Society

Aspiring writers find a community via Masala Chai Meanderings

Meenakshi Bharat

Meenakshi Bharat

Some poems exude sweetness. Others are a punch to the gut. Some of the best ones, sadly, often go unpublished. But that does not mean they are not needed.

Last week, when four wordsmiths sat before an audience of 50 to present their writings — some published, others never exposed to an audience — reactions were varied. It was the 10th edition of Masala Chai meanderings, curated by Chennai-based academician Aparna Srinivas and Delhi-based professor Meenakshi Bharat. The writers they had selected were deliberately disparate: a medical intern who had so far written only in diaries; a dentist who is well-recognised in Chennai’s thespian circles; an author whose latest work has been published by the Sahitya Akademi.

The mood of the morning shifted with each: from wry humour, to sweet adoration, to gut-wrenching grief and back. This has been par for the course for over a year, as each session brings forth someone new. “People needed a break from the constant pandemic claustrophobia that every one of us was living under,” says Meenakshi.

The duo fielded over 50 creative writers across 10 sessions, between January 2021 and January 2022. Says Meenakshi, “We began by ambitiously featuring six writers per session, but soon realised that our listeners wanted time to respond to the poetry and speak with each writer. So now we host three to four writers each time and let them bond with their listeners.”

Their recent session also served as a book launch platform for painter-writer Shweta Rao Garg’s poetry collection, titled Of Godesses And Women , courtesy the Delhi-based Sahitya Akademi. As audience member and respected academician GJV Prasad pointed out after Shweta’s reading: “It’s a different experience when a poem is read out by the poet”.

Doctor-intern Aakruti Ganla’s writings, on the other hand, were more like messages to herself and her loved ones. “I had never shared these writings with anyone before this, other than four friends,” she stated, before proceeding to read them out to a total of 56 people on camera. The third writer of the day was Vidya Rajagopalan, who seized listeners’ attention with a deeply personal poem about her father’s death.

The final act was by dentist and theatre performer Yohan Chacko, who accompanied his own words with a guitar, singing songs of love and friendship and the intriguing role technology plays in facilitating it.


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2022 8:49:46 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/society/aspiring-writers-find-a-community-via-masala-chai-meanderings/article38365412.ece