Category Archives: Travel

Celebrating Poetry


Bangalore was treated to a host of poets and their original works from across the nation at the 2 day poetry festival, at Leela Palace this weekend.

The Bangalore Poetry Festival was an initiative by Atta Galatta, a beautiful bookstore with a focus on Indian Vernacular Writing, while also being a venue for literary, art and cultural events located in Koramangala.

As Javed Akhtar mentioned during his talk, poetry is seeing a revival today and this meant the crowds were filled with numerous young poets and poetry lovers.

Among the many poets, I was mesmerized by Akhil Khatyal, a Delhi based poet and translator. He was not just a poet, but in many ways a raconteur with ample doses of humor and sarcasm.

You can watch him in action in the video below, where he performs Dorothy Parker’s Hindi translation:

Apart from Hindi poets there were poets from the North-East of India, who read some amazing poetry about displacement, identity and violence.

nitoo-cover

 

A poem by Nitoo Das, who was present at the festival:

how to cut a fish

you have to sit
         properly
woman-like on the floor
put one foot
strongly gingerly on the base of the blade
hold the fish with firm hands
head and tail       
and swing
him quick left right left right to remove the scales 
check beneath the gills red fans
cut them swift and
then fins here there up down and tail
feel that perfect line
where the head ends and the body begins 
choose it fine and move slow over the edge
feel the resistance of white flesh, staring eye and open mouth
but keep at it 
let him feel the pressure of your fingers
until it is done and the head sits isolated with a hole
dripping with stuff 
and then halve
him down his body and pull out the red mess
make equal pieces cutting him so that
the bones do not disturb
afterwards.

The master performer and Hindi Poet Piyush Mishra was also part of the festival:

Listen to him perform here:

 

The festival had numerous workshops for children and adults and a book section where you could buy poetry by the attending speakers as well as some old greats.

I bought this one,  the highly  controversial  Shikwa and Jawab by Iqbal, translated by Mustanvir Delhvi, who was also present at the festival.

Taking_Issue_And_Allahs_Answer_730520.jpg

As a poetry lover, this year has been amazing, with me being part of the Jashne-Rekhta Festival earlier this year and now a Poetry Festival right in my city!

More power to Atta Galatta and their entire team of volunteers, organizers and to the poets who came and conquered hearts.

To many more festivals and poetry celebrations.

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Comfort Food


A cool summer morning in Srinagar, Kashmir, the last of a 14 day life changing journey. Meandering through snow covered mountains, across high altitude passes, we find ourselves surrounded by the beauty of the valley and the people of this much coveted land.

As we turn a corner, the smell of freshly baked bread fills our nostrils.
Through the small window we see the tandoor that fits the entire bakery and surrounding it warm fresh bread.

We peek inside with glee, the sight of warm sepia colored bread in different shapes and sizes smiling back at us. A few smiles, exchange of admiration, and tea is being offered to us; strangers from the street. But the tea is not served at the street, these are the Kashmiris, they invite you inside their home, that lies just behind the bakery.

bread.wazwan

So there we were on this chilly morning in Kashmir, invited into the home of the Kashmiris, sitting in a kitchen so beautiful in made me fall in love once more.

Lining the wall were traditional silver and copper ware in different sizes, and a trandional chullah perched on the floor, where the salt tea was brewing. As we sipped on our tea, warm bread meandered in from the bakery and was served with dollops of butter.

I always remember the warm feeling I experienced in that moment. Just a few short minutes ago we were strangers on the street, travelers from far away and then inside the home of the most gracious hosts being treated to warm bread and chai.

Could there be a better way of getting to know people than experiencing their food?

I was looking for poetry that described food, that captured the sound of crisp chalkis breaking in your mouth, the texture of perfectly cooked mutton, the coolness of sweet lassi on a hot summer day, the creaminess of mango shrikhand, the steaming bowl of soup on a winter night.

Words that would capture comfort food, the desire for warm rice and yellow daal after traveling away from home for weeks, the quick fix of masala dosa to make you feel home and degree coffee at the right temperature in thick steel glasses.

Urdu poets have written extensively on drinking or wine, being biased towards food. I did find this poem by Gulzar, who often writes about the little things, about an ashtray, a room, a tree, books, ash and bonfires.

Eendhan or fuel, is the life of the chullah in every home. It may be  invisible in the ‘Veneta Cucine’ catalog designs, but the kitchen of so many homes even today is fired with firewood. The ‘uple’ or cowdung cakes that form part of this chullah, are an classic example of sustainable and organic fuel, the Indian way.

cowdung

Transliteration of Eendhan By Gulzar

chhote they, maa uple thapa karti thi
hum uplon par shaklein goondha karte they
aankh lagakar-kaan banakar
naak sajakar
pagdi wala, topi wala
mera upla-
tera upla-
apne-apne jane pehchane naamo se
uple thapa karte they

haste-khelta suraj roz savere aakar
gobar ke upalon pe khela karta tha
raat ko aangan mein jab chulha jalta tha
hum sare chulha gher ke baithey rehte the
kis upale ki baari aayi
kiska upla raakh hua
wo pandit tha-
ek munna tha-
ek dashrath tha-

barson baad- main
shamshan mein baitha soch raha hun
aaj ki raat is waqt ke jalte chulhe mein
ik dost ka upla aur gaya!

Translation of Indhan By Pavan K Verma

When we were children, mother used to make dung-cake
And we would etch faces on them
Stick and eye, make a ear
Add a nose
Put a turban or a cap
This is mine
That is yours
To each dung-cake
We gave our own favorite name

Every morning, the sun’s rays would
Frolic with the dung-cakes
At night, in the aangan, when the cooking fire was lit
We would sit around it
To see which dung-cake would go
Whose cake would be turned into ashes
That one a pandit
This one a child
This other Dashrath

Years later
I sit at the cremation ground
Thinking, tonight, into the pyre
One more dung-cake, another friend has gone.

If anyone knows of Urdu poetry on food, please do share.