How we drew the youth to a poetry festival in Delhi
In times of lit fests, Kaafiya tried to take the verse and verve of the capital to the entire nation.
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Why transform a small, unceremonious youth gathering into poetic soiree? The rhythmic rustle of pages scores over the incongruous hubbub, with poetry like your favourite jam, spread over two loaves you may always like to carry in your backpack - for hunger can strike anywhere and at anytime.
Reading out loud from scribbled pages took precedence over fragile egos, puerile giggles, fountain glasses of milkshakes and lemonades, and smothering little cups of espresso and frothing cappuccino, only because, out of the blue, somebody realised that words only can bring the real awakening of the mind and the soul, while the idea of some exquisite carnival was simmering on the back burner. Coffee becomes old-fashioned so conveniently that one has to pinch to believe that yes, literature is getting a revamp!
Ballooning of any sort of streamlined arrangement can't be stalled, which then brings the big literary festival - rich in arrangement but what about material? We have a lot to talk (and think) over.
This, I dare say, is the reason for the regained, evaluated and evolved interest of the youth in their varnished literature. An unplanned and unbiased trajectory. I have the scalpel, but to dissect the situation at hand and dissent would be relative to many offerings and wry misgivings (if not handled properly). First up, we talk about the opportunities and exposure the youth is looking for. Today's youth is not afraid to break the moulds appended to their survival, they have cracked them open to peep from their shells. They are pushing their limits, exploring in and out. They have an urge to know themselves and their interests better. Once they discover it, they don't hesitate to embrace it. Nothing acts as a setback.
Now these literary festivals provide the necessary thrill, opportunities to socialise and a learning environment to gain from. On-stage exposure, finding their works published by good, on-the-ground publications, and learning anew are the major add-ons.
A literature festival has become a cool and persistent trend in India - glamorising the process helps, and I am in accord with the fashion. That said, I am not sure if everyone works with a vision to support such enthusiasm and energy. Vision is the backbone of the enthusiasts' activity, of any size, towards their goal. It is also the reason why festivals of such nature emerge with much pomp and harness attention only to fade away very soon. A few wobbly years possibly contribute to the maximum time of the not-so-concrete retention. A festival without clear vision leads nowhere, and will end up giving nothing new to the youth so ardently involved. Sustenance is more than an easy and beatific walk taken on the trail of one's erratic desires. Vision becomes the must-have ingredient!
At 21, I conceptualised the Poets Corner Group, in the year 2011, and co-founded Delhi Poetry Festival two years later, in 2013. Poets' Corner has hosted two consecutive and successful seasons of Delhi Poetry Festival, and now has 23,000 members. Such overwhelming response to an initiative which came into existence only a few years ago was possible because we had vision laid as its foundation. As a poet, my dreams are relentless and my soul restless. To gratify both, I announced the launch of Kaafiya - The Poetry Festival on June 30, 2015. In the record time of 100 days, the entire process of conceptualising, planning and executing Kaafiya was achieved. We kick-started our mission with a vision to make Delhi the poetry capital of India, and eventually the world, by basking in the euphoria of its rich poetry because it is the history, and the only history, of the human soul. Any form of expression of the soul should not be subject to compartmentalisation or ghettoisation, as is our belief at Kaafiya.
The youth-driven festival was designed specifically to break the walls that exist within the domain of poetry, as well as those which separate poetry from other artistic media. College ambassadors were stationed in more than 50 colleges across the nation, with the only task of making poetry come alive in every young heart. We think Kaafiya is synonymous with the season of poetry, and thus, emulating a season, we conducted widespread multiple on-ground events, at colleges and across public spaces of Delhi. These included events combining painting, heritage, photography, psychology, history, society and humanity with poetry.
The festival was taken to the echelon of greatest degree. Every piece of artwork meshed with poetry left the attendees gaping with awe and excitement. Thus we witnessed the celebration of poetry with the subsumed history of languages and the conclusion of an unforgettable two-day festival under the sky of a fanatic city, which always had an undefined young love for verse and verve.