Vadodara: When Mikhail Desai needed a platform to recite his poetry, he was unable to do so. The reason: Mikhail is only seven years old! But he got the opportunity to do so at a special event organized by ‘Paper Poets,’ an initiative by youngsters in Vadodara to promote the unheard voices of the city.

‘Paper Poets’ is a poetry reading event held by ‘Applause Vadodara’, a theatre initiative involved with gathering young individuals from different fields for the cause of art. The initiative was founded by Apasara Iyengar, a marketing consultant. “It started as a Facebook page and slowly built up by conducting workshops and doing performances before having our own independent production in 2014,” she said. Today the group includes Chitra Parmar, Vatsal Dhamani, Niyatee Trivedi and Ankit Gupta.

But, as only a theatre group, Applause didn’t used to get the chance to meet people as often as possible. Parmar, the communications manager at a prominent firm and the team’s PR manager, said, “We do our own shows and productions. But we realized that there were many others out there who didn’t have a chance to showcase their art and talent. That’s how the idea of ‘Paper Poets’ came up.”

Paper Poets began as a small event in 2014 before gaining momentum. “We wanted to address the language barrier in a big way,” said Dhamani, set manager. “Everyone should get a chance to show their poetry talent – in any language if need be,” he added.

It is with this philosophy that Paper Poets began – Age no bar, Gender no bar, language no bar. By 2016, Paper Poets was happening on a bi-monthly basis at various locations across the city. “We don’t have any sponsors, or anything. Notice and info about Paper Poets is through word-of-mouth and social media – our only marketing outlet.” Parmar said.

So far, nearly 400 people from the city have attended the Paper Poets’ gathering since it began; many have become regular participants. Prakash Jain, an HR consultant, has been a regular since the initiative began. “I like that such a thing exists in our city and gives people like me an outlet to show our talent.”

Seven-year-old Mikhail recited his poetry for the first time at the Paper Poets event that was held at the 2017 Vadodara Literature Festival. His poem “My Vadodara, clean and green,” was well received. He said, “I want my Vadodara to be one of the world’s greatest cities.”

When asked about the future of Paper Poets, Iyengar said, “This year, we are going to have scheduled events in irregular locations throughout the city, culminating in December with a city-level poetry recital.”

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