March 21, 2013 was a very special day for us in college. Determined to celebrate World Poetry Day I set off to college in my new white cotton shirt I had picked up from Chennai airport earlier this week. I was returning from a national seminar on Indian women poets writing in English at Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur, March 14-15.
Naturally I breathed poetry from every pore, and now here was the opportunity to read immortal lines once again among students, staff and friends. I bounced the idea only a day before and after some wry smiles got a go ahead. 'Come with a Poem' offered one of my colleagues for the notice on the staff notice board, getting into the act.
Brimming with confidence I selected 21 books of verse from my personal collection, and 21 from the library. I set these down on the dusty table in the lecture hall designated for the event. I wished I had brought a duster, but never mind, the show must go on!
A valuable suggestion given by one of my colleagues was to arrange a cordless mike which the sound guys willingly provided. IT support set up the LCD. In my earlier calling I was always reading about 'white boarding' classrooms - now I was actually doing it. In the precious minutes I got from 9.45 a.m. to 10 a.m. I prepared - or rather transcribed - some matter on 'World Poetry Day' I had gleaned from a useful site called timeanddate.com the previous night, onto power point slides.
Come 1015, the scheduled time for take-off, there was 1 student and two professors before me. Undeterred I took a book of Hardy's verse - 'Village Poem' - and began reading after a brief introduction. The audience trickled in, some curious, some committed.
What followed was a 2-hour non-stop session of some of the most vibrant poetry ever written. A multi-lingual effort readings ranged from Tamil, Tulu, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, and Gujarati to English, French and Portuguese. Each reading held the audience spellbound in the clasp of poetry. Many scoured the net to bring fresh printouts of the poems they loved, to the hall. Others frenetically called up friends for translations of verses. I read 'The Homeless Can Sleep Anywhere' from my forthcoming collection of Delhi poems. One actually sang two poems in Malayalam and backed it up with a power point presentation.
Staff who attended in large numbers confided that the last time they read a poem was in school. Another fished out a poem he wrote in Konkani in the 10th standard. Students came milling round me imploring to be informed about the event next year. My simple answer was, 'If I am here, it will be on.'
I am seriously thinking of compiling these poems into a monograph. Ample photos were taken by me on my Canon camera. A photo to each of those who read a poem. Until next year.
All pix by me. The first one of me reading from Habba Khatoon; the bottom one of a student reading a poem from Edgar Allan Poe