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India Poetry Reading at Harvard University

Seventeenth Annual Session


R Balachandra



India Poetry Reading event was initiated at Harvard University in 1997, as a part of celebration of the languages in the subcontinent and was hosted by the Outreach Committee of the former Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies.  This year’s event was sponsored by the new South Asia Institute and was held in Tsai auditorium of CGIS South on May 12, 2013.  Given the events and emotion in Boston, the topic chosen was “Healing.”  Twelve poets joined.  The following languages were represented:  Hindi, English, Bengali, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati and Oriya.  The day being Mother’s Day, some poets reflected the role of Mother in human life.  The non-English poems were translated and interpreted in English as has been the process in the previous meets. 


Dr Bijoy Misra opened the meeting with an introduction and suggested that in lieu of a formal sequence the poets may follow as appropriate follow up to a poem.  After it was approved, he invited Dr S. Aiyer to start the reading session.   Dr. Ayer is an elderly gentleman and a venerable educationist who visits from India occasionally.  His poem was in Tamil. He expounded the theme that suffering and pain are endemic, and we need courage and determination to get healing.  His rendering of the poem was sweet and melodious.   He translated the poem in English for the audience.


The next poem was by Dr. R. Balachandra from Northeastern University.  He read a beautiful short poem on the theme suggesting the transient nature of the events in the flow of time.  The sorrow and pain, the ferocity of natural disasters and various others events of note are only blips in the eternity of resilience.  Events indeed come, go and are forgotten.


The next to read was Ms. Sunyana Kachroo-Bhide, a poet of Kashmiri descent. She announced her newly published book of poems in India and read two representative ones.   In a metaphorical melody, Maa Mai bhi tujh jaisee, she reflects how a daughter grows up to be a mother.  In the second poem, Nakamiyon ko dil se lagaya hee nahi she urges not to take failures to heart and not to compare our pace of success or failure with others.  We are all unique.


Ms. Paromita De is a poet of Bengali descent and a staff member in Harvard University.  She read a poem in English on “Mother Kali”, relating her visit to the Kali Temple in Kolkata.  With the din and noise, Kali remains the symbol of hope for the masses.


Ms. Maya De was the next poet.  A long time resident in Boston, she teaches Bengali in the Department of South Asian Studies.  The title of her poem was “Sukh” – happiness, a poem in Bengali.  The poet searches for happiness and encounters more unhappiness.   She wondered about the elusiveness of happiness and ended the poem with a thought of continued search.  


Next to read was the twelve year old Abha Chaudhari, a Middle School student in Sharon.   Her poem was a tribute to Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu monk, who was a champion of the concept of service through faith. The inspirational poem was in English.  She was followed by her father Arun Chaudhari, a poet of Marathi descent, who writes in Hindi.  His beautiful poem was entitled “Mother.”   He celebrated the uniqueness of the concept through a self-composed tune that he rendered.


Dr. Bijoy Misra followed depicting his poem as a Mother’s advice to the children.  The poem was in Oriya and had the title manaku rakhibu tANa  -  “keep your mind strong.”  The mother advises that the events come in life and we have to have strength and will power to overcome.  We have to face each event and find means of recovery.  In the Oriya belief system, all events have an indirect positive attribute built into them and we accept everything as a part of the larger doings in the universe.       


Alok De then read a poem entitled “Path” by Bengali poet Tarapada Hazra. There is no such thing as the right way. The direction we walk becomes a way(Path) till some great mind comes along and tells us differently.  The new path goes on for years till another great mind comes and tells us something different.  We travel paths that others have found.  Sajed Kamal, an established poet from Bangladesh origin, read a powerful poem entitled “Guns versus Butter.”  Written in English as a new year’s prayer it expresses poet’s desperation on violence and proliferation of guns.  The poet advocates all guns become sticks of butter, let them melt and go in food.  The society does not need guns, people need sustenance, let there be butter!


The last poem was by the Gujarati poet Dr Pramod Thaker, “Krishnaditya.”In Gujarati, the title was “prem nā raṁge,” which translates in English as “Color of love.” In seven rhymed couplets composed in a traditional folk meter, the poet declares his faith that all human beings are primarily colored by the color of love. There would be no continued human existence if there were no elixir of love available to one and all. And no matter how dark may be the preceding night, at the dawn, the creator touches us with the divine light. The mystery is solved by chanting the mantra of “mauna,” “silence.”


The meet ended with a vote of thanks by Dr Misra and small hospitality on behalf of the South Asia Institute.



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