He went on reciting one nazm after the other, and the audience listened, enraptured. People could not get enough of him, hanging on to his every word. His words, read out from pieces of paper arranged on the small table before him, spun a web of magic around the audience. The audience became one big cocoon, lost to the rest of the world, oblivious of its surroundings. Questions were asked, the audience wanting to know the story behind each line that he recited.
I am talking about poet and author Gulzarji, at his poetry reading at the 2013 Bangalore Literature Festival, Aao Phir Nazm Kahein, which I had the good fortune of attending yesterday. THE Gulzar. Along with the rest of the audience, I was awed by his words, too, falling in love with the man and his poetry all over again, for the umpteenth time. Who wouldn’t be spell-bound if the man who wrote classics like ‘Mera kuch saamaan‘ had written little nuggets of poetry exclusively for them, reciting them in his story-teller’s voice?
Gulzarji is sheer genius, and, yesterday, he proved that all over again. I was struck dumb by his imagination. Beautiful little moments, lamhe, from everyday life; a man coming across his old crush years later in the street, by accident; the poems of a poet sitting in a semi-circle around him, conversing with him about whether they made him or he made them – these are just a little sample of the poems Gulzarji went on to recite during the session.
Words like ‘pilpile‘ and ‘baingani‘ are not what you come across in the course of routine conversation today, and, knowing this, he was sweet enough to explain to the audience what they meant and how they came about to be used in his poems. His wit and kindness were evident in his quick repartees to audience questions, as was his naughtiness. Dil toh bachcha hai ji, anyone?
Joining him for the poetry reading session was famed Bollywood lyricist Prasoon Joshi, who created magic of his own with his nazms. Then he went on to surprise the audience by singing a few of his own creations in an amazingly melodious and beautiful, clear voice. This prompted a comment from Gulzarji that the younger man gave him a complex, with his many talents and his ability to recite poems from memory.
The camaraderie between the two men was very much evident. Gulzarji enthusiastically applauded each nazm recited by Prasoon, nudging him gently to repeat certain lines, and to share ‘that poem from the Jaipur literary festival’ and ‘that poem which he had loved so much’.
The audience showered their love and respect on both the poets, especially Gulzarji, which was very, very obvious. It was, obvious, too, in the huge queue of people who wanted to catch a moment with Gulzarji and get their books signed by him. Gulzarji obliged everyone with his trademark special smile.
Together, Gulzarji and Prasoon gave me a morning that I will cherish for a long, long time to come. Honestly, you had to be there at the event to understand the charisma that the two exuded and the spells that they wove.
I came away from the session refreshed, awed and totally in love, clutching to my chest a precious addition to my home library.