by Huma Price
Sangeeta Bahadur’s launch of Vikraal at Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London was a buzzing affair with many local and visiting literary personalities sharing their experience of the book. As an introduction Sangeeta is an Indian Foreign Service Officer, currently posted as Minister (Culture) in the post of Director of the Nehru Centre in London.
I had the pleasure of meeting her soon after she was posted in London at an event where she sang some poetry. It was quite clear from our first meeting that Sangeeta is a woman of many talents. She is in a very high and responsible post, yet she has always been easily approachable by all members of the Asian community and has made special efforts to attend and support all cultural events.
Huma Price with Sangeeta Bahadur
I really appreciate the fact that there were so many women participating in her book launch. The event was hosted by the very capable Divya Mathur. (Divya is the Founder of Vatayan-Poetry on the South Bank). She has written several books of stories as well as poetry. She is a well known respected and liked woman in the literary circles in London and is also as ward winning author.
Seema Anand speaks to Sangeeta Bahadur
Seema Anand (who has a PhD in Narrative Practices specialising in storytelling) presented a very interesting and amusing conversation with Sangeeta where she acknowledged how difficult it is for women to find time to do anything creative. Women have full responsibility for the family and home (unlike men) and she jokingly said every woman needs a wife.
I was particularly impressed by her knowledge when she recounted the famous Urdu Poet Ghalib’s well known appreciation of Momin’s Sher (in the context of acquiring Sangeeta’s book). The sher is:
Tum mere saath hote ho goya
Jab koi doosri nahi hota
Ghalib is reported to have said that he would exchange his whole Deewan for that sher by another famous Urdu poet Momin. Seema showed her substance and quality with this knowledge as it is easy to have knowledge about your own language but to know about a historic incidence such as this about another language and culture is what shows how well read you are!
Professor Shaheena Khan (daughter of the renowned Rifat Sarosh)is the Founder of the PSRSA Academy in India, who just happens to be visiting London at this time. She read a review of the book remarking that the book is full of “spiritual energy” flowing through Sangeeta Bahadur. She said that the book is not for the simple reader as the details require you to lose yourself in the book.
Vikraal is the second book in Sangeeta’s Kaal trilogy. It is set in an imaginary Universe, created entirely by Sangeeta, reminiscent of India in the post-Vedic era. The main protagonist is Arihant a Super Hero (and Sangeeta said at the launch that she always wanted to create an Indian Super Hero) who appears as a young 15 year old in the first book going on to 18 by the end.
In Vikraal he is presented as an evolved entity with super powers as well as some endearing human qualities. Sangeeta said that she wanted to present him in such a way that all the women reading the book would fall in love with him. Arihant’s main role is to destroy Aushij, the Lord of Maya. As far as his age is concerned, it is up to Sangeeta as one of her characters is 6000 years old!!
Now Aushij has his own problems as his siblings have tricked him into a prison of dreams many centuries ago. One would think that this would have been the end of Aushij’s evil plans to control and corrupt innocent people’s minds. However, it doesn’t appear to have lessened Aushij’s powers to cause havoc in the minds of ordinary people hence the necessity for Arihant to destroy him.
Abhinaya on a passage from Vikraal
by Arunima Kumar a well-known Kuchipudi exponent
Through all the elaborate imaginary characters, the underlying theme of the book is to explore the idea of self: who am I what am I why am I. These are questions that have plagued human beings for centuries and no doubt will continue to do so for many more centuries. Sangeeta has given her own version of this quest to find the self.
Of course the quest will continue until the third and final book in the trilogy comes out.
The book was launched and the event chaired by the very beautiful and graceful Shruti Nada Poddar (Founder of Shruti Foundation and Founder President of the Wellness Council of India). This review would be incomplete if I don’t mention the incredible Arunima Kumar who presented a breath taking dance performance to some of the book’s text read and sung by Sangeeta. The trilogy has been published by Pan-Macmillan.
A SHINING EXAMPLE OF MULTICULTURAL HARMONY
The event has another very important significance for me. It was a shining example of multicultural harmony both in terms of religion and gender. Multicultural harmony is something which desperately needs to be promoted in the current world plagued by religious and communal unrest and violence. And it is my view that women need to take a leading role in this promotion.
Sangeeta made her contribution yesterday (possibly even without realising it) as it is probably quite natural for her to mix with people of all ethnicity as she has been born and raised in a multicultural environment. She has never thought twice before going to an event (at least in London) about who is inviting her. She has been a regular at Urdu poetic and musical events often taking full part.
In the picture you see Huma Price (British-Muslim) Zakia Zuberi (British-Muslim) Shruti Nada Poddar (British Hindu) Sangeeta Bahadur (Indian Hindu) Shaheena Khan (Indian Muslim) and Divya Mathur (British Hindu). We are all standing together and we also hug cuddle and FULLY support each other in all we do without any discrimination.
And it is really important for me to ASSERT that not a single one of us women feel that we have to dissociate from our cultures or religions to be truly multicultural. We are ALL very proud to be what we are in terms of our religions and culture. Our cultures have informed us and taught us about our identity and we wear it proudly. We own it and we flaunt it.
And yet our cultures have also taught us to live in peace harmony and respect with other cultures. It is only uncouth, uncultured people who have not been brought up properly in their own cultures that seek to destroy other people and their culture. In fact anyone who destroys another person simply because of where they were born is a SAVAGE not a human.
Sangeeta’s event was also an example of gender equality as a number of men supported her and said some fine words in her praise all well deserved. Nikhil Kaushal presented a poem “Hum aap ke hi kehlaate hain” in his sureeli tune to mark his respect for Sangeeta. Tejinder Sharma (Katha UK) participated in dramatised reading of some exciting parts of the book with Sangeeta and also spoke in her praise of the fine work she has done.
It is worth noting that the event was jointly sponsored by Mahamid Ahmed (Asio-European Cultural Exchange Society) and Divya Mathur (Vatayan – Poetry on South Bank). What a striking example of multi religious, multi gender unity and support for the Arts and Literature as well as people in general!
There is nothing like Poetry Arts Literature and Music to promote harmony in the world! It was a really lovely evening of peace tranquility friendship and cultural enjoyment of a creation by a very dynamic woman – Sangeeta Bahadur. Well done Sangeeta thank you for including me in your wonderful event it was such a pleasure and best of luck with the third book.