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When You Tickle the Funnybone in Hindi, it Just Feels More Hilarious!

The three poets (from left) Sarvesh Asthana, Gaurav Sharma and Sonroopa Vishal at the 11th annual Hasya Kavi Sammelan at India House on Sunday, April 22.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: This 11th annual Hasya Kavi Sammelan (Laughing Poet’s Society) organized, once again, by the local chapter of the International Hindi Association in conjunction with the India Culture Center was held again this year at India House on Sunday, April 22 in the late afternoon at 4:30, starting with a tea and snacks social hour.

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Past IHA Presidents Sangeeta Pasrija (right) and Swapan Dhairaywan (left, currently the IHA national president) with current IHA Houston President Dr. K.D. Upadhaya (second on left) giving Charlie Patel a service award, presented by India Culture Center Trustee Dr. Raj Bhalla.

This popular annual function provided the audience of over 300 a chance to rekindle their attachment to the national language of the Old Country. The poetry, usually in the form of pankte or couplets, was equal parts verse and lilting song and patriotic, absurd, mocking but always engaging. For a non-stop 150 minutes, the three poets kept the audience engrossed and in stitches with laughter.

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Event chair Rajiv Bhavsar offered thanks to the performers and audience

The main hall was filled close to capacity in rows of chairs with an estimated 300 people. In shudh (pure) Hindi, past IHA President Sangeeta Pasrija introduced the poets while IHA national president Swapan Dhairaywan and IHA Houston President Dr. K.D. Upadhaya welcomed the crowd. Upadhaya described the launch of IHA’s Hindi classes at India House, VPSS Haveli and the Gauriya Nath Mandir. Event Chair Rajiv Bhavsar appreciated the enthusiastic attendance and Charlie Patel was honored for his service. After the show, guests were treated to a buffet style dinner of catered by Madras Pavilion restaurant. Darshak Thakkar of Krishna Sounds provided the sound system.

The three poets and comedians – Sarvesh Asthana, Gaurav Sharma and Sonroopa Vishal – came to Houston after shows in Dallas and Indianapolis. Their next show will be in Detroit and then 20 other cities in the US till May 28 as part of a tour of 24 cities which have chapters of the Antharrashtriya Hindi Samithi (International Hindi Association) which organized the nationwide event.

This was the third visit to Houston by Asthana, who was the emcee of the show, introducing his other two poets. Both he and Sharma kept the audience entertained and howling with laughter with their one-liners, witty pankte and descriptions of absurd events. Sonroopa (as she is widely known) offered the more serious and lilting voice with poetry sang out.

Sarvesh Asthana of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh is a famous satirist who has participated in Kavi Sammelans and Mushairas since 1989. He is a highly celebrated Hindi poet and finds humor in the ups and downs of life. A law graduate and journalist by profession, Astana is widely published with six books and two documentaries and is a regular on radio and in two TV comedy serials, Hero Koun (Who’s the Hero?) and Miss Ramkalie. This is his sixth visit to North America and he has also performed in the UK, Thailand, Dubai, Indonesia, and Oman.

Gaurav Sharma of Mumbai hails from Rajasthan and is the son of renowned poet Shyamsunder Sharma. He is one of the most popular young humorist in India who has performed in over 2600 kavi sammelans and is known for his style of engaging humor and penetrating satire poetry and signature one liners, sometimes in the Marwari language. Since 2014 he has made 135 performances on Johny Lever’s live shows. He won the Laughter Challenge on Star TV, Comedy Ka King Kaun on SUB TV, and Hasya Kavi Muqabla on Zee TV. He has performed in over 32 countries, including multiple times in Canada and the US.

Sonroopa Vishal of Badaun, Uttar Pradesh (about 160 miles southeast of New Delhi), a gifted poetess, vocalist and ghazal singer with a melodious voice and spellbinding renditions, is a language and music graduate with a PhD in Hindi literature. She is a freelance writer, a director of three cultural and non-profit social organizations and has two published and co-authored several books. Sonroopa has recited her poems at India’s prestigious national Kavi Sammelan at the Red Fort; the Sahitya Academy and on TV shows. This is her first visit to the US and Canada.

While Astana and Sharma regaled the audience with their attire and witty delivery of daily events and other incidences, Sonroopa appealed to the romantic and feminine side, often with uplifting themes (“We don’t die because we drown, we die because we don’t swim”), ending with a poem entitled “Ladkiyan, Ladkiyan, Ladkiyan” (Girls, Girls, Girls) which interposed that line with a three adjectives that described what roles Indian females played. It received a standing ovation.

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