An exclusive evening with India's most respected and acclaimed wizard of words was an unbelievable treat for us New Yorkers. A privileged few were present for an enchanting night of shayari with Javed Akhtar in New York City. The event was extremely elegant and co-hosted by the Indo American Arts Council and the Rubin Museum of Art.
In North America to participate in an event for South Asian Studies in Chicago, Javedsaab delighted his attentive New York listeners with an evening we would never forget. His recitation of poems drew from his vast and abundant collection of works he has penned over the years. His works touched on themes such as nostalgia, relationships, the passage of time and most touching was a poem he said he wrote for his daughter. All this interspersed with ‘wah wah's’ and wistful sighs from the audience.
It was not an evening of just intellectual banter and pensive philosophic musings, but had many light moments too. Javedsaab began the evening with an anecdote saying, “There was a time once when roles were reversed and poets were giving speeches and politicians were reciting poetry.” This seemed to get everyone off to a great start.
After the recitation Javedsaab engaged in conversation with the audience touching on several issues such as balancing his multifaceted career. As a lyricist, screenplay writer, and poet, he wears many hats, but says he's passionate about all of them. Fresh out of college he started out wanting to be a film director not knowing his incredible talent to write. Even though he belongs to a family lineage that can be traced back t o seven generations of writers he didn't begin writing poetry till he was 35 years old. “I think I subconsciously felt some kind of pressure because of my lineage and that is probably what kept me from writing poetry for all those years. I also believe that upbringing and environment play a great role in what a person becomes. Because of the atmosphere I grew up in I learnt many things about the craft of poetry which in other circumstances someone would have to go to school for.”
When asked if he thinks he has ‘arrived’ in light of his achievements he joked that the term scared him. “It makes me feel like it is the end of a journey. I don't feel like I have achieved so much” he added modestly. Aktar-mingled with the audience, signing books and taking photographs.
Among the audience were the likes of Mahmood Mamdani, author of recently published ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim’. A dash of Bollywood glamour was added by Abhishek Bachchan who came along with Akhtar's niece choreographer and director, Farah Khan. Bachchan who had taken time out from shooting Karan Johar's film, looked relaxed to be in a place where he wouldn't be mobbed by frenzied female fans. So for all those back home who wonder what Bollywood stars are doing in New York–they work, party and enjoy some food for the soul just like the rest of us.