Sunday, 11 December 2016

Multilingual Poetry Reading at GALF 2016


Brian Mendonca hosting a multilingual poetry reading at the Goa Arts and Literature Festival 2016 at International Centre, Donapaula, Goa on 10 December 2016. Seated left to right are Brian Mendonca (English), Ramesh Veluskar (Konkani), Darshan Darshi (Dogri), Manikuntala Bhattacharya (Assomiya), Suresh Rituparna (Hindi) and Sailabala Mahapatra (Odiya)
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It was a singular honour to be invited to host a multilingual poetry reading session at GALF 2016. Stepping out of the pages of my self-published book of poems  A Peace of India: Poems in Transit (New Delhi, 2011), this was India on a platter of poets. Opening with my own poem 'A Peace of India' the poets on the dais regaled the sparse audience with the lilt of their own specific language. 

Overwhelmed by the occasion Sailabala from Puri, Odisha prefaced her reading with a preamble stating her joy at being present for the festival. My mind went back to my visit to Bhubaneshwar c. 1995 and the triangle of Konark-Puri-Bhubaneshwar which we tried to cover. Sailabala spoke about Puri being the home of Jaganath - the Lord of the world, and famous for the rath-yatra, viz. the only time in a year when the Lord comes out to meet his people. Quiet and soft-spoken I am reminded of Jayanta Mahapatra and his first lines of a poem, 'At Puri / the crows'.


Darshan Darshi spoke about the unrest in Kashmir. He took me back to the days I visited Kashmir in the days of militancy in 1998 and the anxious moments when there was firing across the Dal lake. Here are 2 poems from his blog darshan-darshi@blogspot.in:


 Mirrors
By Darshan Darshi

                     I hate mirrors of all types,shapes and sizes
                     becau'z their overt and exact reflections
                      support not the perceived images of my self.
           I love truth and am averse to lies of all sorts
           but many a times a lie is more soothing than truth
           and is destined to bring you nearer to your life
                        So on this day of  september twentynine 
                        when world is visiting the world heart day
                        I promise to say, good bye to all those things
                        which are not in sync with my heart and soul.....!!
                           Mirrors have no heart,emotions or sensitivity
                           so I will never look into the inside of these infidels
                           In fact I propose to break all mirrors
                            to save my image of my perceptions.   
                       

Standing Upright
by Darshan Darshi

I can scale
all steep hills
with the ease of mountain goats.
OR
can slope surreptitiously
between the boulder stones
of an un-culled path.
And, like that tiny hill brook
which trundles clumsily
down the hill...
I too can
descend a top without fright
to tread a trail
which knows not
the width of a path

or the beauty of
urban walkways.
As a matter of fact
I could easily pass
for a scug or squirrel.
For I can only walk
with a bend
Or, a helimical haunch!
I am a man of those hills
where
risky paths and basket loads
on my back,
have gently stolen the
erectness of my spine

Sorry sir, I know not
what is a flaccid gait
or a back called straight.
Ask me not to be a flag-staff!
You dear live in plains
and know not my mountains...!
They are rabid rulers
and love bent backs!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

(Translated from my fresh Dogri poem,"Akedai Khdoo" -A tribute to those hill-people who still are  sans connectivity, despite seventy years of India's independecence and seventy thousand  political promises).

Monikuntala Bhattacharya has a work with the intriguing title I want to be Desdemona. Monikuntala works in the shadow of insurgency in Assam. She opened the poetry reading session with her lines on love in Assomiya. Her poem said that if you love somebody leave him free. Don't uproot the person. The generosity of spirit and frail voice epitomized the courage of a writer writing in troubled times.

Suresh Rituparna was born in Mathura, and is now based in Delhi. Suresh gently asked us not to forget Hiroshima. Inspired by Greek myth, and the legend of Prometheus, he read a poem on the theme. Beautifully nuanced, the Hindi language came across as the voice of an oracle. In the poem below he hearkens back to Kalidasa's Sanskrit poem Meghdoot / Cloud Messenger. He expresses his mistrust about the black clouds today which may well be harbouring an atom bomb and its plume.

एक और मेघदूत  


कहीं दूर से
थके चले आते
काले धुएँ के बादल
मुझसे आ लिपट जाते हैं
मेरा चेहरा
भयाक्रांत
सफ़ेद होता जाता है

मुझे लगने लगता है
कालिदास झूठा था
कैसे ले जाते होंगे
वे काले मेघ
यक्ष का प्रेम संदेशा ?
कि ये काले बादल तो
हर बार
भय का ही संदेशा
लाये हैं मेरे नाम

भविष्य का युद्ध
मेरे वर्तमान से आ चिपकता है
मैं देखता हूँ---
युद्ध पीढ़ी की नसों में
भर दिया गया है बारूद
और
फेफड़ों में छिपा दिये गए हैं
एटम बम
  
न जाने कब
कहाँ से
ऐसा ही कोई काला बादल
उमड़ आयेगा
धुएँ में छिपी
चिनगारी
बारूद में घुस जायेगी
फेफड़ों में छिपे एटम बम
एक-एक कर फूटते जायेंगे।

कहीं कोई नहीं
मैं असहाय......
भयाक्रान्त.........!

Instead of reading, Ramesh Veluskar started singing. He said in the garb of development we are losing so much, We are unaware of the kind and extent of this loss. In the face of rampant destruction of the environment Ramesh imitates the thrr thrr of the birds and the gushing waters to mimic their presence when he cannot find them.

To illustrate the multi-lingual nature of a poem I read my poem, 'May Queen'* which has English, Portuguese and Konkani words. The poem is included in my debut volume of self-published poems Last Bus to Vasco: Poems in Goa (New Delhi, 2006).

The poetry reading session came to a thrilling close with Anubhav Tulasi, the Assamese poet, from the audience coming on stage to share a poem. The poem was translated by Mitra Phukan. We were awed to be in the presence of such distinguished writers - and humbled by their humility.

P.S. When we visited the book stalls at the festival venue the next day in the hope of  picking up some volumes of poetry by the featured poets, there were none to be had. One would need to pursue these elusive poets with more zeal . . .
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*http://lastbustovasco.blogspot.in/2008/05/may-queen.html

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