Friday, January 30, 2009

Poetry vs. Poetry

I've been writing poetry for almost 12 years now and reading for much longer than that. Over the time, I've read Hindi and Urdu poetry a lot and a bit of English poetry lately. I attended a lot of poetic events, recited form stage quite a few times, and recently, got published as well. However, I have never been so disappointed with the state of poetry and the audience response like this time.

Within the past two weeks, I got to attend two poetic events - one, the poetry workshop and recitation in Jaipur; and two, the Kavi Sammelan during Chaos, the cultural fest of IIMA. The first one was undoubtedly high in standards with Gulzar, Sheen Kaf Nizam, and Nand Kishore Acharya like luminaries on the dais. That was the event where I and RC got a fatherly scolding from Gulzar for speaking in Hinglish and we got lessons from Nizam on linguistic purity. The event was a literary treat, with sophistication of highest degree.

However, the source of my chagrin lies with the one in Chaos. The event was christened as Kavi Sammelan, yet the only thing I couldn't find was 'Kavita'. Yes, I was a part of it and the very first one to recite but I was not a part of the five on stage - a fact that I, in retrospect, appreciate. There were five, supposedly, poets of Hindi; yet only two of them reached anywhere near what can be called as the domain of poetry. Otherwise, it was all full of jokes, mostly cheap, despicable, and so old that they would be treated with MBMST on Jokes NB (the virtual notice board in IIMA for posting jokes, with MBMST meaning Maine Bachpan Mein Suna Tha).

Even more embarrassing was the immediate response of audience and ensuing discussions on different forums. People seemed to like three hours of cheap humor and literary torture. I understand that I can not demand poetic sophistication from people in general but at IIMA? And more importantly, why name it 'Kavi Sammelan' then and why not something more apt for its status, like stand-up comedy or laughter show?

Sadly, it is not one event only that compelled me to blurt it out. Reading literary Hindi magazines (like - Hans, Vagarth, Kadambini etc.) gives another sort of torture. The prose is stuck with concerns and vows of 1980s and all the poetry seems to follow Agyeya's Prayogvaad and Dharmveer Bharti's Pragativaad, without understanding an iota of either, leave apart reaching their literary standards. In this sense, Urdu poetry seems to be in a much better state of affairs; although the problem there is not of jokes but of same age old ways of romancing the Hijr, Mai, and Zeest (separation, wine, and life).

Despite all this, I hope to read on and write on like I have done in past. Some crusaders never die - be it relationships, politics, or poetry!

P.S. - I must thank the Chaos team for putting up their best efforts in inviting the 'famous' names and more emphatically, for giving me a chance to recite in my own campus, in front of my own people.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pearls Before Breakfast

The article titled Pearls Before Breakfast, authored by Gene Weingarten, appeared in Washington Post on April 8, 2007. Someone posted it on News Notice Board of IIMA recently with an Extremely Long article disclaimer. After such a disclaimer, I was damn sure of not reading it - especially when it was not seemingly politics, economics, or controversy ridden. However, the link just kept popping up in front of me every now and then and people were all praise for this. So I finally read it today and now, I am so highly impressed that I've already written a note to the author and now, going to quote and comment on the article over here.

The article is about a simple fun experiment - Joshua Bell, a violin genius, who plays for royal audience and commands millions for a show, performs 6 tracks for 43 minutes during the morning rush hours. The catch is the venue of performance - Washington Metro Station, near escalator, where Bell plays like a street musician, with a casket in front of him for alms.

The article meticulously details what happens at the metro station. Bell is treated like an invisible man, a nuisance, a street musician, and except few, most of the 1097 passer-by did not pay any attention. The article is not mere journalistic or statistic record keeping. It engages philosophy, psychology, arts, sociology, economics, poetry, and much more than I am capable of understanding. I'd not spoil your treat of reading this piece but can't resist a few quotes and observations:

** "At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change." This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.

** "When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence . . ."

** all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry. Then life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us.

** But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

** "If you love something but choose not to do it professionally, it's not a waste. Because, you know, you still have it. You have it forever."

And then there are things like, "Koyaanisqatsi", views of Kant and Hume on beauty, thinking financially about music, people completely oblivious to Bell's existence there at metro, people coming in and settling down to listen him, and the old Brazilian lady, who commented, ""If something like this happened in Brazil, everyone would stand around to see. Not here." Finally, quoting two lines of poetry, quoted in the article:

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

-- from "Leisure," by W.H. Davies

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I in others

Three screen shots of posts from fellow bloggers. First one is from Shinjini's blog and the next two are from Koushik's. I wonder how they wrote so beautifully about my mind and about my life - something that I couldn't do.

Yes, I have been through the 'constriction ' . Yes, I have felt heaven. Yes, I knew I could not lose. Yet, I lost....!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009


What should be there in the first post of the year? Stock taking of the previous year? New year resolutions? Expectations from the new year? or nothing unusual - anyways, it is just an arbitrary flag on calendar.
Well, this year is going to be special for me in many ways - special, good or not so good, but special. I am hoping to finish my thesis requirements this year, then I have to make a career choice (and there are so many), and then, after graduating, I hope to lose my bachelor status too :D
I don't know what will come to my way and which way will I go. I don't know who will pick me and whom will I choose. There are so many doors open and I not only have to choose one but also have to close all the others. I don't know what this year holds for me but I am sure, it will all be for good. After all, Life is like a box of chocolates and there can be only good chocolate or very good chocolate :)


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