Sunday, 20 October 2013

Chingam I

-Brian Mendonça

As an ‘India-vidual’ I have revelled in participating in the cultural diversity of India. In Delhi as the air grew nippy we said prayers round the fire and sang the songs of Lohri. In Hyderabad, during my days at the CIEFL, I led the participants to dance the dandiya for the garba of Gujarat. In Pune at the University we used to watch the students from Assam dance the bihu.

So it was no surprise that last Sunday we walked into the MPT hall, Vasco to witness the celebrations by the Kerala Cultural Association (KCA) of Vasco. Besides, the prospect of having the traditional onasadya – the vegetarian meal of various items on a banana leaf was distinctly appealing.

Since we were not formally invited, I ventured down in the late morning and made inquiries with a gent who was standing near the entrance. He said we were welcome to partake of the meal. We could make a small contribution if we so wished.

There was a bubbling energy in the hall. Women dressed in the traditional sari –the settumundu -- the men engaging in earnest conversation, as though after an absence of many months. Feeling a little overawed by the occasion, besides the pookalam – the colourful geometric design made with flowers on the ground at the entrance to the hall, we thought we’d head straight for lunch. It was already 1.30.

But what did we hear? From the hall came sounds of a Konkani song. Children were dancing the dekhni – the traditional dance of the fisherfolk. Syncretism at its best.

Later, I was moved to read my poem, 'Chingam I' from my 2nd collection of poems titled A Peace of India: Poems in Transit. I had written the poem in Ernakulam for the Kerala New Year in 2008.

As we meandered towards the onasadya ushered briskly by the organizers one ventured to ask, 'With whom have you come?' I thought to myself, 'A poet needs no invitation. S/he is free to roam the land at will and write.'
A version of this was published in Gomantak Times Weekender, Goa, on Sunday 29 September 2013.

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