On a hot Friday morning, poetry enthusiasts gathered around Kishore tea stall in Lower Parel to listen to poets recite their works over cutting chai. The event, which was organised by the Poets Translating Poets festival, to which SheThePeople.TV was a partner, brought together accomplished poets working in different languages to read out their work at different locations across Mumbai.

Berlin-based poet Christian Philips conceptualised the event. According to him, the point of the tea party was to spread poetry across Mumbai, and to encourage people to share their work across the city.

Poetry on the streets
Source: SheThePeople.TV

Marathi poet Shilpa Deshpande, German poet Orsolya Kalasaz and Tamil poet Sukirtharani were among those who performed at the first venue. Of the performances, Sukirtharani’s was perhaps the most mesmerising. After reciting her poem in Tamil, she took to beating a wooden drum. People passing by couldn’t help but stop and look on as she played her music, almost defiantly. Later, she told SheThePeople.TV that music and poetry are very much intertwined, and music gives the beat and rhythm to words.

The next session took place outside Famous Studios in Mahalaxmi. Here, we were treated to a reading by the author of ‘Wanderers All’ Janhavi Acharekar. Mumbai is a central character in her novels, and she fittingly read out an excerpt about chai stalls for the Tea Party.

Writer and poet Annie Zaidi recited a wonderful poem about coffee in Kala Ghoda. Here are some lines:

“We can drink ourselves blue someday
Tonight let’s stick with coffee
There’s Monday to belt up against.”

“The working week is a washboard that bruises our faces
Until we are too numb to look around with leaky eyes.”

Men from a crowded restaurant across the stall joined in, and many found it funny that the group was calling itself a ‘tea party’. However, as the words of poets in different languages washed over everyone who had assembled at the location, people quieted down and seemed to be soaking in the performance.

Mumbai Tea Party
Poets Annie Zaidi, Shilpa Deshpande and Christian Filips at a tea stall. Source: SheThePeople.TV

The last performance venue was the well-known Army Restaurant in Kala Ghoda. Famous performance poet Rochelle D’Silva attended, as did Urdu poet Jameela Nishat. Shilpa Deshpande recited a poem she had written in the car on the way to the location and everyone was impressed by how good it was despite being written in such a short time. By the end of it, a sense of camaraderie had developed between all of us who had participated in the event.

Also Read: Women Poets Discuss Religion, Caste and Myths

Also Read: Meet The Poets Series

SheThePeople.TV partnered with the Poets Translating Poets Festival. 50 poets have participated in a two-year-long project which aimed to provide a forum to contemporary poets from India and other South Asian countries to translate poetry in German and vice-versa.