Mumbai: Prithvi steward to recite his poetry at theatre festival

A steward who finds the profound in a paratha readies to recite his poetry at a theatre festival

The territory will remain the same — Juhu’s Prithvi Theatre — but, this weekend, Irfan Qureshi’s role undergoes a script change.

Irfan Qureshi, steward at Prithvi Cafe, will perform this Sunday. Pic/Shadab Khan
Irfan Qureshi, steward at Prithvi Cafe, will perform this Sunday. Pic/Shadab Khan

From senior host at the theatre’s iconic cafe to poet, Qureshi (37), will be among several artistes chosen to engage audiences that arrive at the venue’s 32-year-old annual theatre festival, in between shows, with what are called platform performances.

“It’s always exciting to recite in front of an audience,” says Qureshi, who will present an Urdu ghazal between 4 pm and 8 pm this Sunday. “I’ve performed earlier, in 2013 and 2014, at Prithvi and another cultural venue in Bandra, and every time I feel a adrenaline rush when the audience applauds. It’s worth working late into the night, which is when I usually do my ghazal writing.”

Qureshi’s imagination belies his class 5 education. Financial constraints, he says, forced him to quit the Urdu medium school he studied in. “When I was nine, I worked with craftsmen in Mahim, making ladies’ handbags. I did sporadic tailoring assignments, and later, sold fabric on the pavements of Mahim on Novena Day (Wednesday).

Then followed a 12-year stint at a restaurant in Saudi Arabia, after which I have been at Prithvi,” he shares when we meet him at Shivaji Park. Inspiration for his poetry comes from all around — at the workplace, and even while travelling from his Mahim home to the theatre.

Curious onlookers stop to hear him recite a ghazal from a notebook he carries with him. Mein toh jhonka hoon Hawa ka Uda le jayoonga Jaagti rehna, tujhko tujhse chura le jayoonga. A few appreciative comments make Qureshi break into a smile. It is afternoon and the traffic is relatively thinner.

Youngsters crowd Shivaji Park’s selfie corner, aiming their mobiles at themselves. But for Qureshi, songs like Seflie le le re are an embarrassment. “Urdu will not die; in fact, it is back in fashion now,” he says.

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