Saturday, 16 August 2014

Independence Day Poets' Meet 2014

I was pleasantly surprised when the amiable Member Secretary of the Institute Menezes Braganza, Panjim, Goa called up to inform me that I was one of the featured poets for this year's annual 'Kavi Sammelan' to be held on the eve of Independence Day at their premises. I had often read press releases about the same in past years and I wondered if my time would ever come.

The tasteful invitation reached my postbox the day before the event. Printed in saffron, white and green -- the colours of the Indian tricolour -- the text of the invitation was printed in 4 languages,viz. Hindi, Konkani, Marathi and English. There were 12 poets slated to read including me.

The themes were various. I liked Bharat Naik's poem in Konkani on the spirit of a tree who is invited at a housewarming and who discovers that every bit of the house, the table, cupboards, bed are all made from its own wood taken when it was cut down. Jayshri Roy Harmalkar recited an intense poem about how the woman bears all the pain and sacrifice while the husband has a right to enjoy the fruits with no labour of his own. Kiran Budkuley wrote a poem on the medium of instruction issue in Goa. One of the younger poets read a spirited poem titled 'Ami Goemkar' -- a sarcastic take on petty foibles of Goans.

Keeping with the theme of poems of social relevance I chose my poem 'UIMCF' (Unimpressive Indian Middle Class Family) from my first volume of poems titled Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (Self-published, 2006) highlighting the apathy of the middle class to issues like the soiling of the countryside while travelling by train:


They eat with fury
on a South-bound train
Papayas, apples, parathas, cucumbers and phirni.
from plastic trays
which they toss across the countryside.

And the unoutstanding middle-class man
asks me to exchange my berth for one in S3,
I politely refuse
and he shuns me for the rest of the journey
while I
survey his daughter
who reads psychiatry.

She offers advice
on papa's blood pressure
'Check kara lo'
is the general consensus
'Phir enjoy karenge'
'Journey bahut boring heh'

The son in Nike
squeaks suggestions
as he lopes off at intervals
to divest the pantry.

Mumee cuts papaya
as though her life depended on it
1984's woman
of aspect quotidien
blender of egos
in the feathered night.

(1999, Mangala Express)

As a memento IMB (established 1871) gave us a beautifully crafted woodwork of their logo which was an artistic peacock with its flowering tail radiating a blaze of flame. IMB also gave us a tidy monetary consideration. Much of the poetry was long drawn out owing to the fact that each line in Konkani and Marathi poems is repeated for effect. I wish the moderator was stricter about the time allotted as those who read earlier got the lion's share of the time. I announced that a few copies of my second volume A Peace of India: Poems in Transit (Self-published, 2011) was available for sale in  the foyer -- but there were no takers. Still, I came away with copies of Govapuri published by IMB with an invitation to contribute to the magazine. I also spirited away a 1996 special number of the Boletim do Instituto Menezes Braganca commemorating the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the institute (1871-1996). It would have been nice to have the Portuguese language represented at the meet as well.
Pix of Brian Mendonca receiving the memento from eminent poet Prof. Gopalrao Mayenkar while chairperson Mr. Sanjay Harmalkar looks on. 

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