Mahek Tankarvi has been a key figure in the development of the Gujarati literature scene in the UK. He was inspired to start writing by poets who have now become good friends and contemporaries.
“I was writing in India whilst I was studying, between 1958 and 1964. This was the key period,” he explains. “I was writing poems in English, but I was more comfortable writing in Gujarati, that’s what I was drawn to. I was reading poetry published in magazines at that time. I remember Adil Mansuri was in Ahmedabad – I remember reading his ghazals and inspired by him I just decided to try my hand at writing Gujarati ghazals.”
Since coming to the UK in 1966, Mahek has had many of his works published. As well as publishing his own books of ghazals, Pyas (1972), Talash (1980), Pyasthi Parab Sudhi (2006) and Premras Pyalo (2013), he has compiled and edited two other collections of Gujarati ghazals, namely “Sabras” and “Upavan”. He is also credited with founding the Gujarati Writers’ Guild UK back in 1973.
Mahek is unsure of where his poetry comes from. “It comes, and once it starts, it flows. You get certain ideas, inspiration from all sources, mainly from old poems like Persian mystical poetry. I get a lot of inspiration from mystical poets like Rumi. I can start and finish a poem in one go. These poems tend to be a bit better than ones I have to keep going back to – they are better than anything I have to labour over.”
Whilst the written word is important, performance is just as important. “I usually ‘sing’ my ghazals, rather than read them, well, it’s reciting rather than reading. Performance is important in order to get the audience to appreciate what you have written. You always want to convey your interpretation of life, of reality, your ideas etc to an audience.”
Mahek is now semi-retired but runs his own Mahek Translation Service in Gujarati and Hindi.