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Hindi poet connects cultures
J.P. Antonacci
March 1, 2010 While the launch of a new trilingual poetry collection – in Hindi, English and Urdu – by noted Indo-Canadian poet Meena Chopra seems like reason enough to draw a crowd to Mississauga’s Central Library Sunday afternoon, something more fundamental convinced some 60 people to skip the first period of the biggest hockey game in decades. In what staff believed was the first multilingual book launch at a Mississauga library, Chopra showcased poetry and paintings that reflect her Indian heritage and Canadian experience, in an approach Indian Consul M.P. Singh called “unselfconsciously multicultural.” Mississauga-Brampton South MP Navdeep Bains Meena Chopra. Meena Chopra, poet and artist held a reading and acknowledged how anxious everyone, himself book launch at Mississauga Central Library Sunday afternoon. Photo included, was to watch Canada take on the by Peter McCusker United States, but noted that the presence of so many writers, artists and well-wishers from the Hindi community and beyond was a sign of support for the cross-cultural connections Chopra advocates. “I consider Meena not only a poet and an artist, but a bridge-builder,” said Bains of Chopra, who came to Canada in 2004 from her native Nainital, in northern India. “She does not recognize any borders – her experiences are universal,” agreed Suman K. Ghai, a longtime friend and co-founder of the Hindi Writers Guild. Ghai translated Chopra’s poems into English for her second collection, subah kaa suuraj ab mera nahii.n hai (Adieu to the Dawn), which was released on Sunday. As well known in art circles for her painting as her poetry – she often combines the two – Chopra’s work focuses on the natural and abstractly emotional, showcasing a humanistic philosophy she also applies to her personal life. “My husband (Bhupindar Virdi) is a Sikh, I’m a Punjabi Hindu. But we don’t follow (religions); we are art people, so art is the religion,” explained Chopra, who, with Virdi, operates Cross Currents, a non-for-profit initiative that promotes multiculturalism through art. Chopra’s latest collection – from which she read excerpts in Hindi and English – blends her two worlds. Though in India she began writing poetry in English, she switched to Hindi after moving to Mississauga and finding inspiration – and a link to her childhood – in the beauty of Canada. “I used to see the setting sun every day (in Nainpal), which I was seeing here every day from my house (near Bristol and Hwy 10). So that connectivity was there, and somehow the Hindi words started resonating with me,” she said. “I feel that sun from the east and sun from the west are merged for me. So that is the Canadian context – that east and west merge. It’s all one sun, for everybody – all the time, it’s shining.”
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