September 26, 2020

Rekhta: From Amir Khusrau to Mirza Ghalib, Sanjiv Saraf’s initiative is saving India’s Urdu heritage, one e-book at a time – artwork and tradition

Priceless items of Urdu poetry and books on artwork, literature and historical past confined to darkish corners of personal properties and public libraries have discovered a brand new residence – all 1,00,000 of them digitised and able to entry for college kids, researchers and bibliophiles.

  The world’s largest repository of Urdu books is the brainchild of Sanjiv Saraf, the person behind India’s first and largest Urdu pageant Jashn-e-Rekhta, who took it upon himself to gather and digitise books that have been in any other case destined to be misplaced ceaselessly within the ruins of time.

  Childhood reminiscences of listening to ghazals on vinyl information kindled love for the language. After which, as he grew up, the robust urge to learn the masters of Urdu poetry within the authentic script impressed Saraf to start out studying the ‘rasm ul-khat’ (Urdu script).

  However to his dismay there have been nearly no sources obtainable on the web, Saraf informed PTI. That was eight years in the past.   The mission that started in 2012 with the love for Urdu poetry culminated in July with the Rekhta Basis digitising a colossal 1,00,000 books.

Saraf, who is predicated in Delhi and comes from a enterprise family of Rajasthani origin, did all that was anticipated of an heir-apparent – he did his education from the Scindia College in Gwalior, graduated from IIT Kharagpur in 1980, joined the family enterprise in 1984, and later established Polyplex Company, a multinational enterprise in polyester movies.  However the previous love of listening to ghazals, courtesy his father’s fondness for Urdu ‘shayari’, tugged at him.

“Later, when enterprise received established and was rising nicely, I stepped again from enterprise to deal with studying Urdu. Within the course of, I realised there wasn’t sufficient content material or sources obtainable on the Web and what was obtainable was incomplete, non credible and largely in Urdu script. The youthful technology, interested in the eloquence, magnificence and flexibility of the language had no straightforward recourse,” Saraf mentioned in an e-mail interview.

The initiative started small and shortly mushroomed into a large challenge that lined not simply uncommon books but in addition all different varieties, together with latest books, manuscripts and periodicals that have been digitised with the goal of preserving them for posterity.  Groups of enthusiastic volunteers have been despatched to private and non-private libraries everywhere in the nation to search for books and located total Urdu collections mendacity forgotten and infrequently uncared for.

“…as we progressed and as college students, students and others began benefitting by means of e-books, whether or not for examine, analysis or easy studying, we began receiving a welcoming response from the libraries/people that we contacted, they usually began coming ahead to share their holdings,” mentioned the businessman-turned-Urdu connoisseur.

Terming the initiative “extraordinary”, Urdu scholar C M Naim mentioned he used the web site ( nearly each day for one cause or one other.  “I frequently test to see what’s new. I’m positive the identical is completed by many fans of Urdu, in academia or exterior, internationally. I’ve not too long ago been engaged on crime fiction in Urdu, and was blissful to see that the Rekhta archive has managed to discover a truthful variety of these in any other case onerous to seek out books,” Naim mentioned.

He added that whereas Rekhta wasn’t the primary to take up this initiative, it was the one to do it with respect to previous books and journals.

Naim, professor emeritus on the College of Chicago, remembered Carnegie Mellon’s 2007 Million Guide challenge which additionally lined Hyderabad and mentioned, “Regretfully, it was executed in a legal vogue.”  “…they freely unbound books as a way to scan the pages after which paid little consideration to their being rebound correctly. The Rekhta challenge was respectful of the fabric, and used solely essentially the most applicable methods to realize their objective. It made their progress sluggish however in addition they didn’t depart behind a whole bunch of unbound Urdu books mendacity on the ground as I noticed in Hyderabad,” Naim recalled.

A devoted staff of 53 members works on the ebooks challenge — 30 high-end machines in 16 libraries throughout the nation scan and add 2,500 books a month to the digital assortment.

This distinctive e-library includes books on science, arts, faith, historical past in its completely different genres, literary journals issued by varied establishments and organisations, aside from modern books, and classical books that may be searched and sorted by style, interval and creator.  The gathering, working into almost 19 million pages, consists of the misplaced treasures of Munshi Naval Kishore Press, the whole works of classical poets Mir Taqi Mir and Mirza Ghalib, all 46 volumes of Persian epic “Daastan-e-Amir Hamza”, the works of 11th century Persian thinker Imam Mohammad Ghazali, and 13th century Sufi poet Amir Khusrau in addition to the works of obscure poets and students.  “If one desires to learn the whole 19 million-page Rekhta stack – with out blinking and at a statistical 65 pages an hour charge – it will take 33 years and 36 days!” Saraf mentioned. Over 25,000 folks go to the e-book part on the Rekhta Basis web site each day, he mentioned.

 “It could be ultimate if there may very well be a public-private coordinated effort and cooperation for digitisation of our literary heritage. Nevertheless, that is simpler mentioned than executed. There are a lot of companies concerned and getting everybody on the identical web page is a herculean effort,” he mentioned.

In 2015, the Rekhta Basis began Jashn-e-Rekhta, a pageant of the letters and the humanities to popularise Urdu. In 2017, it launched Aamozish, an e-learning platform, the place over 60,000 folks have learnt the language until date.

The Rekhta Basis additionally launched Sufinama, a web based assortment of Sufi poetry, in 2019 and Hindwi, an internet site devoted to Hindi literature, in July this yr.  Primarily funded by means of Polyplex Company Ltd’s CSR commitments and Saraf’s private funds, Rekhta Basis additionally receives donations from companies and mates of Rekhta.  “Nevertheless, to be sustainable within the coming years, Rekhta Basis has been engaged on fashions which can make itself self-sustaining by means of content material syndication providers, e-book gross sales throu gh its market and host of different self-sustaining fashions with out impacting customers and their engagement with Rekhta platforms,” Saraf added.

(This story has been printed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content. Solely the headline has been modified.)

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