UPDATED:  February 27, 2011 10:42 PM
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‘Yaadon Ki Saheli’ Unveiled at Book Launch Function in Washington Area

By: Geeta Goindi

MARYLAND – “Yaadon Ki Saheli”, a collection of poignant poems, in Hindi, by Mrs. Harvinder Katohora was unfolded to high-ranking officials of the Indian Embassy, myriad members of our community and poetry aficionados at a book signing ceremony, in the upscale Indique Heights restaurant, in Chevy Chase.

The gifted author’s family was present in full force - husband Mr. Bhupinder Katohora, son Manan Singh Katohora, daughters Aaman Mann and Isha Katohora, and granddaughter Seher Mann - to celebrate her “dream come true”!

Soft spoken with a demeanor that bespeaks humility, Mrs. Katohora told a jam-packed gathering, “this book, ‘Yaadon Ki Saheli’ is very close to my heart because it is dedicated to my parents ... Everything that is written, yeh apna sa hi lagega” (it will feel as if it’s yours, easily identifiable).

In all, there are 34 poems.  The book was published last year, in September, and released on Sunday, in an elegant ceremony organized by Manan Singh.

The author is an expatriate who left India to live in Qatar and then moved to the US in the late 1990s.  She is fully cognizant of the anguish which arises from leaving family members and departing from her motherland, India.  It was when she lost her mother twelve years ago that her pent-up emotions came to the fore and she began writing what is now the majority of poems in the collection.

At the official book release, she read from the poem ‘Zindagi Se Pehchaan’ where she examines the agony of separating from loved ones.  To fulfil some dreams and desires, one moves to supposedly greener pastures.  But, there remains the never-tiring wait and the never-waning hope of those left behind!  The heart longs to meet, but cannot, conveys the author.

In another poem, ‘Khirki Ke Paas’, she reminisces about her mother and motherland.  She recalled, “when I came to the US, I would sit in front of the window remembering my mother. Then, I decided to write something dedicated to her.  Jo nikala man se, woh likha” (whatever came from my heart, I wrote).

The poems are so true to life, sure to resonate with the readers!

Ask her about her favorite poem and she replies, she wrote over time and some poems became more close, more personal, among them being ‘Ma Kya Hoti Hai’.  “Every mother in any part of the world has the same feeling for her children.  She is doing whatever is best for them”, she said.

On her part, she has imparted the ‘Sanskar’ (values) she imbibed from her mother to her offspring.  “My children also have the same feelings”, she said.  “Sanskar are not given in one day”.  It is a long, continuous process.

Mrs. Katohora informed us that her next book, also in Hindi, will be a collection of stories to be published next year.

Mr. Arun K. Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy, and his wife, Dr. Maina Singh Chawla, were on hand for the book release and the latter paid a glowing tribute to the author and her work!

Dr. Chawla spoke in Hindi because, as she pointed out, the book has been written in chaste Hindi.  She noted that in the poems, there are two important emotions.  The first is the heart-rending one towards a mother.  The initial poems highlight the pain and pathos of losing her.  Then, an acceptance sets in: Lagta hai Ma ab door nahin (I feel as if my mother is not far from me).  So, one sees a “positive reconciliation” in subsequent verses, said Dr. Chawla.

“The second emotion is towards the motherland, India, which touches your heart”, she noted.  Those who can live in India are blessed; for others, there is always that pensive sadness.

Providing a further insight into the work, Dr. Chawla drew attention to a message conveyed by the author: ‘Apni Sanskriti ko bikharne na do, Sabhyata ko apni, jo bahut purani, mazboot hai’ (always keep your culture and civilization alive; it is very old and very strong).

In extempore remarks, Dr. Debapriya Dutta, Counselor of Science and Technology at the Indian Embassy, said, “in our life, mother is the most important person”.  Appreciating the fact that the poems in ‘Yaadon Ki Saheli’ are expressions of motherhood and towards motherland, he extolled the author’s “wonderful mixing of personal experience with the national experience of living in different geographic locations over time”.

In her introductory remarks, Mrs. Nilima Mehra, hostess of the TV show Chitrmala, acknowledged how, in her own right, Mrs. Katohora has become “a local celebrity of the Washington metro area ... She has dedicated this sentimental collection of poems to her Mom.  All the poems are very emotional”, she said, and proceeded to read her own favorite: ‘Ahista-Ahista, Chupke-Chupke’.

Our untiring community activist, Dr. Renuka Misra was overcome by emotion, reminded of the time she left her own mother.  “My heart is full.  Each and every poem touches my heart”, she said.

Dr. Misra empathized with the author: “her pathos, her pain when she left her home, what she must have felt over the years, it compounded and came out in the form of a verse”.

She aptly quoted from the famous poem ‘To a Skylark’, by Percy Bysshe Shelley: “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts” and “We look before and after and pine for what is not”.

Dr. Sambhu Banik, our well known community leader, recalled, “When I met Manan, a multi-talented young man, I was looking for the person who brought him up.  Then, I met his mother who wrote this beautiful book.  To me, mother is the most important person in life.  No one can come close to a mother”.  He applauded Mrs. Katohora’s dedication to her mother which, he said, “is a tribute to all mothers in the world”.

At the function, he presented her with his own memoir, ‘Born Ordinary Lived Extraordinary - Life’s Journey’ which, coincidentally, was released on the same date, last year, at the same venue, Indique Heights.

Mr. Walton Dawson commended Manan and his sisters, Aaman Mann and Isha Katohora, for showing great respect towards their mother.  “There are some basics that I look for in young people like respecting your parents, respecting your elders, saying ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’.  I see all these qualities in Manan”, he said.  “He has made a difference in the lives of young people.  And that is very important because young people are our future”!

For information about ‘Yaadon Ki Saheli’, our readers can go to www.nriwriter.com

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