Every Indian child, at least the ones who learn Hindi, knows about Kabir—the mystic poet, saint, and philosopher. Kabir ke dohe or Kabir’s couplets were a part of my school life too. Not only did I read his poetry in my Hindi textbooks, I was also exposed to his philosophy through the Government of India initiated “National Integration Campaign” during my school years in the eighties as Kabir’s philosophy and background—which appealed to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike—made him the perfect symbol of national integration.
Kahat Kabir suno bhai saadho…, which appears like a signature line in most of Kabir’s compositions, was probably the most recognised phrase during my school days. Yet, once I left school, I also left Kabir behind. Over the years, I had fleeting encounters with Kabir through a occassional article in a newspaper or magazine or through snatches of a song heard on TV or the radio.
So, when I heard about the Kabir Festival being organised in Mumbai, I knew that this was a chance to renew my acquaintance with Kabir. According to the Festival’s twitter page, “The aim of The Kabir Festival Mumbai is to introduce Mumbai to the message of Kabir which is perhaps even more relevant today than it was in his time.” The Kabir Festival Mumbai is a “confluence of mystic poetry, music, dance and films”, with the main festival being held from 21–23 January, and the run-up events from 14–20 January 2011.