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Culture: The universal language of poetry and art; You don't have to speak Hindi, Urdu or Gujarati to appreciate Indian music, food, art or even poetry. All you need is to be open to having your senses saturated. Jo Ind reports on an event this Friday which promises to bathe you in the best of India.

Byline: Jo Ind

I did not understand a word the woman was saying. I did not even know what language she was speaking in. And yet as she was reciting her poem, I found myself feeling sweetly sad.

I was listening to a member of Gitanjali Multilingual Literary Circle (GMLC) recite a poem in her mother tongue. I did not understand her poem, but I was emotionally affected by words nonetheless. I am still trying to figure that one.

This is an experience familiar to the members of GMLC, a group of 20 or so Indian poets set up in Birmingham more than nine years ago.

Founded by Dr Krishna Kumar, the poets meet once a month and read their latest work to each other in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Telagu or English.

Some poets are familiar with maybe three or four of the languages, but there is nobody there who can speak them all.

I found that sometimes it was enough to enjoy the sounds of the words. At other times an emotion was captured, even when I could not comprehend the meanings.

And there were moments when it was frustrating too, almost painfully so, when I realised in a new way, that no matter how long my life was and how hard I studied, I would never be able to fully appreciate the beauty of the poems.

At such times, I used each poem as a meditation on how little I knew of our rich, diverse and immense world.

Dr Kumar set up the multilingual poetry group in Birmingham to foster tolerance and understanding between people from different parts of the Indian subcontinent.

'Otherwise everybody stays in their own little ghettos,' he said.

Learning to listen to each others languages, to develop understanding and appreciate what we will never understand is what the group is all about.

This Friday, there is the opportunity for anybody to sample the delights of GMLC's poetry as well as a feast of other Indian arts.

GMLC is hosting an Oasis Cafe Theatre at the Orange Studio, in Canon Street, Birmingham starting at 7pm.

Oasis Cafe Theatre is a mixed arts event set up by Julie Boden, Birmingham's poet laureate.

Julie has invited the Indian poets to hold an evening of poetry, music and fine art which will include an Indian buffet.

The evening will kick off with poetry reading at 7.30pm. Fine art by the painter Sarvesh Saini, a member of GMLC, will be on display.

There will be a break during which there will be an Indian buffet and then there will be a performance of classical and semiclassical music by Aravinda Rao and some more poetry.

The theme of Sarvesh's oil paintings areon trees in Indian mythology, so many of the poems will be taking up the tree theme.

Sarvesh, who works for the Indian civil service but is currently studying for an MBA at the University of Birmingham, created a series of paintings, known as Tarukathaa, which means story of trees.

they have already been shown in the Lalit Kala Academy in Delhi and at the Nehru Centre in London.

He has chosen trees as his subject partly because his work involves being a custodian to trees and also because of the particular place that trees have in Indian mythology. The result is a series of images that have archetypal qualities, seeming both very Indian and very universal at the same time. 'The celebration of the mystery of creation, of germination of seed, of fertility find expression in the colour,' says Sarvesh.

He said he found it very shocking coming to Britain and seeing the lack of regard that people had for their cultural roots.

'The family that prays together stays together,' says Sarvesh. 'If you perform rituals as a family, it keeps you together.'

Some of his paintings allude to Indian rituals associated with trees.

Aravinda Rao, a Telagu poet, singer, and member of the Literary Circle will be performing between the blocks of poetry reading.

'When there are English people in the audience and the language might be a barrier, I choose songs which have a strong rhythm because that is something that everyone can relate to,' she said.

Julie Boden said: 'When I started as poet laureate I said I wanted to sing back the song of the city. What I've tried to do with Oasis is give people a platform so that they can sing back the songs of the city. That is what will be happening on Friday night.'

Oasis Cafe Theatre and Gitanjali Multilingual Literary Circle present their evening of Indian poetry, music and art on Friday, June 13, at The Orange Studio, Cannon Street, Birmingham.

Doors open at 7pm. Poetry reading starts at 7.30pm. Tickets cost pounds 6 and include an Indian buffet and soft drink during the interval. Call The Orange Studio on 0800 0790909.


Sarvesh Saini at his home in Selly Oak with some of his paintings; Krishna Kumar, who founded the Gitanjali Multilingual Literary Circle
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 11, 2003
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