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As we bid farewell to the 143-year-old tradition of telegraphs in India, which was the only means of brisk communication back in the day, we at Urduwallahs thought it would be appropriate to discuss letter writing at the Mehfil to relive the nostalgia.

Letter writing has been an important part of documentation; through letters we have not only unearthed the style of language used by people in a particular period in history but also it has unbolted relationships and feelings. Letter writing in Urdu has formed a strong body of interesting prose in a language that is otherwise known for its poetic finesse.

At Mehfil we wanted discover and delve into the lives of people through their letters and so we commenced the evening with Javed Siddiqui Saab giving a brief history of Urdu letter writing. Our panel consisted of Shama Zaidi (Apa), Lubna Salim, Sadiya Siddiqui and Suhail Warsi.

Once Javed Saab gave the audience a brief history on letter writing, we played an audio clip of Ghalib’s letters in actor Zia Moyeddin’s voice. Zia Moyeddin’s pitch helped to elevate the content of Ghalib’s letters and the audience seemed to appreciate it.  This was followed Sadiya Siddiqui reading Manto’s letters to his friend Nadeem Kazmi.

We continued the evening with a visual clip from the film Mughal-e-Azam, in which Dilip Kumar expresses his love to Madhubala through a letter. This was followed by Suhail Warsi, who flawlessly read a letter of Mulana Azad, which he wrote in prison. These letters, which talk about the seemingly mundane life in a prison, aid the reader and the listener to get an inkling not only into the life of the man about also the history.

We had a short interval and restarted with Shama Apa reading the letters from a book, which is a collection of letters called “ Leila kay Khutoot, Majnu ki Diary”. Javed Saab mentioned that it was in fact this book, which was his inspiration for the famous play written by him called “ Tumhari Amrita”. Lubna Salim read a few letters from the play to give the audience an interesting flavour.

Many more letters were read such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz’ letters which he wrote to his wife while he was in prison, Safiya Akhtar’s letters which she wrote to her husband poet Jan Nisar Akhtar in a book called Zer-e-lab and to accompany these recitation we played film songs and scenes which are associated with letter writing such as the scene from the film Pakeezah (link attached: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h8uOCMkfts

) and the song from the film Blackmail (Link attached: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMuRRXCuy-4)

 After a two-hour session down memory lane the audience dispersed

We Recommend:

Watch: Scene from Mughal-e-Azam:

Listen: Ghalib’s Letters by Zia Moyeddin : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seF94-pC7Qs

Read: Some of Manto’s letters are available in a book called “ Bitter fruit”

Unfortunately most of what was read in the Mehfil does not have English translations but here is a small book list if you read Urdu.

1.Leila key Khutoot Manu Ki Diary

2.Zer –e-lab – Safiya Akhtar’s letters to her husband poet Jan Nisar Akhtar

3.Ghubaar-e-khaatir – Mulana Azad’s Letters