The winding roads that lead to Birgunj ultimately straightened out into long splayed lines of asphalt ribbons. When we finally got to Birgunj after a butt-numbing Sumo ride, the cold suddenly hit us. The Birgunj cold knows how to chill you to your bones. The freezing air wheezed past us as our tuk-tuk drove down the road blanketed in a fog.
When we reached Birgunj, one of the first things Yukta Dd and I noticed was the drawn shutters of Siddhi Binayak Sweets, our favorite lunch/dinner restaurant in Birgunj that served delicious masala dosa, sambar, dahipakoda, rawa cheese dosa… *drools*. Later that day, we found out the place has been shut down. Our hearts broke a little.
Day two in Birgunj was workshop day.
All of us sat in a circle inside the hall of District Child Welfare Center. After a quick warm-up game, we moved on to our feedback session. Don’t know how to give a feedback? Here’s how you do it. A proper feedback consists of three key elements: a) what you liked about the poem b) what you thought could have been better along with suggestions for improvement and c) questions about the piece if you have any.
We went around the circle as each participant stood up and proudly read out their poems to the group. Before this trip, I had been to Birgunj twice: first for the introductory tour and second for the introductory workshop. I can still remember working with some of the participants in a classroom while they were trying to write their first metaphors into a poem. And here they were, penning down these beautiful images, telling stories in their unique voices. Over the course of a year, following the introductory workshop, they had the chance to learn more about writing and performing spoken word poetry in three more intensive workshops, which lasted three days each. Their improvement was evident.
The next day was going to be THE day.
It was the final show, where the participants would finally perform their poems in front of their friends and family. Everything was set: the cameras, the reddish-orange flex screaming ‘Write to Speak’ on the background, the microphone, and the jittery performers. As people started filling in the seats inside the banquet hall at Hotel Pujan, the performers were equally excited and nervous. We kicked off the show with Abhishek’s humor-filled MC-ing skills. After he introduced Write to Speak to the audience, Anuj was the first performer of the day. In a fast-paced poem, Anuj told the audience about his friend Juna (See what he did there!). This was followed by more amazing performances by our young poets from Birgunj. In a heartfelt poem about his school life, Harshit recalled his bittersweet memories of class 10 just as he prepares to take his S.E.E. and leave behind his friends at school. Guddiya captivated the audience with a vivid recollection of her childhood memories; Aastha made us laugh with a sarcastic description of her classmates – from the two Ansari brothers who sit together on the same bench to the chatty people and the vigilant class monitor; and Vivek, in a poem with lines written in English, Nepali and Hindi, talked about the often-not-talked-about side of Birgunj. We also had Rashmi perform a Bhojpuri poem she’d written about the struggles of growing up as a daughter.
The final performance by all the participants of Write to Speak marked the end of the year-long project in Birgunj. We are excited to see what these young, budding poets from Birgunj will go on to do in the future!
Special thanks to Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) 2016-17 for supporting Write to Speak 2016-17 and to our local partner Sanskriti in Birgunj for helping us out.
Larisa Shrestha is a Spoken word poet and instructor, WW
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