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“From Ruins To Timelessness” - A Warm Afternoon In A Cold Winter

Janmejay “Jjay” Shishupal

Winter brought cold and sentimental weather all across New England.  There had been several feet of snow on the ground, a new surface on earth.  The roads were still coated with the sneaky ice and were slippery.  Most were busy digging themselves out and protecting their roof.  The calling of the poetry did override these seasonal events to some.  Poets went out to watch the nature and walked to the Cambridge Public Library for an afternoon of warmth, poetry and friendship.  The date was Sunday, February 22, 2015.  What a gorgeous afternoon it became, the sun could not hide!

Mr. Kashif from www.twocirlcles.net started the event by paying tribute to Professor Kalim Aziz, the eminent Urdu poet from Bihar, India, who passed away the previous Sunday. Mr. Kashif read one of his ghazals “Hum to Deewane hai hum ekya chahiye” as a tribute to his service to Urdu poetry.   The ghazal was a beautiful rendition of the word “chahiye” in various contexts with allegorical repetition.   

Bijoy Misra, the Convener, suggested that the assembly should continue the effort of improvising a theme by connecting to the thought process of the previous poet.  He said that the connectivity was the hallmark of South Asian culture and could be tried with the words and thoughts.  The session becomes a garland with the connected flowers offered by the participating poets.  He offered the first flower with the poem written in English by R. Balachandra, who had sent the poem by mail.  “Ruins in the Sky” spoke about the monuments on the mountains in Machu-Picchu (Peru).  Poet described it as “an island in the sky” and ended with the message  “nothing is permanent, pride and glory transient!”

Neena Wahi reflected on the transience of political power.  She presented a Hindi poem “Jhadu ki vijay hui hai” based on the recent election results in India. The poem stressed that one does not get anything unless he/she fights for it.  Election results do not change the issues;   cleanliness, equal rights, people’s basic needs remain as issues.

Subhash Sehgal wanted to point out that the indignity and impoverishment in India has been caused by the colonialization and imposition of English language on people.  With several short poems, he showed that the culture of English was inappropriate to India, but pervades.  India has been divided and made into north-south blocks.  He wished the recovery through the celebration of Indian languages in reinforcing the traditional Indian culture.

Maya De followed with a sentimental Bengali poem describing her tour to the cellular jail in Andaman Islands.  Freedom fighters were shipped by the British to be confined in windowless cells to rot and die.  The martyrs’ place has been redone as a Museum and is a must-visit for all freedom-loving people to appreciate the pain and grief.   Her poem brought emotion to the audience recalling young people’s treatment at the time of the freedom struggle.

Jaspal Singh, recalled the death anniversary of Malcolm-X the previous day and rendered a beautiful poem he had written earlier remembering martyrs who sacrifice for causes dear to them.  Politicians take advantage of people’s sacrifices to further their power goals.  The efforts
and lives of thousands of martyrs bring freedom to people.   The poet paid homage to all martyrs appreciating their sacrifice for the love for people, culture and traditions.

Bijoy Misra joined in with a poem as a tribute to his deceased younger brother who was a social worker and a leader.  “Bhai Sanjoy” was sensitively rendered in Oriya.  Where does one go after death, does one meet other people, does one prepare oneself to leave life?  Family and friends are left behind with memory.  One’s life’s purpose and the passing away are determined elsewhere!

Coming to traditions and memories, Alok De presented a poem “Myanamar” in Bengali describing his recent visit to the country.  The impressive country side and the elegant monuments were narrated with poetic sentiment.   The land, oppressed and exploited for decades is gradually opening up to regain its place in the world.  A lovely pace to visit!

Contrasting the green fields of Mynamar, PramodbhaiThaker“Krishnaditya” presented the scenes of fog in New England with a Gujarati poem “Dhummas”.  Written with humor and enjoyable metaphors, the poem sounded like road blocks in travel as one moves in the fog.  Fog is unpredictable and pervasive; one resigns to it and may only reflect the opacity of life.

Manoj Misra presented a collection of poems, some satirical, some expressive.  He made a case for the marginalized people in the society and lamented about the distress.  He lampooned his life to exhibit the vanity of patriotism.  The issues in the world are trivial for the common man, who lives his/her life with meagre means and small expectation.  How does a war help a man on the street?

Amandeep Singh brought a lighter touch by getting back to the snowfall.  He read a Punjabi poem comparing the snowfall to cotton balls flying in the sky.  Unlike cotton, snow sticks to the ground and gets heavy.  He went on to theme of purification and learning values through the vagaries of nature. He read a second poem calling for uniting people by breaking with narrow faith rituals that cause illusion and rift.

Sanjeev Tripathirecited his maiden poem Samay Chakra (Time Circle), written on the eve of the New Year.  He said he was inspired by the SAPNE recitations in November meeting that he attended.  His poem describes the folly of new replacing the old.  He reflected how quickly we forget that the present is built on the events of the past.   Poem had the message for Peace, Unity and New Year’s wishes to everyone.

Paromita De,read a poem in English “My last visit to Kolkata”.  Done with sensitivity and style, the poem remembered her grandfather in Kolkata who passed away.  While she was advised not to write on the margins of the books, she reflected that all memories are writings on the margin of the life’s book.   We treasure them as our guide. She yearned to communicate this back to her grandfather, who is no more!

“Jjay” Shishupal gave the final touch with a Hindi poem “Aapaka Sath”. This poem described poet’s feelings for his parents, gurus and other seniors, to all who went before him. He reflected that whoever comes first to this world, leaves first. The poem prayed his loved ones to stay longer with him as it is not easy to meet nice people in the world.

With the flowers offered, the session turned into an emotional garland containing wonder, sacrifice, grief, beauty, humor, prayer and friendship.  All loved the sentiments expressed and admired each offering.  “From Ruins to Timelessness” made a warm afternoon in a cold winter.

The event ended with the closing remarks from Mr. Kashif. He supported the phenomenon of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One world one Family” and expressed best wishes to SAPNE’s future events.  Bijoy Misra thanked all for coming and participating.

The next SAPNE meeting will be on May 10, 2015 at South Asian Institute, Harvard University. Theme is ‘IDENTITY’ while other associated details will be shared soon. May 2015 meet will be the 7th Anniversary Meeting of South Asian Poets of New England and 19th Annual India Poetry reading at Harvard where poems in all languages are invited for recitation. Please contact Bijoy Misra at 617.864.5121, bmisra@fas.harvard.edu or Chandu Shah at 781.983.4941, Bostonwale@gmail.com.

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