All India Poetess Conference
Fifty two Indian poetesses have descended onto Tashkent. Our Indian-operated hotel, the Park Turon, serves a subcontinental lunch-buffet redolent of curry; the poetesses' tourbus is parked outside, they are put up elsewhere but come to the Turon every day for lunch.
Mr. M disappears under a scrum of Aunties. When he re-emerges, cheeks and pockets bulging with candy, his eyes are glazed and he is lobbed from table to table; his nose is tweaked, his cheeks are pecked and many blurry pictures of his restless person are taken.
The poetesses seem to all be, to use that 'cosmopolitan' put-down, regional; that is, they hail from small towns and write in various vernacular languages. They seem to me to have joined the All India Poetess Conference for the same reasons people join organizations like Lions Club or Linked In all the world over: to belong, to be seen to belong, to meet interesting or interested people, to fight boredom, to see if they can learn that or this. The AIPC has organized seminars in Mauritius and in Thailand in the past; this year they are in Tashkent. The attendees fund themselves (a few seem to have small travel grants), so the locations are determined by affordability to the middle-classes of small-town India, as well as relevance to their views of themselves. In that sense, "Babur's homeland" is the near-abroad.
Some bios of the poetesses, from their web-site:
DIKSHA GAJBHIYE (Maharashtra)
Born on 17-08-1985 at Jabalpur, Completing MBBS from Seth G.S. Medical College Mumbai. Hobbies:reading, writing, music. Several articles published in college magazine. Honorary Member AIPC.
ARTY S. KALE (Maharashtra)
Born on 17-06-1971, B.Sc., Running Computer Training Institute at Nashik. Hobbies: Poetry Writing. Life Member AIPC.
DR. SANDHYA P. MERIA (Gujarat)
Born on 8-01-1974 at Gandhidham, University Topper in M.A., Ph.D. in Hindi, Lecturer Government College, Daman. Published Poems & Articles & Research Papers, First in State Level Debate & First in Dance, Drama, Saree–Show in University, Running Beauty Parlor, Painting & Boutique.
H. SAVITHRI DEVI (Karnataka)
Born on 16-02-1958 at Bangalore , M.A. 1988. Manager, The Bangalore City Co-Op. Bank Ltd., Interested in Reading, Writing Poems, Photography, Badminton & Listening Music. Honorary Member of AIPC.
DR. PRABHA KUMARI (Bihar)
Born on 21-04-1963 at Munger. M.A. 1983 Ph.D. 1989, HOD Economics, Sultan Ganj College, Bhagalpur ,Published Several books Akhiri Amanat, Toota Pani Choota, Ek Kiran Aur, Bhool Gai Chidia ...
RAGHUNATHAN T. M. (Our Helper)
Born on 10-06-1951, B.A. , Superintendent in EPFO. Knowing English, Hindi &Malayalam. Interested in Photography , Traveling & Reading (Lives at Kozhikode)
Teachers of the humanities in small-town colleges; a doctor here whose mother was an activist-poetess; a bank-manager there who writes couplets; a heavyweight 'national' poetess who was "nominated" into this group; a number of empty-nesters who write genuinely-sentimental bad poems chaining non-sequiturs. I wander around rescuing Mr. M from too-sweet gulab-jamuns and too-spicy samosas. Someone is reciting from a book:
पशमीने का हो चाहे रेशम का हो
कोई मरता नहीं है कफन के लिए
मेरे घर में अंधेरा कोई गम नहीं
एक दिया चाहिए बस जेहन के लिए
Pashmine ka ho chahe resham ka ho
Koi marta naheen hai kafan ke liye
Mere ghar mein andhera koi gham naheen
Ek diya chahiye bas jehan ke liye
Whether it be pashmina or whether silk
No one dies because they want a grand shroud
My house is dark, but I do not mind
Give me but one earthern-lamp of understanding.
In the middle of the mayhem, Dr. Lari Azad, Founder, is holding court. The Uzbek waiter of the Park Turon had sidled up to me with some questions on Tibetan medicine in Dharamsala. (Uzbekistan is going through a Tibetan medicine -- herbal and spiritual -- craze. We met Uzbeks who have flown to Bangalore, Sikkim and Dharamsala to get Tibetan medicines for ailments ranging from cancer to the evil eye; in fact, Uzbek Air flies twice a week to Amritsar from Tashkent to divert the Dharamsala traffic away from Delhi.) Telling the waiter the parathas are getting cold, Dr. Azad grabs hold of my hands affably. We sit and chat, hand in hand, two men in the middle of a sea of sentimental poetesses.
Dr. Azad was raised in Jajmau, a district town close to Kanpur; he immediately perks up on learning I have studied in Kanpur - "arre ji dekho dekho! it is a small world or what?"
Browsing the AIPC website, I find the following note by Lari Azad on "Decorum", i.e. how he wishes to be treated as Founder:
(To be strictly observed by the Office Bearers & all Members)
1-For AIPC, our Founder is sacrosanct & most venerable.
2-Founder’s presence is must in Inaugural, Felicitation & Valedictory Sessions.
3-Founder & Chairperson will always be received & seen off at Stations by Secretary General & Convener & other Vice Chairs & Deputy Secretaries.
4-Founder & Chair will always be escorted on Dais by both Secretary General & Convener themselves.
5-If a bouquet, garland or memento etc. is presented to Founder & Chair, it must not be less than that of Chief Guest or anyone.
6-Always in any case, at everywhere, Founder’s version will be considered as last verdict.
7-No member should be allowed to ask little things from the Founder or Chair directly.
8-All the Office Bearers should always stand to pay the respect at the entry of Founder & Chair.
9-All the AIPC members must talk & behave decently with all decorum while interecting with the Founder& Chair i.e. with ‘Sir’ & ‘Madam’.
10-All the present Hon’ble Gent Patrons will be given warm welcome & high honor.
11-Don’t make a call directly to Founder. Never call on his Private Cell No. If ever you call, use only 2 office Numbers.
We sit and catch up on our respective lives. They had been to Samarkand by tourbus a few days ago. Dr. Azad wants to know "what there is to see in Bukhara and Khiva?" As the 'guardian' of these poetesses, he fusses over them like a peacock shepherding peahens. He wants to make sure they, as 'sensitive persons', see 'inspirational parts of the world'; but there are also enough diabetics and heart patients in the company to warrant staying close to a hospital. In any case, the trip to Samarkand has knocked the stuffing out of many members. I console him saying if they have seen the Registan, they have seen the most grand sight in all Uzbekistan. Azad seems relieved; they can then proceed with wrapping up the lovefest, and go home. He recites softly:
जो सुख अपने चौबारा
न बलख नि बुखारा
Jo sukh apne chaubara
Na Balkh ni Bukhara.
Than own-shop no place dearer
Not Balkh, nor Bukhara.