Hasya and Vyang in Houston

IHA and ICC members along with the three poets. Seated from left: Sarvesh Asthana, Pradeep Chaubey, and Alok Shrivastav.        Photos: Aditya Shah

IHA and ICC members along with the three poets. Seated from left: Sarvesh Asthana, Pradeep Chaubey, and Alok Shrivastav. Photos: Aditya Shah

By Vanshika Vipin

HOUSTON: Long before the advent of stand up comedy on Indian television, there was “Hasya Kavi Sammelan” – a group of poets gathering to deliver verses with humor infused in them. Often satirical, sometimes emotional and always amusing, these poems were thought provoking and rib-tickling at the same time. Telecast often at odd late evening hours on Doordarshan during the 1980’s, poets like Shail Chaturvedi and Surendra Sharma became household names. However, after the advent of cable TV, these shows became less popular.

IHA- Houston chapter president Swapan Dhairyawan (right) and his wife Pallavi with Sarvesh Asthana.

IHA- Houston chapter president Swapan Dhairyawan (right) and his wife Pallavi with Sarvesh Asthana.

Houston however has continued the trend of inviting some of these extremely learned and talented poets over to the US for annual Hasya Kavi Sammelan. India Culture Center (ICC) and International Hindi Association- Houston Chapter (IHA) hosted the 7th Annual Hasya Kavi Sammelan at India House on Saturday May 3. Starting promptly at 5 pm after a social hour, event coordinator, Nisha Mirani – ICC Director welcomed the audience. ICC President Charlie Patel then welcomed the Poets to Houston and the audience to India House. He also spoke about ICC’s activities and its role in the community. Charlie Patel announced the upcoming Leaders Conference on June 7 and India’s Independence Day celebrations on August 16. IHA Houston chapter president Swapan Dhairyawan informed the audience about the ICC-IHA partnership throwing light on events such as the National Adhiveshan, Kavita Ki Shaam and Holi ke Hindi Bol. He also talked about the online newsletter ‘Gunjan’ and Hindi speaking community engagement. He thanked the sponsors – Mass Mutual, MD & Associates, Wallis State Bank, Paradise Gifts, Maheshwari Mahasabha of North America, Madras Pavilion, Darshak and Mona Thakkar for Sound and India House for the facility, all print / voice media for support and TV Asia for coverage. After thanking the core committee of IHA and all volunteers, Swapan invited Nita Mehta and Bacchuben Bhavsar to light the traditional lamp and commence the program.


Dr. K D Upadhyaya set the tone of ‘hasya’ and ‘vyang’ as he introduced the three poets. Sutrashanchalan was done by Sarvesh Asthana. Kavi Alok Shrivastav, the youngest of the three spoke first. His nickname or ‘takiya kalam’ is ‘rishto ke shayar’ (the relationships poet) and fittingly his ghazal “Amma” mesmerized the audience. While it will be futile to repeat the ghazal in print – here’s the last verse of the ghazal “baabu ji guzre, aapas mein sab cheezein taqseem huin, tab-main ghar mein sabse chhota thha, mere hisse aai amma” (loosely translated as “when father passed away, all property was distributed, at that time, I – the youngest in the house, inherited amma ‘mother’ )…. Followed by ‘wah wah’ from the audience. His poetry has touched the hearts of millions. He has won numerous awards, including M.P. Sahitya Academy’s “Dushyant Kumar Award’ and Russia’s ‘International Pushkin Award’.

Sarvesh Asthana read his amazing poems next. Asthana’s unique style during emceeing the show as well as presenting his poems had the audience in a thoughtful and humorous mood. He is from Lucknow, India and has been participating in national and international Kavi Sammelans since 1989. A receipient of numerous awards, he is also associated with many charitable organizations in India. He has published many books and is a regular on radio and TV.

Pradeep Chaubey was the last of the visiting poets. Hailing from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, he is the brother of legendary hasya kavi late Shail Chaturvedi. Poetry and humour run in the family – Pradeep Chaubey is a kavi of his own might – his work is recognized and appreciated by past president of India Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma as well. The audience was treated with classic hasya kavita (humorous poems) filled with Vyang (satire) and Hasya (Humour).

The poets visiting from India enjoyed the audience’s reaction and participation in the program as well. Sarvesh Asthana said that he found the Houston audience most amiable and socially connected. These learned poets are on a whirlwind tour of North America during which they have over sixteen scheduled shows, out of which Houston was their tenth program. About 350 people in Houston attended the Kavi Sammelan.

The icing on the cake was the refreshments and kadak Chai (tea) served by Madras Pavilion. Even as the unique evening drew to a close at 8:00 pm, neither the humour in the poets’ verses nor the chants of ‘irshaad’ and ‘wah wah’ faded amongst the audience. Houston is proud of its Hindi heritage and we look forward to the next Hasya Kavi Sammelan to come by soon.

For further information about future events visit www.icchouston.org or call 281-382-0348