Indian Folk Literature in a Garden- SAPNE picnic 2017
Soumya Chotneeru Images
On a sunny picturesque August day, the SAPNE poets assembled in a shady garden in Lincoln, MA, to host the first event dedicated to folk literature of South Asia. The date was Sunday, August 6, 2017. The summer songs of birds, the warm rays of sunshine, and the greenery of tall trees and gardens of flowers created the setting of the story telling that is celebrated through the folk literature. This wasn't a typical poetry event where poets recite or perform their favorite pieces with musical intonations. But in between each piece, there were discussions of life experiences, lessons learned, talks of the beauty and struggles of our culture. It was a special event. I was awe inspired to hear from these people who had so much life within. I learned much more about India than any textbook could teach me.
The program began at 1 PM with light refreshments. Bijoy Misra made the introductory remarks to help define the work “folk” in Indian languages through its etymology. It can be described as something we share from our experience and we pass on to the future generation through stories and oral literature. Subhash Sehgal recited the Vedas, the scriptures of the Hindus, and Mir Fazal recited from the Quran, the scripture of the Islamic faith. They were followed by Vimal Jain who recited excerpts from the Samansutta, the scripture of the Jaina religion, and Sarbjit Singh recited from the Granthsahib, the scripture of the Sikh religion. Sanjeev Tripathi offered welcome to all participants and the guests to the event on behalf of SAPNE. About forty people attended.
The veteran Punjabi poet Jaspal Singh opened the program with a soul-touching rendering from the famed poet Waris Shah. The poem of Heer celebrated the love story popular in Punjab. Moolraj Mathur, the nonagenarian social activist, followed with a short talk on the ideals of living life. Life is based on the principles of sacrifice. Balachandra, the Kannada poet, followed with a piece composed specially for the occasion. Life is a blend of activities and harmony.
Alok De, the Bengali poet, reflected the inertial insecurity of human attitude. Time passes, the humans continue to build walls. Prem Nagar recanted his youth and reflected on the origin of melody in a human being. A melody is the manifestation of love. Srilkashmi Srinivasan, the Tamil vocalist, sang the harvest folk song " Soi soi" from the recent Tamil movie Kumki. Neena Wahi followed with the Dohas of Kabeer, and recited a poem entitled “Garmi Ka Mausam” in Hindi.
Maya De recited two poems of Sukumar Roy, the famous Bengali folk poet. “Shabdakalpadroom” celebrated word and sound, and “Satpatro”, a satire on the wishful efforts in finding a bridegroom! Preetpal Singh followed with the Punjabi poem “Dal makhni”, a satire on ornamenting the leftover food with extra butter! Following the village theme, Madhu Annad sweetly rendered the meditative blessing "Sab Mangal Ho" in Hindi. Dale Riley, a musician and a past employee of Harvard University spoke a few words about the literature activities at the University and his efforts in composing music with South Asian cultural accent. The presence of Thomas Burke from Harvard University was acknowledged.
The group broke for lunch. It was pot-luck, dishes contributed by the SAPNE volunteers. Sanjeev Tripathi and wife Archana Tripathi were the principal organizers with support from Hardeep Mann, Preetpal Singh, Neena Wahi, Jayashree Kanna, Srilakshmi Srinivasan, Bijoy Misra, Muneebur Rahman, Ravi Teja, Maya De, Swapna Ray, Jayant Dave and Sarbjit Singh. Eating delicious rotis, channa, dals, palak curries, dahi bada, utapa, sweets and ice cream, all while watching one poetic piece after another, let me feel like I traveled back in time to ancient India every time I closed my eyes while there.
Ravi Teja read a couple of slokas from the Sundarakanda of Valmiki Ramayana that celebrated the Moon in the night. He also did the animated rendering of lines of Lakshmana in Aranyakanda from a previous Sanskrit play. Subhash Sehgal followed to express his appreciation of people, festivals and music. He observed that the melody is a natural exuberance of happiness and peace. Madhu Anand reciprocated with the rendering of “O Dekho Barkha Ki Aayi Bahaar" a folk song written and composed by the famous Hindi poet Late Shri Girija Kumar Mathur.
Rahul Ray and Swapna Ray added sweet touch with harmonium and drums in singing a couple of Bengali folk songs. Sanjeev Tripathi recited the twelfth century folklore “Alha Khand” written by poet Jagnik. The poem popular in Madhya Pradesh celebrated the bravery of soldiers in the battle field. Bijoy Misra put to music the lyric in Oriya of his translated text from Nasadiya sukta of the Vedas. He used the simple stick instrument called “dasakathia”, an old folk instrument from Orissa. Is God True, Untrue, or is it Nothing?
Sarbjit Singh had an emotional expression of his life’s heroic story. He faced life in depression and anxiety, but survived through friendship. His was a story of celebration. Mir Fazlul Karim narrated his life from Pakistan via Bangladesh to the US. He recited a short poem in Bengali. The flow of life is like a river touching love and affection in many regions. Vimal Jain, the veteran Jain academic, recited his poem that analyzed truth and its many facets. Though not clear in its appearance, there is truth in all different views.
Pramit Singh recited “Lahara kar Bole Shivashankar” the descent of Ganga to the earth with the prayers of King Bhagirath. The second poem “Maa” analyzed mother's care and affection for her child. The third poem “Prayas kar e Manav” championed hopefulness through our efforts for the best. Alok De followed up with another Bengali folk song leading to the riddle poet of Bangladesh Nasim Baiduzzaman. The woman in the far window is only an image, she is visible but unreachable. A search is always a mystery. Finally, Muneebur Rahman recited a few Kashmiri couplets on village and life.
In closing, Preeti Nagar and Prem Nagar rendered the first stanza of the Hiranyagarbha Sukta of the Vedas. Composed and musically arranged by Preeti Nagar, it is a SAPNE original production. Sanjeev Tripathi thanked all for participation and beautiful music. The program ended at 5 PM. It was truly one of the best events I have ever attended.
The meeting flyer was created by Janmejay Shishupal and pictures are the courtesy of Sanjeev Tripathi.