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Betwixt the Twists & Turns of the Rhymes in Hindi Poetry

Outgoing National International Hindi Association President Swapan Dhairyawan was presented with a token of appreciation and a white shawl by, from left, program emcee Meera Kapur, ICC President Falguni Gandhi, IHA Houston cofounder Sangeeta Pasrija and IHA President Dr. K.D. Upadhya.

Outgoing National International Hindi Association President Swapan Dhairyawan was presented with a token of appreciation and a white shawl by, from left, program emcee Meera Kapur, ICC President Falguni Gandhi, IHA Houston cofounder Sangeeta Pasrija and IHA President Dr. K.D. Upadhya. Photos: Sanjay Sohini, Nik Nikam, and Jawahar Malhotra

By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND: It was two nights before puran mashi – the full moon – and in this crowd of people who had come to listen to Hindi poetry, it was only fitting that dinner be served on the outside deck of Madras Pavilion in Sugar Land, by the edge of the lake and in the bright moonlight on the cool Friday night of December 1. It was enough to have the poet in you come brimming out.

Soon enough, after the gajjar halwa (carrot pudding), twelve poets took turns to caress the ears with soothing sonnets, limericks couplets and verses in Hindi. All of them were local although one – Dr. Nausha Asrar – has a distinctive style of delivery peppered with humorous anecdotes that he has presented in many international mushairas (symposiums). But the one who got the evening going was Houston’s own witty poet, Fateh Ali Chatur, who delivered a hilarious poem on the meeting at a stop light between a street vendor in India and a motorist, which left everyone in stitches.

After the Kavi Sammelan, the Hindi poets and members of the IHA and ICC gathered together.

After the Kavi Sammelan, the Hindi poets and members of the IHA and ICC gathered together.

Together, and with a hall full of admirers, the poets and the organizers of the International Hindi Association’s sixth annual Kavi Sammelan (A Gathering of Poets) held their two hour program. It brings local poets to present their own poems or recite those that they love, in an event held almost entirely in Hindi. It also gives the audience which has been surrounded by English most of their days, to once again be immersed in the predominant language of India, and some strain to catch up with phrases and words that they have long since not used.

The Kavi Sammelan started with dinner on the outdoor deck at Madras Pavilion under a moonlit night.

The Kavi Sammelan started with dinner on the outdoor deck at Madras Pavilion under a moonlit night.

Coordinating and emceeing the event was Meera Kapur, who welcomed the audience in surprisingly complicated Hindi and noted that 35 poets had presented in the six years that the program has been conducted, with 12 alone today. The program kicked off with a song by 12 year-old Eesha Dhairyawan, daughter of IHA Houston Chapter co-founder Swapan Dhairyawan, who sang a lilting Hindi song.

Besides Chatur and Asrar, the other poets who presented their creations were, Saroj Gupta, Dr. Harendra Chahar, Alka Raj, Sangeeta Pasrija, Pravina Kadakia, Sadia Ahmad, Dr. Suresh Moonat, Dr. Sudha Goyal, Dr. Sarita Mehta and Meghna Banerjee. Gupta said she wrote the poem on the return flight from India and Raj, a newcomer to the event, presented four poems.

The India Culture Center has been a partner with the group in promoting its programs, and in fact, many of the ICC’s Directors are also on the Board of the IHA. ICC President Falguni Gandhi spoke of that relationship and IHA President Dr. K.D. Upadhya noted how the dormant organization had been resurrected in 2008 by another co-founder, Sangeeta Pasrija. He spoke of the four programs that the IHA had conducted this year and outlined a few programs upcoming in 2018.

Updahya also noted with regret that Swapan Dhairyawan was retiring from the group – as well as his role as the national president of the IHA – to take on the position of President of the Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, and presented him with a token of appreciation and draped him with a white shawl.

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