Come, Bask in the Warmth of Hindi, Kuan ke Hum Hain Hindustani!

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The Board members of the International Hindi Association-Houston Chapter and from the India Culture Center, along with other guests during the Kavita Ki Shaam event last Friday, December 5 at Madras Pavilion.
Photos: Jawahar Malhotra & Sanjay Sohoni

By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND: For the past three years, if it’s the first Friday in December, then it has to be the Kavita ki Shaam get together at the Madras Pavillion restaurant in Sugar Land, organized by the Houston chapter of the International Hindi Association, in collaboration with the India Culture Center. This past Friday, December 5 was no different as about 150 people of all persuasions from India, but mostly the older first generation crowd who still associates with Hindi and its nuances, came to hear the richness of the language explored in lilting verse.

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Meera Kapur

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Fatehali Chatur

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Dr. Nausha Asrar

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Dr. K.D. Upadhyay

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Dr. Sunny Anand

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Farha Iqbal







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Dilip Kanabar

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Neera Vipin

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Om Prakash Gupta

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Rajiv Bhavsar







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Sarita Mehta

Fittingly, it was the night before puran maashi or the full moon, which is celebrated universally by Hindus, and the good omen brought with it a carefree, celebratory mood, as the attendees partook of a vegetarian buffet spread out on the back patio deck under moonlight. Inside, the audience waited even as Darshak Thakkar of Krishna Sounds finalized his setup and the podium was set onto the makeshift stage for the poets to come.

But, just as everyone came together, a decorated cake was rolled in for a surprise celebration of the birthday of Swapan Dhairyawan, which coincidentally was the same day, December 5, and his friends on the Boards of the IHA – of which he is the current president – and the ICC all broke out into the birthday song, as he beamed with delight. “This was just too good an occasion to pass up,” said his wife Pallavi on the surprise she had planned. They also celebrated Thakkar’s birthday, which falls around the same time.

Fatehali Chatur was the emcee of the evening, always quick with a witty twist of words in verse adding a humorous touch. The invocation prayer was made by Eesha Dhairyawan, Swapan’s daughter. Later, the poised 8 year-old sang a catchy Bollywood Oldies, Hum Hindustani, which many clapped along to in tune.

Charlie Patel and Ajit Patel (whose company, Air n U Cool sponsored the event) of the ICC kept their remarks short as they reminded everyone to come to the Republic Day program on January 31, next year. Dhairyawan and Dr. K.D. Upadhyaya spoke about the efforts of the IHA to promote Hindi language and encourage its teaching in schools to youngsters and older people too. They presented the Gunjan newsletter, published in Hindi, for the first time this year, and explained the IHA goals through all its 16 chapters in the US. They also observed a 30-second silence in the memory of the passing away of Bollywood actor Devan Verma, who is the brother of Houstonian Parul Fernandes.

The first poet for the evening was the tall, slender Jasmeeta Singh, an ICC Director, who sang the verses of a ghazal in a sweet voice, with the theatrical quality that she is most associated with. A shorter, compact Upadhyaya followed up with some witticisms to settle the crowd before he went into a poem in a deep, strong voice. Om Prakash Gupta followed with a lilting poem on his father who died 6 years earlier. Meera Kapur added her own remembrance of her father by reading from two of the poems he had written. Neera Vipin sang melodiously from the Shringar Ras poem she had written, titled Prakarti ke rang mere sang, full of significance, about her own life experiences.

Sangeeta Pasrija, the IHA-Houston president for the past three years came to speak about a guest who came from Memphis, Tennessee to present his own verses, Dr. Sunny Anand, a physician and multi-talented performer, whom she had met at a wedding and who had impressed her with his wide range of knowledge of Hindi literature. She recited four short Haryana Pradeshi jokes – which she is well known for – about a husband and wife and then gave the rest of her allotted time to Anand.

Anand, a tall, slim Sikh with a pointed moustache and a compact turban read from an immense collection of poems from his notebook, and had the audience roaring with laughter. He was followed up by Sarita Mehta, who is a professor of Hindi at Rice University, and a recent transplant to Houston from the Northeast. Dilip Kanabar, a member of Music Masala radio program, made a his first time recital felt with his thick bold moustache and fast delivery of humorous poetry. Rajiv Bhavsar presented a poem from Harivanshrai Bachhan, dedicated to parents.

Nausha Asrar’s confident singing delivery in Urdu and Hindi kept the audience enthralled.  This was added onto by the Bhav Ras poetry delivered by Devika Dhruv, a native Gujarati speaker who has gained proficiency in Hindi in her association with IHA in the past three years. The acknowledged Hindi poet, Krishen Sharma presented two of his humorous poems, leaving people in stiches. Farha Iqbal, an Urdu composer of shayri, ghazal and nazm made three presentations, winning over the Hindi-bent audience with her Urdu nazm.

Sanjay Sohoni read his poems on Facebook and the current astitvavaad and then Fatehali Chatur closed out the evening with beautiful lines from Surender Sharma’s collection. Acknowledgements to all the performers were made by Swatantra Jain, Dr. Barkat Charania and Manohar Gidwani as the kavita ki sham ended slightly past 11pm, though most of the audience stayed behind to linger and chat with the performers.