Friday, 21 March 2014

Sabad - World Poetry Festival, Delhi 2(b)

Kavita Dwivedi dancing

Sometimes things happen by a kind of improvisation. Before the events started, Tibor, the director of the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Delhi found me and was looking for a way for me to visit the centre and maybe talk to some students.

After the readings were over for the day there was to be a dance performance that was projected to finish at 7pm, so we arranged to meet after that when he would drive me to the centre. The dance, which was new and in praise of femininity by one of the doyens of Indian dance, Kavita Dwivedi,  was beautiful and highly descriptive, its movement full of recognisable social gestures. Watching it I kept thinking of the way such classical or classical-modern stylised dances worked. It was, I thought, something to do with the tension between intimacy and distance, which is the key to anything classical. The work means at a deep level but through stylised formal means within its own parallel world. There is clearly much more to think about here another time but it's latehere - 1am - and I have more to tell.

I only saw two acts of the five act dance because it started late. Tibor arrived and we drove off to the HCC. A party was already in full swing and elegantly dressed. I felt a little awkward because I was in my day clothes, no ties and a day's growth of beard, but that is probably permissible in poets. I was formally introduced and somebody immediately asked me to recite some lines from one of my poems. So I did; then they asked for another, and I did that too. I had sung for my wine. Two glasses of it in fact. This was accompanied by pleasant conversation then I was taken into the library where a Hungarian language class was in progress, a very nice Hungarian woman teaching five Indians. I had been speaking Hungarian to Tibor and his wife, but this next session continued in English because the class were beginners. I was asked about Márai and Krasznahorkai, told a few anecdotes, a little about my own Hungarian language background, and it was all very lovely so I was quite sorry to break up.

I thought that was over, and we'd return to the hotel but we stopped at the Ethiopian Cultural Centre, where, apparently, we had been invited impromptu. We were each presented with an Ethiopian hat then sat down to an Indian meal, since both the owner and the director of centre are Indians. After the meal and conversations we were taken into a far more luxurious version of an Ethiopian coffee lounge than you'd find in Ethiopia, where coffee was ground and brewed for us by a possibly Ethiopian lady, and if so, the only Ethiopian member of staff we met,  the coffee rich, dark, delicious.

The conversation was partly anecdotal, partly practical (not my affair). It was strange to be sitting unplanned with a very nice Hungarian couple currently fasting for Lent, in an Ethiopian centre talking with more Indians in Delhi, at the end of a day when I had already talked - unplanned - about translating, attended a vernissage, recited poems impromptu rather than reading them, having just delivered my first ever inaugural address, done one brief reading, then a surprising second one.

Tomorrow may be less hectic, though I do have to chair a panel. Here's the hat to prove all this happened.

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