International Hindi Association’s Hasya Kavi Sammelan: Music in Hindi Poetry

By Jawahar Malhotra

Some of the IHA Houston and ICC Board members at the event.

HOUSTON: For these ears that hadn’t heard clear, fluent, flowing Hindi without the frequent English and Urdu words of Hinglish, the afternoon of Sunday, June 26 was rhythmic music. Caught up in admiring the way these three poets effortlessly constructed sentences made me realize what we had lost, especially when we tried to match their delivery and style.

But that’s what brought out almost 250 people – predominantly first generation speakers – who attended the Hasya Kavi Sammelan or Comedic Poets Gathering at the Durga Bari Auditorium on Schiller Road on the west side and it was with a sense of relief and amazement as they realized that it had been 3 years since they had last met.

The International Hindi Association had not held an in-person gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic began, reminded the Houston Chapter Board member and previous national President Swapan Dhairyawan. In fact, the last gathering was on April 28, 2019. “And if it had not been for two other events tonight”, he continued, “we would have had more people”.

Sangeeta Pasrija welcomed the guests as Swapan Dhairyawan waits.

The IHA had organized a US tour of 23 cities in 40 days for the three poets Deepak Gupta of Haryana, Tej Sharma of Gwalior and Ankita Singh of Delhi. They had already been to 12 cities and were off to Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus in Ohio after the Houston program.

Each kavi had a little over 30 minutes to serenade the audience with their witticisms as in the case of Gupta, lyrics by Ankita and satire by Sharma. “In India, Chinni (Chinese) is not spoken but (chiini – sugar) is eaten; Arbi (Arabic) is not spoken but (arbi – taro root) is eaten and Angrezi (English) is not spoken but (whisky) is drunk”, quipped Gupta.

Singh sang reminisces of lovers, unrequited love and a memory of a mother making a sweater for her child.

Poets (from left) Deepak Gupta, Tej Sharma and Ankita Singh at the event

Sharma opened and closed the set with his style of hasya vyang (satire) and illustrated it with many situations in which what is said, what is meant and what is understood can all be different for the same item. “The blind beggar told the woman she was pretty and asked for $5”, Sharma said with an amused air. “Flattered, the woman took $5 from her purse to give him; but her husband stopped her in disbelief saying she should give the blind beggar $500 for being able to see”!

Chapter co-founder Sangeeta Pasrija and current Chair Rajiv Bhavsar welcomed the audience. The event was co-organized by the India Culture Center and its treasurer Santosh Verma gave a warm welcome message. ICC’s Nisha Mirani and Charlie Patel closed the session with a warm thank you and a boxed vegetarian dinner was provided to each guest as they left the hall.

The IHA’s next event will be the Veerotsav – a journey of patriotism and Hindi literature on August 7 at the Stafford Civic Center.