The Nuance of Indian Poetry, One Tantalizing Word After the Other!

Photos: Saundarya Sohoni

Photos: Saundarya Sohoni

By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND: Where else could you get an animated story of the battle between tea and lassi (buttermilk) delivered to you in lyrical, rhyming verse? Or the frustrations and challenge of a cop in writing poems, at first rigid and unevoking, later becoming more fantastic and provocative? These aren’t the sort of things that certainly enter the minds of poets who rummage around for whimsical ideas and ways to present them. And it’s made all the more challenging when set in the Indian context and in Hindi to a crowd in America.

The crowd, it seems, that appreciates this style of lyrical Hindi rhyme is growing, judging from the 200 people who showed up to the Kavita ki Sham (Evening of Poetry) that was held last Saturday evening, December 2 at Madras Pavilion restaurant by the International Hindi Sammelan (Association) in collaboration with the India Culture Center. The two organizations share some of the same Directors and objectives to spread Indian culture, so it’s has been a natural fit for them to participate of this effort annually for the past five years. The point was brought out by IHA Houston Chapter President Dr. K. D. Upadhyaya who gave a rundown on the group’s work through the year to promote Hindi, and ICC President Rajiv Bhavsar. Sponsors for the event were Sling TV, Deep Foods, Discount Power, Anand and Dr. Ashima Chauhan.

It was the rare day in the Bayou City when almost the entire evening was spent immersed in Hindi and for those ears which have become accustomed to being suffocated by English and had to retrain their brains to decipher and comprehend the words, it was a delightful, though occasionally challenging evening when grasping for a Hindi dictionary may have been helpful!

But the nuances of the language were there to enjoy, starting with Sapna Shah as the emcee for the evening. And to remind us of the difficulty of staying connected to your Mother language, a young 11 year-old Diya Patel kicked off the poetry session by reciting Hindi poems on Machli (fish) and Titli (butterflies) followed by two verses in Sanskrit from the Bhagwat Gita.

Fourteen other local poets, most familiar and a few new faces, stood on a small stage at the corner of the large hall to recite their favorite verses, including a few original pieces, to illustrate the different kinds of Ras (verse) – Veer ras, Shringar ras, Hasya ras, Bhakti ras, Vyang ras, Karuna ras and Bhav ras.

The evening started with Fateh Ali Chatur a versatile artist who presented Ashok Chakradhar’s Kavita based on Hasya ras. Devika Dhruv, a versatile Gujarati writer who has started writing in Hindi, presented shabdon ke pallu mein (in the company of words) and akshar ujale mein (always in the light) based on Bhav ras. Dr. Sarita Mehta, a retired Rice University Lecturer, presented her Veer ras original poem which delighted the audience. Sangeeta Pasrija, Past President of IHA Houston and an ICC Trustee presented a Hasya ras poem about the tussle between “chai (tea) and lassi (buttermilk)”, in a typical Rajasthani andaz (style) for which she got giggles and loads of applause.

Dr. Meghna Banerjee, a first timer performer in Hindi, presented a Shringar ras poem. Dr. Harendra Chahar was the evening’s featured poet. A PhD Biotechnologist at UTMB Galveston who hails from the historic city of Agra, his Braj bhasha and pure Hindi kept the audience enthralled with Hasya ras poems, especially the poem entitled Sasu (mother-in-law) which brought smiles on many faces.

Sarojini Gupta, President of the local SEWA Chapter presented a Hasya ras poem Kuch to standard banao! (keep some sort of standard!) with energy and enthusiasm which kept everyone laughing. Anjana Pandey, another first time performer presented a Hasya ras poem. Sanjay Sohoni, a Marathi writer who has shifted to writing in Hindi since 2012, presented a short Hasya Vyang ras poem on Intolerance.

Seema Jain, another first timer presented her Bhav Karuna ras poem Rishte (relations). Meera Kapur presented a Bhakti ras poem khud kaun and jeevan path. Pravina Kadakia, normally a Gujarati writer, presented a Veer ras poem written in Hindi. Dr Khalid Razvi, who knows Hindi, Urdu, German, French, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Marathi and Telugu’ presented a hilarious Hasya ras poem. Sudha Goyal presented a Veer ras poem Mann ki Baat (matter of the mind) on the issues faced due to the current Indian Demonetization.

After the recitations, IHA National President Swapan Dhairyawan disclosed that apart from the three regular programs in 2017, IHA plans to add a “Shaam-e-Ghazal” program in February to coincide with Valentine’s Day and start a Hindi language class for kids. He recognized and felicitated three community volunteers for their continued support: Manisha Gandhi of TV Asia, Nisha Mirani and Ajit Patel with token awards.

The poets were presented token gifts by Col Raj Bhalla, Girish Pandya, Praful Gandhi and Manohar Gidwani. Madras Pavillion provided the food and venue, Darshak Thacker of Krishna Sounds did the sound system, and Shreya, Eesha and Nimish were volunteers at the registration desk.