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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Mukarrar (encore in Urdu) was the second presentation of the Poetry of Diaspora Silicon in Valley group hosted on 13th August 2022. It followed the first presentation, Irshaad, a year earlier. A bilingual presentation in English and Hindi, the event was about respecting and loving elders, as Pragalbha Doshi, the co-host, so beautifully explained. 

Age No Bar

The event was kicked off by Jagdish Luther, 96, who recited from memory the poem Himalaya, the first poem written by poetry giant of Urdu poems, Iqbal. It was a tribute not only to the majestic mountain but also the poetry giant Iqbal.

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Ignore the interruptions and people walking around casually in the background. This is not a performance group, but an art-practice poetry dojo. The trademark of this poetry group is the feeling of being at home, being comfortable in companionable silence.

A group that embraces the novice, and the accomplished, the shy and the bold poets, and shows love and respect towards all its poets. Respect for interruptions, mistakes, stammering, focusing solely on the one all-important thing: sheer love for poetry.

Respect For Elders

The message of respect for elders was also conveyed by the founder of the group, Dr. Jyoti Bachani, who introduced the next reader, Dinesh Mehta, aka ServiceSpace dad. She said Mehta’s Awakin Circles have inspired what they do in their Poetry Circle. It was just charming to hear him give voice to a romantic love song Jab koi baat ban jaai from Bollywood written by Shyamlal Babu Rai, popularly known as Indeevar.

Organizer and poet, Jyoti Bachani, participating in Mukarrar.

Prof. Thomas Kailath, the first Indian to get a doctorate in Electrical Engineering from MIT, followed by reciting the enchanting poem Abou ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt. The joy that Jagdish showed as he listened to the poem, is what poetry appreciation is all about, as were the casual exchanges between the recitations. 

No Subject Is Taboo

Bringing cellular biology alive in short poems was Kamala Thyagarajan. She started with her short and succinct poem Untitled, that reflects what every poet or writer feels. A request by co-host Sundeep Kohli asking Kamala to repeat her poem Bond energy, is what this group is all about – taking time to understand every poem and relishing it over and over again. 

Perhaps, no lengthy article or scientific presentation equals the whole idea of the virus, as Kamala’s short poem on viruses, Of viral tales! In a few sentences, Kamala grasps the whole journey of the virus within the human body. 

Kurt Lovelace, who has a background in publishing and creative writing studies, brought the enchantment of the humble tea and togetherness through his poem A cup of tea.

Dry leaves breaking from the branches of memory, is a journey through the past, and a child witnessing the pain of a cancer patient and promising itself that it would never forget the person. The underlying idea brings the contrasting feelings of horror at the pain and yet the need to retain that memory in honor of the person.

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Reciting From India

Joining from India was Vidur Sahdev who writes about fleeting moments in his beautiful poems, as if to carefully capture the moment and ensure it is not lost to the vagaries of time. Probably, nothing could capture this better than Magic, which talks about the star which once existed, and is longer there, yet lingers, as these moments linger through Vidur’s poems. 

Bringing youthful energy and depth in his reflections, as Pragalbha so beautifully explains, Vishal Vatnani reflects on the ‘in between’ moments of an event in his poem Remedy.

Pragalbha brought her poetry to the event, starting off with Nothing, but then. That her poems come from life’s learned experiences that are translated to a deeper searching of the soul is quite apparent from her other poem Beauty is when

The person bringing this group together and keeping this group going year after year, Jyoti Bachani, presented her poem from the very first anthology of the group, released in 2021, You, Me, Us. She also read a Hindi poem Tumhare saath rehkar by Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena.

Poetry In Any Language

Both poems celebrate the bonds of love and friendship that exist not only between individuals, but a group of kindred spirits, like the members of this group. Her fluency in both languages was clearly apparent in her translation of the amazingly beautiful poem, Aazadi (Freedom), written by one of the trilingual poets in the group Dr. Joe Poepalli. This served as a beautiful transition to hearing directly from this powerful poet, who will one day go down in the annals of history as a great poet. He read his original Urdu version of the poem Azaadi that is featured in another poetry anthology, released in India to celebrate the 75th year of independence of India. It came alive in his powerful baritone voice, in his inimitable style. 

Bringing a totally different dimension to the event was Navaneet Galagali, who delights with his Sanskrit recitation. This young techie from Silicon Valley treasuring Indian traditional poems and bringing them alive for those who do not know the language, through his succinct translation, is a treasure. The way he recites the verses shows that he comes from three generations of Sanskrit poets.

This thread of tradition was further carried by Shashank Dabriwal, who read an excerpt of Rashmirathi, an epic mythological poem by a great Hindi poet, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar.  

Host Sundeep Kohli brought the dignity of poetry, through his reading of a poem inspired by the great poet Mirza Ghalib. He is the person who brings the flavor of poetry gatherings, as they occur in India, to the group. Clearly well respected by the group, Sundeep brought his diverse talent to the event with an original song that brought a beautiful end to the event.

This community of poetry lovers reads poems to each other every month, on the first Saturday of the month, and they leave the (zoom) door open to welcome whoever wants to join them. Once a year, they offer this public event, to spread their values in the larger world outside.