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Love, Voice and Freedom –

Summer Poetry Echoes in Lexington

Maneesh Srivastava                                                                                                                                     IMAGES                                                                                                                                                                           

It was Saturday, August 29, 2015.  A bright sunny idyllic afternoon: trees are filled in green, the flowers are blooming on the shrubs, people are dressed in colorful casuals – the South Asian Poets group converged in Lexington Public Library for their summer poetry meet.  The program started at 2:15 PM and the next two hours were a feast of expressions, words and sentiments in the languages of South Asia.  Fourteen poets presented their creative writings in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Oriya and English.  A garland of love and freedom emerged from the poets’ voices.


South Asian Poets of New England (SAPNE) is an offshoot of India Poetry Reading at Harvard that commenced in 1997.  With its roots in recitation, the group encourages new compositions in all languages.  It meets in various public spaces or at private homes and hosts the annual poetry meet at Harvard University.   Bijoy Misra founded the group and acts as its convener.  The group is currently associated with the newly formed India Discovery Center and the summer poetry meet was hosted by this new group.


The meeting opened with a few introductory remarks by Bijoy Misra where he thanked Jaspal singh and Chandu Shah for having helped him in sustaining the spirit of multi-language poetry in the community.  He explained that the meeting format would be a free flow sequence where a poet would determine the sequence of his or her poem given the sentiment in the previous poem.


Chandu Shah opened the reading with a Gujrati poem “Love Letter”.  It was a part of a collection of poems from a published book. The poet ponders how the evolution in the medium of communication affects the thought process behind writing a letter.  With a rhythm of words, he made fun of the hassle of delivery and the deadlines of the mail pickups.  Dispatch becomes more important than the sentiment!


Bijoy Misra continued the thread and sang his beautiful Oriya poem “Tu hi Mora Sathi”. The poet talks to his inner self and discovers that his own voice is the only trusted companion in the operations of the world.  In stress and agony, in survival and search for truth, in love and joy, it is the voice that speaks inside a poet and conducts his or her life. 


The next flower in this garland of poetry was the ‘Love’ of a mother.  It was a very touching Hindi poem “Maa Ki Mamta’ by Neela Shah, a mother and grandmother herself. Through her poem she expressed how a mother nurtures her children with immense love and dedication.  She questioned if we ever return even a pinch of that love? Do we really care about her love or even value that love?  


Maneesh Srivastava expressed the fight within. His Hindi Poem “Antardwand” explained how the subconscious mind raises questions about the goals and perspective of achievements.  What were the dreams, goals from the past and what do we actually achieve?  Is our ‘Present’ the real ‘Future’ which we envisioned in the ‘Past’ or is it still the same?


The next two English poems were presented by Mahesh Sharma a renowned mathematician from Cambridge College, talked about Pleasure, Pain and Love. His first poem “Pleasure and Pain” described about the re-inventing oneself every day to know the pleasure and pain. The pleasure subsides the pain but also the possibility of new suffering capsizes the pleasure of now.  His Second Poem “I will keep loving You” beautifully portrayed the picture of a True love.


The next was a powerful Punjabi Poem by Jaspal Singh.  It sketched the forbidding face of the society and the harsh realities of the life. Things have been turned upside down, love and affections could be fake and relationships are made meaningless. He expressed that the ‘MangalSutras” has become a noose and ‘Rakhi’ the handcuffs, everything is up for sale.  He called for introspection and check steps in life.


The next Hindi poem “Des Pardes” by Neena Vahi portrayed the affection of the poet with her native place, and the unique bonds with childhood friends from those days. People as migrants have embraced this country as their home but somewhere deep in the heart everyone misses the old golden days of the motherland.


Srabonti Badyopadhyay was the next poet in this segment. Her wonderfully crafted English Poem illustrated the fact behind the poetry of the poet. It brought up her inner voice, the driving factor behind her poetry and what forces her to pen down her thoughts. After a short break for coffee, Subhash Sehgal, a well-known Hindi Poet thundered denouncing the fakery in the political climate in India. The poet pointed various media hyped topics which he thought was inappropriate. It was a dialogue between ‘Ustaad and Jamura’.  


Dr. Abdul Kalam, the deceased President of India, a scientist, a teacher, an inspiration and an Idol for the youth across the Globe was remembered through the next Hindi Poem by Sanjeev Tripathi, “Main Bhi Kalaam”. Mr. Tripathi portrayed Dr. Kalam’s wonderful persona and highlighted his teachings beautifully in the poem.  Manoj Mishra, a local activist was the next poet in this segment.  With play of words, he depicted the side effects of the development in subcontinent through his Hindi poem. He pulled up the cruel face of suffering of the poor, less privileged people of the society, farmers and tribes; how they have been fooled and suppressed in the name of the development.


Nasim Baizumman was the next poet with his 8 short Bengali poems. Each Poem touched the garland different topics like “Pain,” “Love,” “Infatuation,” “Inner battle” etc. Crafted as short expressive puns four lines each, the poems need repeated reading to get the meaning.  Is a couple always in war with each other even on bed?  Amitava Ganguly, who is visiting Boston from India joined next. His English Poem “My Night Sky” compared the surroundings with various colored lights in a modern home compared to those with the olden days. He made fun  how our nights are lightened with the blinking lights of various objects around us like Television, Air conditioner, Phone Charger etc. where in the olden days all we had were millions of blinking stars!


The meeting ended on a light note with a hilarious Punjabi Poem by Preetpal Singh. He showed the dilemma of a person with little knowledge of English in America. The person tried to explain everything in couple of broken words of English. The meeting room was filled with laughter.  Everything was “alright!”


Bijoy Misra thanked Krishna Gazula , Chandrika Govardhan and Sanjeev Tripathi for helping out with the coffee.  The participants congratulated India Discovery Center for their initiatives and assured their assistance for their upcoming projects.


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