Let’s Talk About Hindi Poetry

Hindi Class and Poetry with Zoom

This semester the students of Hindi 101 and Hindi 203 welcomed a special guest: poet and Bollywood lyricist Dr. Sagar, who conducted a workshop on Hindi poetry. His song "Bambai me ka ba?" is getting lots of media attention these days in India. Dr. Sagar started writing poetry at an early age and he shared lots of memories about his childhood when he was writing poems despite his financial situation. Nothing could stop him from fulfilling his dream to become a Bollywood lyricist. 

To prepare the class for his visit, Dr. Sagar sent a short introduction of his life. Students also prepared a few questions for him. During class students asked him many questions such as, “Why did you decide to become a lyricist? Are you famous in India?”

Students also created their own songs with their limited grammar and vocabulary. One example is here that is inspired by Dr. Sagar’s rap song. Sarabesh created this beautiful rap song and performed it in his own style.

Here are a few comments from the students about the class: 

Shivam said, “I think it was a very good opportunity to practice a different form of using the language. Poetry is a unique form and I liked applying the language in a new way.”

Yasha wrote, “I thought Sagar’s class was fun! It required us to think outside of the box and use creativity to create a poem from the words that we have learned which was fun.”

In Rachita’s words, “I enjoyed Sagar ji’s class! It was interesting to learn about his experiences in songwriting and Bollywood. It was a bit difficult to understand because he spoke a bit fast and used pretty advanced vocabulary, but it was still a super fun class!”

Sahil said, “Poetry was very fun to do but also very challenging. I think I lacked the vocabulary to do proper rhyming and meter in my poem. I loved hearing about his work and his rap song about the lockdown, but perhaps I would have understood more from him later on in the semester.”

Prathemesh wrote, “I enjoyed Dr. Sagar’s class and it gave me a greater insight into Bollywood songs and poems. It was interesting to see what someone in the industry was like. Speaking Hindi exposed us to more than just learning the language which was cool.”

Anna Kasradze wrote this about the class:

Dr. Sagar’s visit to our Hindi 101 class was one of my favorite classes so far! He spoke very quickly in Hindi, so it was a good challenge to try to keep up with him. Kusumji also helpfully translated some of what he said, including the inspiring thought that in youth everyone is a poet.

This maxim was immediately put to the test. After Dr. Sagar showed us some examples of his own work and broke down the basics of songwriting. We were asked to come up with our own lyrics. I was so unprepared for this that I could only think of rhyming words and wasn’t able to come up with sentences. My association of Hindi film music with dramatic love stories and profound emotion definitely limited my adventurousness at first—who wants to blight the love lyric with triteness, misspellings, and incorrect grammar? It was also difficult to avoid reproducing the rhymes and rhythms of existing Hindi songs.

But when I heard the delightful poems produced by my classmates, I realized I’d been taking the assignment too seriously. They wrote funny, light-hearted poems about their families and their pets. Dr. Sagar’s song, too, was not about love but about economic problems in Mumbai. Kusumji and Dr. Sagar were very encouraging, saying “क्या बात है!” about our poems and assuring us that poetry was about emotion and not grammar. Although I couldn’t come up with a poem during class, I did manage to afterwards. (It was still about love, but love for a friend.)

Overall, the whole experience was very rewarding. I learned a lot of new music-related words and got to listen to more native Hindi speakers. Before the class, I wouldn’t have believed that we could write any kind of poem after only 2 months in Hindi 101, but we did. It was also a nice way to see the personalities of the other students. I hope we can keep doing creative projects in Hindi 101.