Thursday, 18 December 2014

Konkani Poetry

Yesterday I gave a PPT on the topic 'Glimpses of Contemporary Goan Poetry in English and Konkani' for students of a college. The request was made by a student of mine who I had taught around 20 years back in the college I am teaching in now. She still remembers, she said as she introduced me, me teaching Wordsworth's 'Tintern Abbey' in class. I tried to remember but the memories escaped me.

There were a goodly number of students, around 40, who took time off from their hectic 'Fun Week' which seems to be the rage these days, to hear a poet read his lines. The deafening music outside the lecture hall soon mellowed into the cadence of poetry.

For me this was a learning experience since I had never handled Goan poetry in Konkani and English on the same platform. But I realize that using Konkani, can have many benefits to leverage English in L2 classrooms. True enough, the students which were mostly from the Konkani department (The talk was jointly organized by the Konkani and English Departments of the college) came alive in their reading of the Konkani poems I had selected -- many from  Kaavyfulam -- the book of Konkani poetry prescribed for their study at the under-graduate level.

The point I made was that while Goan poetry in English generally sheds its angst through addressing lofty themes like exile and immortality, Konkani is more preoccupied with the 'mundane' everyday experience in Goa, which is used with devastating effect. Nutan Shakardande's poem, 'Yo Disa Bar Pota' is about how as the month progresses the fare on the table becomes more austere. From eating chicken and mutton on the first of the month, one is reduced to 'Tees tarke, sukhi sungta.' The rhythm of the lines simply has to be heard and marvelled at.

Rajay Pawar and myself were teaching in the same college once. His poem 'Computer ek Upkar Kar' is about the sea-change in the way of life brought about by the introduction of the computer in our lives. His acerbic asides drive home the home-truths. He observes that when one opens Windows on the computer, one closes the windows in the house. The windows could be metaphoric as well. Instead of playing outside the child is stuck to the computer and even forgoes his mother's warmth as he is put straight to bed from the table. Spouses have separate passwords, and the CV of the person next door is obtainable on the internet. In the end the poet entreats the computer not to take away the childhood from the child and let the spouses communicate with each other once more. 'Ata ekuch upkar kar / Je , je, tuvem kela erase / titlya partun feed kar.

Pundalik Naik's lyrical 'Tu Aylona'  reminded me of a poem I wrote in Hindi once, 'Aap nahi aaye / phir bhi aap aaye.' In this poem Pundalik Naik examines the many reasons why his beloved has not come. As he concedes, 'Tashi na yopachi karna khub aastat'. The poem is Romantic in character.and whilc commiserating with the poet we are privy to his thought process of putting himself in his beloved's shoes. Nagesh Karmali's poem 'To Dis Aata Gele'  is about how land reform and how the bhatkar can no longer ill-treat the mundcar.  He catalogues the obsequies the indigent are forced to proffer to the landed class. Walter Menezes extolls the virtues of his poetry which will make him immortal in 'Hanv Urtolom, Utor Zaun.'

The session ended with a students reading two of her Konkani poems and a discussion on the interplay of themes in both languages. Konkani poetry was said to be the poetry of detail and rising from the land of Goa. The English students said it is not understood outside Goa. The Konkani students pointed out the availability of translations . . . and so it went on.

The Goan poets writing in English which I touched upon were Mary Mendes 'Goa-Skirmishes'; Margaret Mascarenhas 'Missing Person in Goa'; Jose Lourenco 'Who Exiled the Goan Intellectual?'; Ethel Da Costa 'Madness' and Brian Mendonca 'Pilar.'
I am grateful to Queenie Viegas for mediating the Konkani poems to me; Pix of Nutan Sakhardande from google+, Rajay Pawar from Kavita Fest 2015

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