Make verses, make rhymes

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Poetry and verse bring South Asians together at the inaugural SAPAC Literary and Poetic Seminar

A new first-of-its-kind literary and poetry event lit up the twilight, and its success will be talked about in Melbourne’s poetry circuit for a while to come.

SAPAC poetry.Indian Link

The South Asian Public Affairs Council (SAPAC) recently organised a soulful evening filled with great lyrical poetry, at Stirling Theological College, Mulgrave. The distinctive aspect of the occasion was that it was a multilingual platform for the nationals of the seven South Asian countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Maldives.

The event had a great turnout, with even more people than the organisers expected. The evening kicked off with greetings from Dr Shahbaaz Chaudhry, President of SAPAC. He welcomed everyone to this new platform for the intellects of the South Asian community to come together and share their works.

“We may be from different countries, we may speak different languages but our values are the same,” he said.  Through his poems (in Urdu and Punjabi) he claimed that a poet has no religion, a poet only brings humanity together.

SAPAC poetry.Indian Link

Dr Kaushal Srivastava, Convenor, expressed a similar sentiment with his own words of poetry. His work in Hindi (with English translations) spoke of the common ground that Australia has become for all those present, from different backgrounds.

The literary event was divided into two segments: Poetry Recitation and Book Introductions. The first segment was quite elaborate with around 20 poets who read their works in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, English, Sinhalese, Tamil, and Bengali. All participants had been requested to speak in their mother-tongue with a translation of their works in English for the audience’s sake.

SAPAC poetry.Indian Link

Dilini Eriyawala, a poet who recited at the event was ecstatic to read. “It was a different experience for me as a Sri Lankan, as this is the first event I attended with people who share the same interest,” she said. “The event was very interesting and hearing poems in different languages was awesome, though I didn’t understand much, but it was so musical.”

A wide array of topics were covered by the poets, including migration issues, love, current affairs, new age technology-driven relationships, and hope for a united India.

SAPAC poetry.Indian Link

Dinesh Srivastava, a regular at literary events said, “This was a first-of-its-kind event where various South Asian languages have been brought together which is kudos to the organisers.”

The second part of the evening was brief and dedicated to book enthusiasts. Ten authors read paragraphs from their published and upcoming works. The passion with which each writer read and explained their works was exemplary.

The audience also enjoyed a dance recital by the Pravaha Dancing Foundation.

SAPAC poetry.Indian Link

Dignitaries present at the occasion were Jennifer Yang, Mayor of Koonung Ward and Julian Hill, Labor Candidate for Bruce. Ms Yang congratulated the organisers on the great event. “It was wonderful opportunity for so many talented people from different countries to come together and have a cultural interchange,” she said. “It’s critical for us to be in touch with our roots and pass our heritage on to our next generations. We are proud Australians but we are also proud of the countries we originally come from.”

Mr Hill made a spontaneous visit and thanked the Council for inviting him to this event. He admitted candidly, “I don’t understand much that is going on here, but I’m delighted to meet people with such diverse backgrounds that have gathered today.”

Dr Shahbaaz Chaudhry said, “The response was overwhelming even though the event wasn’t advertised much.”

He added, “The Council might consider to hold this event twice a year since there has been so much interest.”

He hopes that next time around the event will be more structured and a much bigger success.

There were however a few pointers that the Council would do well to consider for future events.

SAPAC poetry.Indian Link

Yasmine, one of the attendees said, “The event was great but it was too lengthy. The organisers could have limited the number of participants in each category to say two or three. And there should have been a break in between the four-hour long program.” Chitra, another attendee, added, “All poets should have their poems translated so as to reach all members of the audience.”

Kaushaliya Vaghela, Secretary of SAPAC agreed. “Yes, translations could have been presented on screen to keep the audience engaged.”

She added, “The youth was missing in action, but today’s success and word of mouth would draw them in next time.”

The shortcomings of the inaugural event can easily be tackled in Version 2.0.

SAPAC has been formed with the idea of bringing all the communities of South Asia together and this event seems to have achieved that to a large extent. To date, the Council has tried to touch various issues and interests that are close to these communities including sports, business and migration, and is now engaging with literary works.

For further information visit: sapac.org.au