By Cheshta Rajora
Delhi is known to be the cynosure for literary aficionados. This city of Ghalib, holds a special place in the hearts of poetry lovers, as was evident in the recent poetry event “Pens and Palette” at Ashtan Sarover Portico conducted by an emerging group of poetry enthusiasts- Poetry Couture in association with Delhi Art Foundation. Braving the heat this Saturday, at the peak of afternoon hours, an eclectic mix of more than 50 people proved that the comfort of passions outweigh discomforts.
Started by Raghavendra Madhu, this one-year-old initiative is an endeavor to provide free cultural spaces to artists and lovers of poetry and revive this forgotten art. 29-year-old Raghav, who prior to this also worked in the public health and social health development sector, like a quintessential poet, loves to quote avidly and enrich the fabric of his conversations.
Drawing on the metaphor “If prose is the body, poetry is the soul. Without poetry the literary system would be zombie”, he laments that “If prose is food and poetry is water, we all are surely constipated.” With the closing down of book stores, and the emerging of e-spaces, he seeks to revive the old café house culture where platforms conducive to open interactions were provided for. Hence was started Poetry Couture in Flaming Chilli Peppers restaurant in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. With almost regular Poetic-Addas and Fresh-Leaf readings, this platform has already created for itself a comfortable niche in the cities of Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi, with some big names like Rochelle Potkar (the author of “Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories”), and noted filmmaker Ashok Vishwanathan, actor director Jayant Kriplani getting associated with it. An adjunct professor of English at Jadavpur University, Joie Bose, heads the initiative in Kolkata. “The recent event on 21st March- World Poetry Day, held in Mumbai’s The Pint Room was also a great success”, says Raghav.
Eagerly waiting for his upcoming collection, “Sedated Chaos and other poems”, Raghav says, personally he is an epigrammatic poet who likes to pen down shorter and subtle verses. Quoting a W.H Auden here and there, he adds, “It is these simple lines that we remember the best”.
Though he finds Bombay as a richer melting pot for English poetry and Delhi as having a more succulent culture in Hindi and Urdu languages, his future plans for this non-profit initiative hold no linguistic barriers. He envisions taking Poetry Couture to other cities like Kerala and Bangalore and even outside India and to partner with similar art foundations, embassies and cultural centers to promote modern ways of expressing literature. “We would also like to harness corporate sector for funds and build a larger network of poets. We are also planning to visit Shantiniketan shortly to tap to the existing literary circles there”, he says. In the list is also his soon to be launched ‘Po-Art initiative’ which will seek to promote films, folk music and poetry.
The event witnessed a poetic gathering of nine featured poets, well known in literary circles, like Yaseen Anwar, the founder of Delhi Poetry Festival- the largest poetry festival in the country and Poetry Corner; Kulpreet Yadav, the author of best-selling thriller novel “Catching the Departed”, Saumya Kulshreshtha, the founder of Poets Collective to name a few, who read out their poems and infused the room with rhythms and rhymes. To add to this interaction, was an equally poetic and energetic audience from among which students and professionals alike shared their favourite verses in the open-mic session. To this Raghav says, “The idea is to provide not a teaching session per se, but a platform where amateurs can approach professionals easily”.
The event was conducted in association with Delhi Art Foundation, a platform to provide sustenance to artists of all kinds, co-founded by Pratyush Pushkar. Pratyush, who has already worked a photojournalist with Tehelka, Gulail and Nat Geo, and now gives talks at colleges like Miranda and DTU, says, “If you have a thought about a pedophile, only you can write it and no one else can write it better than you”. He goes by the mantra- Art artist survival and hopes to build the needed culture of art and its consumption in India and provide financial and moral sustenance to them, which he says, India lacks for now.
With the audience guessing the right pronunciation of “couture”, the gathering served to be a refreshing drink of poetry, topped with a slice of humor and a twig of love.