Amid the bustle of the city, if you come across people reading out verse in parks or coffee shops, to appreciative 'wah-wahs' and clapping, don't be surprised. It's just one of many new poetry clubs mushrooming in urban India.
These groups have taken poetry out of the conventional settings of formal readings, literary festivals and poetry meets and, in a sense, democratised it, creating a space outside academia and publishing circles where young, inexperienced poets can present their work, discuss techniques and style and hone their talent.
Young poetry clubs like Mulaqaat and Lump in the Throat in Delhi, Loquations and The Poetry Corner in Mumbai, The Young Poets Club in Chennai, Yuva Gosthi in Bangalore and Bottola in Kolkata have taken poetry out of books to form bigger circles of poets and audiences in public spaces.
"It's a brilliant idea and I hope a thousand groups bloom and a thousand schools of poetry contend," says journalist and Indian English poet Jerry Pinto. "One of the most important things is to get other people's opinions, to hear your poems read aloud even if by yourself, to listen to others, and receive criticism from other poets," he adds.
The trend isn't restricted to Hindi or English. Regional languages are represented too, and efforts are being made to provide translations, conduct workshops and even include elements of showmanship such as dance and music in the presentation of verse.
The sense of community that these groups foster could help sustain poets too. "Poetry meets should be encouraged. Rather than repetitive publishing of old poets we should promote new poets," says Ankur Betagiri, assistant editor (Indian Literature), Sahitya Akademi, who believes young people passionate about poetry will bring it back into the mainstream.
Urdu poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar believes much good will emerge from informal groups of young people dabbling in poetry. "That young talents are making such efforts is worth appreciating. This trend will attain heights," he says.
Pinto believes the only possible downside could be groups where everyone wants to read their work but is unwilling to listen. "Some young people might say, 'I don't read poetry; I write it'. That would be ridiculous. Can you imagine a musician saying, "I don't listen to music; I only play?" he says.