Hindi Poetry, Songs of Love Serenade IHA/ICC Valentine’s Party
By Jawahar Malhotra
HOUSTON: IHA/ICC: Sometimes it’s hard to tell the two groups apart as many of their board members are the same and they seem to have a jolly good time working together, whichever the venue. It’s a seamless fit and if there’s any friction, the cheerful interaction of a few key individuals seems to brush it away.
If you add a Valentine’s Day party tagged “Sham-e-Ghazal” to it, the lovefest between the Boards knows no bounds!!
So it was this past Friday evening, February 10 when the International Hindi Association and the India Culture Center got together for the first-ever Valentine’s eve party at India House on West Bellfort. There was a back room for couples to have their Valentine’s picture taken by Raghu Thakkar (they got a copy just before they left) and libations (both soft and strong) and food aplenty. Madras Pavilion’s Mahesh Shah (who has supported the IHA and ICC for the past 7 years) made sure that the snacks and dinner items were in good supply and the gajjar halwa (carrot pudding) vanished as quickly as it was put out. He had to call his restaurant for more!!
Though a collaboration, the event marked another step forward for the IHA Houston Chapter to re-ignite the public’s engagement with their matra bhasa – mother tongue – which has fallen into disuse over the many years in an Anglophone culture. The IHA’s magazine Vishwa, completely in Hindi, was at every one of the 25 tables that were spread out across the main banquet hall. Even while on vacation in India, Darshak Thakkar made sure to have someone to setup and handle the sound system and Gautam Jani, in his last stint before himself going to visit India, took video for the evening.
And the true champion of the night was Hindi itself, as spoken in all its intricacies and subtleties with a degree of difficulty that had many searching for their online dictionaries! Among the familiar supporters were many who seldom have attended a Hindi mela, but they too were surprised at their immersion and enjoyment of the language.
Sangeeta Pasrija, IHA National Director, and Swapan Dhairyawan, IHA National President opened up the evening with background of the IHA and concept for the event. Recognizing the vernacular, Dhairyawan noted the contributions of Hindi and Urdu in the popular Hindustani in common use. For some, just the use of tatha (and) and prantu (but) tickled their ears!
It was echoed by one of the poets, Archana Panda of California (who has been featured twice before at previous IHA events), who encouraged parents to speak Hindi at home so that their children would be exposed to the language.
Dhairyawan disclosed that the IHA soon plans to start Hindi classes at the VPSS. ICC President Falguni Gandhi welcomed in shudh (proper) Hindi the estimated 230 guests. At the tail end of the program, IHA chapter president Dr K.D. Upadhyaya announced that there were thoughts of creating a Hindi Bhavan (House) in the area.
The evening belonged to the two poets, Panda and local Houstonian Nausha Asrar, each of whom took two turns—the second being Performnance Poetry – to present their own creations in verse and in song. “Mein ankhons se sun sakthi hoon, tum ankhon se bolo” (I can hear with my eyes, speak to me with your eyes) started off Panda drifting into “tumne mujhe aaj chooya nahin, aise lagta hain ke naya din hi nahin hua” (you haven’t touched me today, it seems like a new day has not dawned). She sang some verses with happiness and vivre and the audience clapped along.
Asrar is no stranger to IHA mehfils (gatherings) as he has recited his amazing mix of Urdu and Hindi poetry on two other occasions too. He responded to Panda with “zaban ke koi ankahein nahin hoti, aur ankhon ke koi zaban nahin hoti” (the tongue has no eyes and the eyes have no tongue). He recited examples of Hindi, Urdu and English poetry (from Wordsworth’s “The Daffodils”) to share how the same feeling is expressed in these languages.
After dinner, the mood changed to Performance Songs and Imtiaz Munshi, a well-known local crooner sang several Golden Oldies while he accompanied himself on a keyboard and a karaoke setup. He got the pitch and tempo down to perfection as he Bollywood sang Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore oldies and had the backseaters dancing in the aisle, others dancing in the front and all begging for “just one more song”!
Two days later, the IHA/ICC group met again at the gorgeous and huge house of Falguni and Bharat Gandhi’s in Sugar Land for a celebratory dinner and another round of karaoke and camaraderie.
As I said before, it’s a lovefest and you can’t keep these people apart!! They are already planning the next free Holi ke Hindi Bol event at the JVB Preksha Center on Sunday, March 5, from 2 to 5 pm.
Video by Vanshika Vipin Varma