x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Indian women share private dreams - through poetry

The All India Poetess Conference will take place from 22 to 24 May across the UAE

The famous Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam came on board as a member when the All India Poetess Conference was launched in 1999 as a forum to encourage lesser-known Indian women poets globally. Sipra Das / The India Today Group / Getty Images
The famous Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam came on board as a member when the All India Poetess Conference was launched in 1999 as a forum to encourage lesser-known Indian women poets globally. Sipra Das / The India Today Group / Getty Images

DUBAI // A group of 56 Indian women will leave behind their everyday jobs as teachers, bank tellers and housewives to share their passion for poetry on a reading tour next week.

The women will give poetry readings, take part in academic discussions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and visit other emirates as part of a week-long programme organised by the All India Poetess Conference.

"This is a stage for the lesser-known poets and artists," Dr Lari Azad, head of the history department at India's University of Meerut, said.

Dr Azad founded the organisation in memory of his mother.

"My mother was a simple housewife with dreams and, like her, many of these women may never have left their homes before," he said. "Being part of this organisation has taken them beyond Indian shores."

The UAE was chosen as the site for the seventh international conference because of its large Asian community and close ties with India. Last year's conference was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The organisation has 6,000 women members worldwide and also holds annual meetings in India.

The theme of women's rights will run through participants' poems. Readings will be given in Dubai on Sunday and in Abu Dhabi next Tuesday.

The women's poems are written in a variety of languages, including Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati, and Dogri, which is spoken in northern Kashmir.

"This sort of cultural enrichment through travel is important," said Dr Azad, 50, who also writes poetry.

"It will expose the women to the world and also to the diversity within India when they hear languages from all over the country."

The group was established in 1999 as a forum for women poets, with members including the well-known Indian poet Amrita Pritam and lyricist Maya Govind. Since then it has expanded to include artists, dancers and singers.

"It's a good platform and gives everybody a chance - from rural India to the big towns," said Shazia Kidwai, a Sharjah-based finance professional who is co-ordinating the UAE programme.

"It gives people a chance to hear dialects that are different, not only from top-notch artists but also from women who wouldn't otherwise get any exposure. They have a chance to get noticed."

The group will also hold workshops in Sharjah, Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah.

rtalwar@thenational.ae