Poetic slices with a Hindustani heart by Sydney poet Rekha Rajvanshi – making a significant contribution to literature and arts in Australia for the past twenty-one years.
A breast cancer survivor came to Australia in 2001, making Sydney her home with poetry, literature, a husband (an ex merchant navy officer) a daughter who wrote for New York Times and a son; meet Rekha Rajvanshi, quite the quintessential when it comes to Hindi. We at G’day India and The Indian Weekly couldn’t give up the opportunity to discuss her life, her poetry and the awards revolving around this poet for more than two decades in Australia.
Rajvanshi’s love for Hindi literature started with her father, who played the mentalist in her life and the reason for her falling in love with languages. With a Master of Education from Delhi University in 1981, she became a lecturer at South Delhi Polytechnic for Delhi between 1992 -1996.
Still, her fling with Ghazals continued with various programs on All India Radio, especially Hawa Mahal and during a ghazals contest, Lakshmi Shankar Vajpayee encouraged Rajvanshi to continue with her writing.
Since moving to Sydney, Rajvanshi finished special education and teaching at Macquarie University in 2004, teaching conversational Hindi to non – Hindi speaking Australian students from 2009 – 2018; she still had the discipline to be a published author and editor of twelve books out of which three are under publication.
Rajvanshi is currently working with the NSW department of education; she supports students with additional needs; Rajvanshi runs literacy and numeracy programs at work. Rajvanshi supports children with special needs.
When asked who inspired her all these years for her writing style, she credits Sarojini Naidu’s short poem ‘Indian Weavers, 1975 film ‘Aandhi’ written by Kamleshwar and evergreen writer and screenwriter Mannu Bhandari.
Even during the tough lockdowns, Rajvanshi, like most artists and writers, didn’t let the pandemic from crushing her creative pen, and she completed a poetry book titled ‘Women Will Survive”, with twenty other Hindi women writers in April 2021.
If we talk about Rajvanshi accolades, she has been winning since 1996, honoured by the then President of India Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma and was honoured for her poetry recitation with other female poets. With in-depth knowledge of the rich Indian literature, she founded a non-profit organisation and has been the director of the 2010 Indian literary and Arts Society of Australia, encompassing all things festivals and events.
Winning the prestigious National level AUSIT award for translating the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories/ Dreaming animations from English to Hindi, re-shaping the humble folk-tale ‘Chandamaa’.
Rajvanshi also attended a three-day IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association) poetry festival in 2014 on their invitation.
Being a NAATI (National Accreditation Authority of Translators and Interpreters) accredited English to Hindi translator, along with other writers and poets, she got invited to Tagore International literary and Art Festival, ‘Vishwarang’ in Bhopal in 2019.
In 2021, the bilingual writer and poet Rajvanshi was awarded two and a half lakhs of Indian rupees (four thousand six hundred Australian dollars) for her Hindi promotion work “Hindi Prasaran Samman “by UP Hindi Sansthan, Uttar Pradesh government of India.
Rajvanshi is also very disciplined with her time when she decides to write something new and always chooses between five and six in the morning. Like most writers, she’s excited when a new line enters her mind and gasps when it exits, especially with no tools to record that word or thought of expression.
Her worry with emerging writers these days is that they spend most of their time shaping prose with limericks rather than writing something thought-provoking.
Her only advice to these young writers is to write from the soul, which is the best advice any writer can give because writers always end up writing for themselves anyways.
Rajvanshi has proven that poetry is the window to the soul, and no obstacle can bring down a good woman and her power of the pen.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, it didn’t stop her from accomplishing all of the above.
Every year in October, she donates her time, raising awareness among women about breast cancer by holding the big Pink Ribbon Morning tea.
‘Mahatma Gandhi Hindi Central University’ in Bihar and Wardha use Rajvanshi’s poetries and stories in their syllabus, singers like ‘Anoop Jalota’ credits her poetry to his ghazals, indeed, Rajvanshi has a few more surprises to gift us with her poetries, prose and stories in the future.
Well, as all good things come to an end, so is the time for us to conclude our segment with Rajvanshi; we at G’day India and The Indian Weekly couldn’t be proud of all her achievements and take extreme joy she belongs here in Australia.
We wish her huge congratulations for all her accomplishments and best wishes for the future. With that thought, we couldn’t help but quote Sarojini Naidu “She is twin-born with primal mysteries, and drinks of life at Times’ forgotten source.”
By Nandita Chakraborty