The poet's dream ? a proud India!
It is not everyday that Atlanta sees three highly entertaining, provocative, incisive and assertive poets round up all and sundry and drum into them the verities of India, for India, away from India.
The Atlanta chapter of Sewa, a non-profit voluntary entity spearheading many laudable grass root efforts in India including initiatives like Ekal Vidyalaya organised an impressive Hindi Hasya kavi sammelan called Hasi ke favvare (fountains of laughter) under the auspicious aegis of a prestigious centre for learning, the Emory University. Dually symbolic, the venue added vigour to the impassioned poetry that rung true through every crevice in the Whitehall auditorium.
The programme began at 7 pm on July 16th and marched on tirelessly till midnight amid a discerning audience. Hasi ke favvare comprised three stand-up comic acts by three singular poets of the hasya-vyangya (humour and satire) genre. Each of the poets had a unique method of entertaining and edifying the audience and even while being three entirely different plays-in-a-play, the veracity behind the dramatic masks was the same.
Of the three poets, the sutradhar or the unifying element in the act was Satyanarayan Mourya, a multi-faceted performer, artist and orator who has spent most of his time furthering the cause of pride in Hinduism. Aside from composing courageous versus in what he calls an apathetic and cynical eon, he excels at painting, cartooning and singing.
His palpable bond with the audience was more than a good performance on any given day; his experience in television (he has worked with Zee TV as a script writer and program manager producing over 3000 episodes of 'Jaagran', 'Amrit Kalash', and 'Bhakti Geet') aided him visibly as he connected with the innermost recesses of the audience's sensibility reminding them of their duty towards their motherland, of the imbalances in blind worship of the need for national assertion and selfhood.
Following in Mourya's footsteps of satiric disclosure was poet Gajender Solanki, an upcoming artist who has over the last few years carved a niche for himself in the enviable genre of nationalistic poetry. His eminence is constantly reinforced by his warm and ebullient personality. His connection was not with the audience, an amorphous mass but with almost every single person that comprised it. Solanki's poetry was perhaps the most moving and transformative for a variety of reasons. His forceful voice that reiterated without the slightest hesitation the imperfection and dismemberment of a legacy, culture and civilisation that is over 2000 years old left no one untouched. The palpable strain of patriotism in his poetry reminded one of the sacrifices made by warriors as Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Vir Savarkar and Rani Laxmi Bai only to be derided at the hands of our current polity.
Om Vyas, the third poet introduced the note of humour into the gathering by revisiting old wives' tales and spinning a novel yarn out of them. Thus, themes as the husband-wife dynamics in India, corrupt administrative machinery, and a slice off the social morass became the fodder for his poetic expertise. With his trademark kurta, tilka, rudraksh and jata, he proved that his mere presence on stage could lead to peals of laughter.
Sewa Atlanta's initiative was more than an evening of idle laughter. Everyone connected with the evening had more than recreational interest in it. The funds raised by this programme will be donated to agencies in India. Mourya's painting of Bharat Mata, amidst chants of Vande Mataram was a metaphor for the rising wave of national pride enveloping those who were present.
While events for mass consumption, such as shows of popular stars and singers prove to be commercially snazzy for organisers and draw in huge crowds from across the people of the Indian sub-continent, events such as this kavi sammelan are few and far between.
In their paucity lies their magnificence, for commendably neither are they geared towards heedless money making nor do they feed on a disparate, confused audience that dawdles into venues to assuage a longing for star power and has little interest in art, or anything thereof.
Hasi ke favvare wasn't artistic. It was aesthetic. It wasn't stark. It was simple. It wasn't didactic. It was instructive. It wasn't bare. It was real. Which is why it succeeded even as it chided, it roared even as it reprimanded and it conquered even though it did not intend to annex.
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