The project is a follow up to a research project named "Nazm". The research was on the question, “Does the present image of urdu poetry justify the legacy of urdu poets and their work ?”
"To create an atmosphere of learning and appreciation for Urdu poetry”
"Mehfil" is a card game celebrating the joy of poetry and the fun in writing it. It provides a common platform for all, even for those who do not understand poetry, to come together and create their own jam.
The game consists of cards mainly of two types, first lines of poetry (red cards) and second/following lines (yellow cards).
The game can be played among 3-6 people.
Everyone gets 4 yellow cards at the start of the game.
The person next (clockwise) to the one who dealt cards will pick a red card from the red cards deck and read the first line for everyone, then put that card face up in the middle.
Everyone sees which card among 4 in their hand fits with the red card and plays them face down in front of them.
After everyone plays, they read the couplets they made with the red card.
Everyone votes for the best couplet made, but they can't vote for their own. The person with the most votes wins the round and gets 1 point.
There are blank yellow cards also; if you get one you can write your own line and play. If you win that round you get 2 points.
You can use your points to swap a yellow card you don't like among your 4.
The lines written in all cards have ‘radeef’ and ‘qaafiya’ at the end of the lines. ‘Radeef’ is the last word of the line and ‘qaafiya’ is the word preceding radeef, in a sher.
In order to make a sher you have to match the radeef in red card to the radeef in the yellow cards with you, otherwise you form lines of Nazm.
If you match radeef as well as qaafiya with the red card line then you make a ‘Misra’, which is a sher that starts a ‘ghazal’. The game then provides you a chance to progress on your ghazal in subsequent rounds.
The outcome of the first prototype was as it was intended. People started talking about how to make better poetry, the design of cards and understanding Urdu in the game. It gave a push to the second version of the prototype. The experience so far received regarding the game has been great.
The intent of this project is to create an atmosphere where people appreciate the true art of urdu poetry. Seeing the current state of urdu poetry and image of shayari, the intent is to draw attention of the players towards the true form of it and create the right image.
FINDINGS AND LEARNING
The project started by asking why people do not want to spend time learning about urdu poetry. The answers were many, the language barrier being the most evident. The propagation of this form is also hindered because of the efforts one has to put in the process of learning.
I was curious to know how many people enjoy this art form and contrary to the fact of its difficulty to understand, the liking for the urdu poetry was significant.
The question came: what is stopping people from diving in this sea of joy? Lack of platforms for discussion, recognition of upcoming works, no profits for propagators and plagiarism on social platforms.
There are people (mostly scholars, curators, teachers) who try to be in connection with the poetry platforms and slowly learn the art. The problem is that there is no unified force working for the cause. There is a big name Rekhta, but the art form still lacks representation on common platforms. The beauty of the urdu poetry is not just listening to or reading them but also to recreate the magic in your own way; so there must be awareness about this among all.
I believed people were unaware of the grammar and the original form, which was a misconception. As I said, there are people who try to learn at their own pace but the number is really low. So I tried to look at the issue with a different perspective. My approach changed and I recognised the real issue which was the lack of discussion on the topic rather than the lack of appreciation of art. The product which was first intended to teach the art was then changed to propagate it.
INSIGHTS AND INSPIRATIONS
I took insights from different global initiatives for language propagation and other cultural activities like the literary festivals in India. I followed the work of rekhta in India and neighbouring nations. The initiatives by rekhta and how they work. I also tried to understand the influence of the current form of poetries by following influencers like Rupi Kaur.
The major influence on my projects Nazm and Mehfil is Mirza Ghalib. His work and the way he dealt with the environment he lived in. The way of depicting the stories through his poetries captures the essence of everyday life in very easy words. The visionary Gulzar Sahab whose books of ghazals and poems are my textbooks of poetry, has also been an inspiration for Mehfil. Even my poetry has a bit of influence from both of these legends.
The game currently focuses on Shers. In future I would like to introduce mechanics to make it inclusive where one can create other forms of poetry too such as Nazm and Gazhal. There will also be an addition of action cards where you can play more with your creations.
There is also a possibility of bringing this up in a digital form.