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Enjoy tea with a side of poetry in Mumbai

Next Friday, a bunch of poets will gather at local chai stalls in the city and read out verses

art and culture Updated: Nov 19, 2016 09:10 IST
Manali Shah
The event will see poet Sampurna Chattarji, among others  gather at local tea stalls to recite poetry.
The event will see poet Sampurna Chattarji, among others gather at local tea stalls to recite poetry. (HT File Photo )

In April this year, Berlin-based poet Christian Filips visited Gangtok, Sikkim, for a residency. The idea was to interact with fellow poets and translate each other’s works with the help of interlinear (line to line) translators. Some of the other participants were Nepali-language poet Rajendra Bhandari, Mizo poet Dawngi Chawngthu and German poet Judith Zander. Post the residency, they group shared their work and the translations at a public interaction in Gangtok, at Sikkim Government College and Rachna Books.

Filips recalls, “I have written a love poem about a man waiting for his beloved, making tea to pass the time. The hours pass by, from verse to verse. The beloved does not arrive, and the tea water boils and ends up in smoke. I look at it as a sad poem.”

Poet Annie Zaidi will also be performing at the event.

But when the Nepali translation was shared, the audience began to laugh. “A German audience would never laugh, they would just wait like the lover in the poem. When I asked people what exactly they were laughing about, they said, ‘This is a funny poem about the British tea culture, a poem against the colonialists’,” says Filips.

This incident led Filips to come up with the concept of The Mumbai Tea Party. To be held next weekend, the event will see a number of poets such as Annie Zaidi, Sampurna Chattarji and Abdul Rasheed gather at tea stalls to recite poetry. Not fancy tea cafés, but old-school chaiwallahs, at five locations including Dalal Street and Mahalaxmi. The idea is to take poetry out of institutions and onto the streets. The event is part of the Poets Translating Poets festival, which features a host of workshops, readings and performances.

The event will take place a local tea stalls to take poetry out of institutions and onto the streets. (HT File Photo)

“I’ve seen poetry in subways or as graffiti in the UK and USA. I think poetry lends grace to a public space. It allows people to think and feel in deeper ways whenever they encounter it. That’s why it’s important to take it to places where people linger,” says Zaidi.

Be there: The Mumbai Tea Party - Poetry in the Streets will take place on November 25, 11am onward

Where: (in order) Kiran Nivrati Bhonsale Tea Stall, Ganapatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel
Sundara Sai Ganesh Tea Stall, Dr E Moses Marg, Mahalaxmi
Cannon Pavbhaji, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mahapalika Marg
Tea Stall, Dalal Street
Army Restaurant, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba

Entry: Free