Friday, February 22, 2008

A poetic tribute

Iranian students recreate a piece of their culture in city while remembering activist-poet Forough Farrokhzad

Dibyajoti Sarma

She was not just a poet. She was the sad voice of Iranian women. She wrote five collections of poetry, got divorced and had an affair, made a documentary on a leprosy patients’ colony called ‘The House is Black’. She also had Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci to make a film on her life and died at the age of 32 in a car crash in 1967. A short life, nonetheless a pivotal one, which changed the course of modern Persian poetry forever, converting millions of enthusiastic admirers, who swear by her vision and daring to stand up for issues close to her heart. She was Forough Farrokhzad.
“She was against convention. In her short life, she has left an indelible mark in modern Persian poetry and cinema. Her poems have been translated into more than 20 languages,” says Omid Varzandeh, a doctoral student at the department of English, University of Pune .
To commemorate the 41st death anniversary of the iconic Iranian poet, a group of ten Iranian students studying in the city organised an event on February 16.
“The month of February is celebrated world-wide in memory of Forough Farrokhzad among the Iranian population. We, the Iranian students in Pune, had been trying to arrange a get-together for a long time. There are more than 10,000 students from Iran in Pune. But, we hardly get a chance to meet each other. So we wanted a meeting not for academic purpose, but one that would be intellectually stimulating,” Omid continues.
“Organising such an event in India is not easy, let alone Iran. For one thing, it needs financial support,” says another member of the group, Arman Shafieloo, a Ph.D. scholar at IUCCA.
The enthusiastic students, however, decided to give it a try anyway. They pooled in money among themselves, around Rs 5,000, chalked out the programmes that included a play based on one of Farrokhzad’s poems, ‘Little Ali’, a story about the eternal struggle between good and evil forces, symbolised by water and darkness, and directed by Mahshid Forounzandeh, a psychology student, screening of a documentary on Farrokhzad’s life by Iranian filmmaker Naser Saffariyan and lectures on the poet’s life, her poetry and cinema by Forough Samiee, Ensieh Jabbariyan, Mohsen Masoomi and Omid Varzandeh, besides live Iranian music by fellow students.
“We are currently scattered and are planning to have an organised group,” says Arman, “Hence, we printed brochures about the event and distributed them among Iranian students. We were not expecting much attendance. When around 70 students came for the event, it was heartening.”
Neusha Sadri, another member of the group studying computer science in Fergusson College, says, “For me, Farrokhzad is not dead. She still lives among us. She is my elder sister.”
But, the first problem the student faced was the venue. They surely could not afford a fancy place. But help came from unexpected quarters. Mehram, manager of the Ayurved Wellness Centre at the ABC Farm, who is also an Iranian, agreed to offer their newly-built place for the event.
Says he, “We did not intend the programme for the Iranian population alone. It is more of cultural exchange than reaffirmation of our own culture. Several non-Iranian friends attended the event. For them especially, we had a recitation of Farrokhzad’s poems in English translation by PhD Scholar in the English department of the University of Pune, Mohsen Masoomi .”
And the music, played on violin and daff (Iranian version of ‘dafli’) by Amir Ali Kamali and his friend Maziyar Mehrvarz, even though they were classical Iranian in every sense of the word, as always, it transcended boundaries.
This is how the programme, ‘The One Who Is Like Nobody’, which borrows the name from one of Farrokhzad’s titles, came about. For the Iranian students who attended the event, it was like a visit to home. And for non-Iranians, it was the taste of a culture that they had always heard about but never experienced.
“When you are far away from home, it becomes necessary to get in touch with your roots. This event was an attempt to do that. Yet, we don’t want to restrict ourselves among the Iranian population in the city. We would like to spread our culture to the world at large, Omid sums up.

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