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This footpath has put many a poet on the road to fame

Ahmedabad Newsline ( — October 29, 2003
by Ayesha Khan

Vadodara, October 28: IT is the most unlikely literary haunts, but a small footpath corner right opposite Nyayamandir tucked amid bustling shops has been the literary connoisseur’s delight for more than eight decades. Famous as shayaro ka adda, this footpath since forties has been the muse of almost every leading Urdu litterateur in the city.

And even the likes of Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Nida Fazli have had an evening cuppa while ruminating over nuances of Urdu poetry during their visit to the city.

It is surrounded by a roadside restaurant, hosiery shops, chaotic traffic Nyaymandir road, cacophony of hawkers and roadside vendors. This unbroken evening nashist (meet) has been going on since the forties when a wide open ground existed instead of Padmavati Shopping Centre opposite Nyaymandir, just besides Khajuri Masjid and Dabhoiwala Hotel.

‘‘In those days leading reformer Ruknuddin Qadri, poets like Mohammed Ali Aasi and Afsar Maududi would meet here,’’ remembers a poet, Aftab Khan.

Regulars assemble here at 7 pm everyday and on the grimy steps of Padmavati Shopping Centre they arrange assortment of plastic stools that are borrowed from various shops. As mood for shayri sets in these literary enthusiasts sip on shayaro wali chai ordered from from nearby Lari Lappa Restaurant.

There are no rules, no agendas, no resolutions but unbridled freedom of expression here. ‘‘This is one place where we can discuss and speak freely under the open sky’’ said Khalil Dhantejvi, a poet known for his equal ease with Urdu as well as Gujarati poetry.

For Mumtaz Badodavi this place is reminiscent of literary greats like Aziz Kadri, Sharar Kadri and his father Khalish Badodavi. ‘‘There is something about this place. We get lost and nothing intrudes us,’’ said Mumtaz.

On Friday night, the discussion veers toward issue-based poetry and like any other evening continues for more than couple of hours. Participants are unfettered by mutton samosas sizzling in a pan nearby, noise of customers haggling with roadside vendors, blaring noise of traffic at Lehripura Gate and the muezzins’ call at Khajuri Masjid.

The late owner of New Ahmadi Restaurant Masoom Badodavi was a famous Urdu poet. He is credited with making this place a vibrant literary joint. ‘‘Everyone is welcome here. This is a daily routine and anyone who wants to meet us just comes here in evening,’’ said Siddiqui.

Patrons of this bohemian haunt have been offered better alternatives. Many offers from Walled city area for comfortable roomy settings have been turned down. ‘‘We got many offers but our preference is this open space under the sky. This freedom is not possible elsewhere,’’ explained Siddiqui.

Nothing dissuades regulars from visiting the haunt except a kind request by shopkeepers during difficult times. Syed Ali Nadeem, a lecturer in M S University, prefers this noisy setting to the quiet environs for intellectual stimulation in the evenings. Describing the lure for the haunt with a couplet of Sharar, another poet who was a regular here, he said: Shahar ki footpatho par chalna dekho kitna mushkil hain, Sholo se bach bachkar chalna kitna mushkil hain.

Dhantejvi remembers his whimsy proposal to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation way back in mid-sixties, for a place atop the present day bus-stand. ‘‘I had written a letter to VMC asking for a small place above the bus-stand. The commissioner invited me to talk about it, though we both knew it would never work out,’’ he said.

For lawyers, doctors, Gujarati and Urdu poets, government employees, journalists, social workers — all bound by a common love of Urdu poetry and literary discussion — the couple of evening hours on this footpath corner are most fulfilling.

The only improvement they seek in their meeting place is couple of stone benches to replace their makeshift seating arrangement. ‘‘We just want the benches with an inscription kaviyo mate (for poets), we don’t want anything more,’’ said Nadeem.

The articles published here are the property of the respective newspapers and journals. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and Mehfil-e-Mushaira does not endorse or refute the contents of the posted articles.


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