NEW DELHI: A young aspiring classical singer, learning music under the tutelage of Pandit Amarnath, just graduated from Hindu College of Delhi University. To gain knowledge of nuances of Urdu, she enrolled in a one year certificate course being run by the Urdu Academy Delhi in 1985-86. The basic language training programme enabled her to translate a collection of Urdu poetry of Gulzar. Today, we know her as Rekha Bhardwaj, the popular playback singer.
Urdu academy, completing 40 years of its existence, has not only helped thousands of Urdu enthusiasts since inception but successfully busted the popular belief that the language belongs to a community. The long-list of its noted alumni includes bureaucrats, professionals, artistes, students and language aficionados are from diverse ethnic and religious groups. Majority of the toppers and distinction holders are non-Muslims.
“Urdu script would fascinate me as my father, who was working at the government press at Minto Road, knew the language because he had studied in Urdu medium. Our family spoke Hindawi. Then, I started singing ghazals, I decided to learn Urdu. The course has immensely helped me to read compositions written by Hazrat Inayat Khan sahab,” said Bhardwaj.
Well-known singer and composer Sudeep Banerji is also a distinguished alumni of the nondescript institution.
“My Ustad (mentor) Shanti Hiranand, who was senior most disciple of doyen of ghazals Begum Akhtar, suggested that I learn Urdu, which exposed me to vast treasure troves and poetry of great writers. I had access to limited literary work; Hindu translation of original poetry but after the course, my reach extended,” said Banerji, who is from the 1989-90 batch.
Recalling 40-years-long glorious journey of the academy, its officials said that the high-point of the course is students, who come from different fields and backgrounds.
“Chief electoral officer (CEO) of Delhi Ranbir Singh enrolled in the course in 2019. He would diligently attend classes every day at Kashmere Gate centre. He was topper of the batch. A senior section engineer with Northern Railway Ashwini Kumar was also one of the top performers in 2018-19,” said an official.
Interestingly, several students are first generation Urdu learners. Some join due to professional obligations but others take up the course as they are influenced by the Urdu writings.
“No one knows how to read or write the language in my family. As a student of theatre, I have a deep interest in poetry. I have also started learning Urdu calligraphy,” said Neha Rawat from 2018-19, who stood third in the exam, and is now pursuing masters in theatre from Bhopal.
The academy was formed in 1981 and launched language course in 1983-84. To promote and spread the reach of Urdu, it established 10 language learning centres across the city. Though, only seven centres are functional at present. It couldn’t start the 2020-21 batch due to the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.
“We managed to complete the syllabus for the last batch (2019-20) with the help of the instructors. They took initiative and conducted online classes. The exam was held in October. Because of the pandemic, the students have not been handed over their certificate yet because the toppers are felicitated at a function. The certificates have been prepared and signed. We are waiting if the situation permits, convocation may be planned,” said a government official, privy to the functioning of the academy.