Kumar Vishwas brings his particular brand of Hindi poetry to Australia, write GAURAV MASAND in Melbourne, and RAJNI ANAND LUTHRA and PRIYANKA TATER in Sydney
Koi deewana kehta hai, koi pagal samajhta hai…
If you are a lover of contemporary Hindi poetry, you’ll be able to complete that couplet in a flash.
Magar dharti ki bechani ko bas badal samajhta hai
And even if you don’t know this particular piece of poetry, just reading the rest will bring a smile to your lips:
Main tujhse dur kaisa hun, tu mujhse dur kaisi hai
Yeh tera dil samajhta hai ya mera dil samajhta hai.
Such is the power of Kumar Vishwas that he has had an entire generation find a renewed interest in Hindi poetry.
Today the man dons many hats: he’s a poet, a lecturer, an activist, a politician. He is now also a public speaker, enjoying much success in the diaspora communities. But to those of us who knew him from college, we fondly remember him for his classic Koi deewana kehta hai. It rings a bell and brings a smile to all his fans, though they would have left those by-lanes long ago.
Kumar Vishwas was brought Down Under thanks to the Melbourne-based Harinder Singh of All Signs Australia and toured Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Well known for his oratory skills, he engages the crowd actively and one can feel the passion for his craft in his eyes.
Although the crowd favourite at his recent shows was, as expected, Koi deewana kehta hai, his Ek pagli ladki in Melbourne turned out to be just as touching. The simple poem reminds you of the first flush of love, of the wonder years of teenage times and the trysts with rules and regulations. As the words flow smooth like a gushing river, one is swept away into memories.
Jab unch neech samjhane mein
mathe ki nas dukh jaati hain
tab ek pagli ladki ke bin jeena gaddari lagta hai,
aur us pagli ladki ke bin marna bhi bhari lagta hai.
As a commentator on socio-political trends in the country, Vishwas hinted at the current political landscape in a subtle yet sensitive manner, and then struck a chord with another crowd favourite Tirangaa. This poem vividly describes the sentiments of our serving armymen and the fervour with which they guard our soil with their lives.
Shohrat na adaa karna maula
daulat na adaa karna maula
bas itna adaa karna chahe jannat na adaa karna maula
shamma e watan ki lau par jab qurbaan patanga ho
hothon par Ganga ho, hathon mein tiranga ho
The audience sang along as urged, perhaps feeling more Indian than ever momentarily. Yes, Vishwas stirred emotion within all those present. There were peals of laughter yet his words frequently tugged at the heart, such as with Teri yaad aati hai which must surely have struck a chord with every sojourning IT consultant in the room!
Har ek khone har ek pane me teri yaad aati hai
Namak aankho me ghul jane me teri yaad aati hai
Teri amrit bhari lehro ko kya malum ganga maa
Samundar paar veerane me teri yaad aati hai.
And talking of India’s worldwide battalion of IT consultants, how about this reference in his other signature poem, Hum Hai Desi
Hum na aate to taraki, Is kadar na bol pati,
Hum na aate to ye duniya, Khidkiya na khol pati,
You cannot miss, in the following lines, that mention of Yashoda and Devki, to refer to children born of one mother raised and nourished by another, equally loved by both: a clever connection to our dual identities as NRIs.
Hai yasoda ke yha par, devki jaye hai hum
Hum hai desi hum hai desi hum hai desi,
Ha magar har desh chaye hai hum…
Of course the delivery was never straight from start to finish, thanks to his habit of going off on a tangent mid-recital. As he explained his lines or responded to a movement in the auditorium, there was a story, a memory, an observation or an aspiration that came gushing forth. Or, much to the delight of the listeners, a joke. These could be on the asli pehchaan of a desi (toilet-related of course); the state-wise stereotypes; the over-parenting in the western world, our over-regulated lifestyle, our pristine sky with the “dry-cleaned” clouds. And expectedly, the political shenanigans from the Indian scene.
The contrasting styles of Manmohan Singh and Modi: while one never opens his mouth, the other…? Best left unsaid!
And this one: “Modi ka koi vipaksh nahi hai, na parliament mein, na ghar mein”.
On Gen-Y: “Bahu agar subah nimbu chaatey toh khush khabri mat samajhiyega. Ho sakta hai, hangover ho”.
To a random solo burst of laughter from the audience: “Aap supplementary mein paas huye the kya?”
The flow was uninterrupted, no breaks, no stops. It turned out to be a full-on session, just as much stand-up comedy as poetry as observations on life, nationalism, relationships, religion… and everything in between.
And that perhaps, is the tendency that Kumar has to watch, given he has been dismissed early in his career as an upstart, whether on the poetry scene or in politics. His tendency to overreach was only too obvious yet again here, such as when he strode in at his Sydney show about an hour late, unapologetic, and still told off someone who scampered to their setas: “Aap to samay se aaye hain, hum hi ne jaldi shuru kiya.”
Your energy and enthusiasm simply overshadowed all the hard feelings that had cropped with the wait. But still, humility, Vishwas, humility!
Rest assured, our takeaway from the night will surely be the shringar ras and deshbhakti bhaav that your poetry invoked.