Ashay - A Photobiography


This photograph and all the others here were taken by Fred Viebahn, a German writer attending the IWP and subsequently getting translated and married by Rita Dove. They now are parents of a lively daughter, Aviva. These photographs were sent to me by Burt Blume, IWP's Program Assistant then and a close friend of many of us over the years. Burt lives in Tokyo, Japan, now with his charming wife and irrepressible daughters. He was one of the best young American poets I came across then and wonder why he writes poetry so rarely now. They were all very close to Ashay and each had very distinct friendship(s) with Ashay, Viju, and me.

Ashay was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 21, 1961.At the age of two,he came to Mumbai, India.In 1975 at the age of 14,he came to America.He schooled in India & in the U.S.A.He returned to Mumbai at the beginning of Ethiopian infant,an Indian child,an American adolescent & finally a person who belonged to nowhere in particular.
Ashay mingled with my writer colleagues in the International Writing Program.They were already a crazy lot made crazier by their visit to America's most literary university town in the Midwest.This photograph shows them at a folk music festival.In the front,at the very center of the frame is Rita Dove then a student of the Writers' Workshop & now a Pulitzer Prize winner African American poet.Here are famous writers from Europe, Latin America, Africa & Asia.
The young man behind the camera is Ashay who began to take photography & film-making seriously as a future career while in Iowa City.Even as he was in high school,he earned three credits from the University of Iowa in film and television production.He continued this in Mumbai at the Xavier Institute of Mass Communication.He was one of their earliest alumni.
You don't have to look very closely to find Japanese poetess Kazuko Shiraishi playing with Indian poet Jayanta Mahapatra as Ashay tries to frame them by the poolside.When Ashay was affected by the poison gas leak in Bhopal,Kazuko Shiraishi wrote a long poem in Japanese about the catasrophic night in Bhopal in December 1984, dedicated to Ashay.
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