider, who for the past several years has been reaching out to educational institutes and artists to ascertain that the institute does not function in isolation says, “Culture is always a great unifier, precisely why we pay a lot of attention to that wing which also encompasses the Humsab Drama Group. Thanks to the plays that have been happening here, we have also become part of Delhi’s huge theatre community. Not to mention the many ‘kavi sammelans’ and ‘mushairas’ we have been hosting at regular intervals. “
The institute, which enjoyed much popularity among poets like Majrooh Sultanpuri and Amrita Pritam among others came into being in 1969, on the eve of Ghalib’s 100th death anniversary and boasts of more than 500 rare manuscripts including original letters by the poet at its historic Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Library.
Stressing that Ghalib holds a very special place in the literary ecosystem and his popularity is not limited to a particular class but cuts across all barriers, the director adds, “In the past few years, we have been witnessing youngsters not just reading him, but also debating and trying to understand the different layers of his verse. I have noticed that during the Delhi Book Fair and International Book Fair, there has been an increase in the number of people wanting to read him in different languages including Hindi, Urdu and English.”
Adding that while he has been missing organising physical programmes, Dr. Haider says that this time is being utilized to compose several new books on the poet besides pushing research. “Besides web-based activity, our printing division has been exceptionally active during this period. We aim to come out with many new offerings soon.”