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The Environment –

20th Annual India Poetry Reading at Harvard University

Poppy Charnalia


The event was hosted by South Asia Institute and Department of South Asian Studies of Harvard University. The pearls of poetry were elegantly strung together in a program by Dr. Bijoy Misra (Associate in the Department of South Asian Studies) supported by the various poets’ creative efforts to keep the expression alive in various Indian languages.


The conference started with a soul stirring recitation of verses in the Koshali language with picturesque imagery of a Banyan tree that witnesses life passing underneath it. This afternoon conflated thoughts and meanderings of minds from varied landscapes in India. The views that flowed through poetry covered familial environments to national and international socioeconomic spheres.


Some thoughts were expressed about the new age electronics environment gripping our time and the love and nurture of the older generation ebbing away from nuclear families. Some described the eternal environment of love between spouses that provokes the very shackles of death.


There was a heart-wrenching description of the events surrounding the little girl Yogita’s death by dehydration in the extreme heat in Marathwada province of Maharashtra. She goes to fetch water but that was her final journey to the eternal.


The dark irony of efforts made to prevent environmental decay were highlighted in a poem; we cut trees to print brochures about saving the Earth! Some poets dreamed of an immaculate world with complete absence of negative energy. There were passionate thoughts on the Middle East and where does the blame for the endless strife rest?


A poet reminisced in the environment of her hometown in India, Lucknow. Her words gently caressed the homes with conjoined roofs and tarnished bricks layering the labyrinth of time. She lamented over the green leaves of trees she grew up with, now veiled in smoke. The poem spoke of anguish for the path of self-decimation chosen by humans and the irony of colonizing Mars!


A heart-rending poem was recited about farmers who feed the human race; how famine and lack of infrastructure and support have left them in abject poverty. When the farmer decides to end his life, it’s catastrophic for the ones he feeds both at a physical and metaphysical level. There were acidic lines read about human genocide. A poem spoke about the irony of similar basic human needs but the vast moat that divides the method of fulfillment of those needs by the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.


There was a soft aesthetic flow of Rasa (flavor) throughout the poetry confluence. Rasa was the constant pivotal point even though the words and scripts were strewn across Koshali, Kashmiri, Hindi, English, Gujarati, Sanskrit, Bengali and Urdu languages.


The poetic symphony flowed with ideas canopied with bewilderment, disgust, irony, agony, passion and love and the curtain closed with peaceful endearment expressed for the Earth that hosts our very existence and our reciprocal obligation to protect it.  The photographs and the arrangements are due to Chandu Shah of SAPNE.








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