Art is an act of revolt. It’s a rebellion against the reality that an artist manifest in his/her craft. It’s an expression, an imitation how one develops as a defence mechanism against the harsh reality. It’s the second voice of rare individuals in a world where the majority enjoys being monolingual.
Words are the weapons of a writer. The creation of the universe as some scriptures may spell, begun with a Word. The theist may have romanticised the inception of the world in the most artistic way that the science and logic might disagree, but art, as mentioned earlier isn’t bound to one dimension, isn’t a slave to reason.
In a quiet town of Darjeeling, in an obscure cosy cafe on 15th of January, Wednesday, Susanna Rai welcomed more than twenty writers from Darjeeling, Kurseong and Siliguri.
It was a red-letter day for young writers bubbling with excitement, clutching their notepads and mobile phones. The excitement was contagious and prominent in their faces. Organised for the first time by Darj-Writers which was started by poets Roshan Sharma and Kritika Dahal, supported by Darjinc. The latter describes themselves as “a one-stop-shop for all things Darjeeling!”, providing various local goods and services that cater to eco-conscious buyers and aim to “build an ecosystem of self-sustaining processes, providing opportunities for local artisans and cultural identities to flourish”.
This Wednesday evening, there were many words spilt and absorbed by the walls and the ears in a packed four walls of SuZam’s Cafe. There were three categories for the performers of the evening; Poetry, storytelling and music. It was a mixed crowd where the participants were mostly young college students thirsty for a taste of literary society. There were few high school students, freshly graduates and a handful of freelancers. Overall the room was filled with lovers of words who despite their age, cultural background and language barriers have decided to form a confluence. The outpouring emotions that started from the late afternoon ended at the peak of the evening which is usually 6:30-7 pm in Darjeeling during winter. Words were spoken from the depth of their hearts, some tears were shed and as the Ukelele strummed the crowds favourite Bartika Em Rai’s “Najeek“, all sang with the voice that knew the emotions behind the word.
“Najeek na aw,
Dar lagdaicha afnai bhawana haru sanga”
Poetry recitation started late in the evening with author Regina Gurung who gave insight about her latest publication and introduction of writers in the field of art. The evening had just begun and the cups of white coffee mugs pile up as the poet’s recited lines after lines.
YouTuber poet Pankaj Shastri recited his ” The muse that got fused” his kaju barfi story about a crush whom he immortalised in verse, in between lines he did not shy away expressing his disappointment with his jilted lover not being present in the “Mehfil“, this was followed by his poignant Hindi recitation of “24 February ki Sham( the evening of 24 February)”, it was a tribute to his father whom he lost in that ominous night.
The silence after the reading made the air thick, there were much more reading left, and the crowd was losing patience. The emcees decided to draw a lot. Picking the numbers from the date form. Young poets performed their poems with pride and nervousness.
Notable performances were from Inspiria student from Siliguri, Roshni Rai’s “Aaj Bol de (Say it today)” a simple poem about lovers in the early stage of love about confessions, Ashish Khatiwara’s “Aama“, Ansad Ansari’s “My Hometown” and Dhritya Giri’s “Useless”, Kate Sarah’s “Bad Writer”, Nikeeta Tamang’s “Chiso Chulo“.
However, the stars of the evening were three individuals, Prabal “Chiso” Rai’, Lubina Kritika Dahl, and Prabinta Bhujel. These three poets had the verse and the voice to create a wave in a room full of aspiring poets, they were no novice but they cast a spell around the room. The crowd was in unison with the speakers.
Prabal “Chiso” Rai’s humourous documentation of Darjeeling’s common mundane life was evident in his three poems “Ma Darjeelingay” and “Hamilai Matrai Tha cha( Only we know)”, a satire on people of Darjeeling who has always discovered a way a living that has surprised the rest of the world. From fashion to a middle-class struggle, to politics, Chiso Rai cleverly joined the puzzle pieces that the crowd found themselves in each line and agreed in unison ” Hamilai Matrai Tha cha“
On much prodding, the poet read his “Moti” poem which deals with a dieting culture where figure and shapes rupture the beauty standard, it was a mock poetry where the poet clearly said it out loud, Moti is also a shape, and he loves this shape, while beauty isn’t just about the physicality of one’s body, every girl be it skinny or obese suffers through this anxiety. So the poet in his dramatic monologue cried out to the audience to savour every meat and carbs as real men do not care about the size and shape of their paramours.
Lubina Kritika Dahl in her musical voice recited her lyrical poem ” Email” about a mother’s undying love for her son, who’s grown distant from her over the years and her hesitation to push the button to the email that she has written.
Prabinta Bhujel of Sonada was another wonder to watch and listen, she too recited in Nepali “Naya“, this lyrical poem had stark metaphors about the old welcoming the new,
“Timro tyo Naya Naya awne harulai Bhani few” (Tell that to your new ones)
As she began talking about new leaves in a bough of a tree, how the old withered one has a message, and the empty gums of a mouth where the new set of teeth comes out, the old teeth that once occupied those vacant space was blackened and had been successfully performed its duty. The wood that has turned into ash tells it to the burning furnace, to tell the new victim that it burned to keep the walls warm.
The passion of words were felt in those lines, there was indeed magical spell that spell bounded everyone in the cosy room. As the night engulfed the sky, SuZam Cafe’s Susanna Rai had the last word with her life experiences in a city far away from her hometown to the reality of life about loss and gain.
Thus, the first gathering of the young hungry writers in a secluded rooftop cafe of a sleepy town was a success. There was no competition but a deep meaningful camaraderie among the strangers who had entered only with a motive to be heard and when these poets said their farewells to the host, they all had become comrades.
Perhaps the walls of SuZam’s cafe will forever remember the iconic lines and among this small group one day will come out revolutionary writers, to change the perspective of life. As for now these words only echo in the silence of the four walls while the future bestselling authors live a life unacknowledged.