Sunday, 17 January 2016

Salaam Manguesh

-Brian Mendonça

When eminent Marathi poet Manguesh Padgaonkar left us in the final hours of last year I was struck by the accolades he evoked. Maharashtra Times the local Marathi newspaper published from Mumbai, carried banner headlines on 31 December 2015 in Devanagri script from his poem  ‘  . . . Sanga Kase Jagayse’  [‘Tell me how does one live’]. I treasure this copy of Maharashtra Times (which I subscribe to) and which has a selection of his poetry printed in its pages on the last day of last year.

Intrigued by the affection he commanded, and of course his goatee beard, I was wondering which paper in Goa would do that if a Goan poet passed away. As a tribute to Manguesh,  a week later, a reading of the poet’s work by eminent poets, titled ‘Ek Hota Gypsy’ [Once there was a Gypsy] – again a line from his poem --was held at Ruia College hall, Mumbai on Friday, 8 January.  Noted Marathi poets like Ashok Naigavkar, Arun Mahtre, and Neerja graced the occasion. Manguesh Padgaonkar’s sons Ajit and Abhay also attended the event. It would seem  it is the vernacular press rather than the mainstream English press which champions the writings of its sons and daughters.

A multilingual poetry meet – Kavyamahotsav –  was organized by the Institute Menezes Braganza, Panaji, as part of National Book Week on 21 November 2015. It was a moving experience to witness and listen to the poetry of poets in Goa reading their poems in Konkani, Marathi, English, Hindi and Urdu among other languages excelling in their own poetic conventions. I was also invited to read my poem in English. I read ‘Mapusa Market’ about how the smells, sights and sounds of Mapusa market remind me of the void created by the death of the aged Goan couple Mr. and Mrs. Demello  from Corjuem, Aldona within a month of each other in Mumbai last year. The programme which spanned a number of days, and which also featured a session on Tukaram’s abhangs,  was put together by Gorakh Mandrekar,  Member Secretary, IMB.

Awarded the Padmabhushan in 2013, Manguesh was born in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra in 1929. An avid translator, Manguesh translated some plays of Shakespeare. He also translated the New Testament of the Bible into Marathi in 2008.  The obsequiousness of the common Indian not to stand up for anything is ridiculed in his famous poem ‘Salaam’ translated from the Marathi by Vinay Dharwadker:
To everyone, salaam
To the hand that holds
And brandishes the rod, salaam,
With my left hand on my rear
For fear of the boot,
A right-handed salaam,
To the one who watches me closely, salaam,
To the one who doesn’t watch and doesn’t care, salaam . . .
If I had several arms and hands,
Like our sacred pantheon,
With every one of them I would have salaamed.
Forgive me, mortal as I am,
That I have only two:
The left I reserve for my rear,
And with the right I offer you
A simple, one-handed salaam.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender  St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 17 January 2016.  Pix of Manguesh at IIT, Mumbai (2009), courtesy YouTube video.

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