Crafting Language and Culture: A Hindi Poetry Workshop with Dr. Rekha Sethi

Poem Workshop with Dr. Rekha Sethi
Poetry Workshop with Dr. Rekha Sethi

A few weeks ago, my elementary Hindi class had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Rekha Sethi, a professor at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. With over two decades of experience in teaching Hindi Language, Literature, and Media Studies, her visit brought a new perspective to our coursework. In class we had begun learning about masculine and feminine nouns and we were excited to put the totality of our Hindi knowledge to use in the form of a poem. As a class we were thrilled for the opportunity to learn from such an experienced and accomplished writer. 

Personally, I found the creative freedom in poetry especially inspiring. It's rare to have the opportunity to learn a new language and delve into Hindi through topics that deeply interest us. My poem, centered on the theme of a family dinner, was still in its beginning stages before Rekha Ji's workshop. She played a crucial role in helping me develop its structure, which was based on a counting theme. Each line of the poem built upon the previous one, starting with 'एक… (One)', then 'दो… (Two)', and so on, incrementally counting upwards. Rekha Ji's guidance helped transform this pattern into a more coherent and expressive piece.

During the workshop, Rekha Ji offered insightful critiques and guidance on our poetry. Her expertise in Hindi literature was evident as she provided valuable feedback, helping us understand how to enhance our poetic expressions. She was always available for questions and took her time to give thoughtful and insightful feedback. In a particularly memorable part of the workshop, Rekha Ji guided us through an in-depth analysis of a Hindi poem.

This exercise wasn't just about appreciating the poem's aesthetics; it was a practical lesson in the nuances of Hindi poetic form. One key takeaway was her emphasis on avoiding ending sentences with 'है' (hai) in Hindi poetry, a norm that was new to many of us. This insight into the subtleties of Hindi writing added a valuable dimension to our understanding of the language's poetic structure. She also shared her experiences in translation and adapting writing for various audiences, which was particularly enlightening. The workshop was interactive and thought-provoking, encouraging energetic discussions among us. By the end, we gained not only improved skills in writing poetry but also a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of Hindi literature.


Here are some of my classmates’ poems. Link:


Additional student comments about Rekha Sethi's Poem Workshop:


I sent the poem to my family, and they really enjoyed it! I thought writing the poem was a fun experience - it was interesting to learn about how the grammar and phrase structure changes in poems. I really enjoyed having the guest in our class! She spoke clearly and it was helpful to practice listening to another native speaker. Rekha ji was also quite helpful with poem feedback, which I really appreciated. 



I showed my poem to my mom. She laughed at it, but she was proud. Writing the poem was not easy because translating from English to Hindi sometimes changes the connotation of the words. But eventually, I was able to get some flow after edits from Kusum ji and Rekha ji.

I enjoyed speaking with the guests. It's nice to get feedback on the different ideas present in Hindi literature. Also, I got to ask a very political question.



I plan to show my poem to my mom this weekend. It was definitely a difficult process. It’s hard to write with such a limited vocabulary, and I found myself grasping for google translate instead of relying on the words I know in English. Rekha ji was very knowledgeable and helpful. 



I enjoyed writing the poem. It was difficult at times trying to get things to rhyme while making the lines make sense grammatically, but it was really satisfying when it all worked out. I liked having the guest in class and it was interesting hearing about her experiences and interests. 



I showed my poem to my dad who appreciated the vocabulary I used to share my love for him. I thought it was an interesting practice because it was hard to find words that would rhyme easily, but nonetheless, it was very enjoyable.I loved speaking with the guest and getting to know her story with teaching about Gender Studies in India! She also helped me a great deal with articulating my thoughts in a more poetic way!



I plan to show my poem to my dadi. I think she will be very pleasantly surprised, and I am excited to see her reaction to my new knowledge and ability to speak of my family in hindi. 

I enjoyed writing the poem because it offered more creative uses of the hindi vocabulary we have learned so far, but I did find it difficult to rhyme. I really liked having Rekha ji visiting as she provided an extra helping hand and it was super interesting to hear her life experiences.



I showed my poem to my mom, and she thought it was really nice. She was really happy to hear me speaking full hindi sentence. I had a lot of fun writing the poem and thought it was easier than I expected because we know a lot of words I really liked Rekha Ji as a visitor because she gave really good advice on my poem and it was really interesting to hear about her background.



I showed my poem to my parents and they really liked it. I learned a lot about colloquial Hindi and grammatical form while writing the poem. It was beneficial speaking practice, especially because Rekha Ji was an academic with similar interests as my own.



I showed my poem to my partner. He thought it was funny! I enjoyed writing the poem. I thought it was impressive that we could all write a simple poem this early into learning Hindi. I enjoyed speaking with Rekha Ji and the exercise overall!



I showed my poem to my parents. They thought it was funny and encouraged me to change the content. I thought the experience of writing the poem was difficult but an interesting and fun way to apply some of the concepts that we have learned so far. I was surprised by the complexity of some of my classmates' poems and impressed that they created such good pieces of writing. Rekha Ji was a pleasure to have to have in class - she was very helpful and pleasant. I look forward to her visiting again!



I haven’t shown my poem to anyone yet, but I think I will show it to my sister as it will make her laugh. Writing the poem was difficult because I had a hard time thinking of rhyming words, but it was fun to brainstorm with my classmates and learn interesting new words in Hindi. I really liked listening to and talking to rekha ji. It was fun to talk to her about her life as a teacher in Delhi and her personal interests aside from that!


This workshop was supported and funded by Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke India Initiative and Duke Service Learning.