On the eve of Republic Day I was delighted to be interviewed by 5 students who came all the way from Government College of Arts, Commerce and Science, Sanquelim, North Goa to meet me. I was part of their third year project on poets of Goa.
As I sat with them in the canteen while they munched on snacks I told them I was happy for 2 reasons, viz. 1) that the youth were interested to meet poets, and 2) they were open to meeting younger poets for their assignment.
The students delved into the material I had in my archives. Some of the mids written for the newspapers in Goa were 30 years old. Several articles/poems were written across India, viz. Pune, Nepal, Bikaner and Srinagar. They were curious about my poem 'Ebb tide on the Zuari.' I explained this was a metaphor for the times one is down and out in life. But like the water recedes it will also approach the shore. We must stay positive and believe in the best. I also read my first poem, 'Requiem to a Sal' (1987) to them.
On the multilingual nature of my work, I shared that using words from different languages helps me connect with my reader. There cannot be any equivalent for some words in another language. I referred to my article written for the Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa for the following week. The piece was called, 'Fonda Fudde.' Though the title was in Konkani, English readers in Goa would understand it. Besides it was very necessary to be a bridge between the two languages. My article, 'Radioche dis gele' was another example.
How does one publish?- they were keen to know. Both Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (2006) and A Peace of India: Poems in Transit (2011) were self-published. Publishing your own poetry gives you confidence, to take the risk and blaze your own trail. A print run of 500 copies, paperback, 80 pages would need a budget of Rs. 25, 000. I am eagerly waiting to publish my third volume of poems, Jasmine City: Poems from Delhi. Commercial presses charge huge sums to publish your work. Self-publishing gives you the liberty of expression, a low price and a wider audience. Self-publishing for me was as one-man show. I had to write, edit, publish and market my own books. It gave me tremendous satisfaction, and the opportunity to connect with my readers.
What inspires you to write? - was another query. I would say, the great outdoors, things that are precious to me. I write when I am quiet, when something strikes me as a good subject. Writing a poem must pose a level of challenge. I do not like to repeat the same theme. I need to be honest to my readers. Lately though, I have been writing more prose. This is my fourth year of being a regular weekly contributor to the Weekender, a Sunday family newspaper. Over a hundred and fifty articles have been written and published in the column 'On My Mind'. I like the byline of my column, viz. 'The author is a chronicler of our times.' It gives me a mandate to write about issues with social relevance which I feel strongly about.
All my writing is uploaded on my this blog, viz. www.lastbustovasco.blogspot.in With that I reach out to a wider audience globally. Since the poems in my published volumes are not available on the internet, I try to post them one by one on my blog. This happens when I am inspired by circumstances to recall a particular poem. The poem 'Origins' written in Jhansi was posted in memory of those who lost their lives in a train accident near Jhansi. My poems, and my writings, serve as a collective memory of India - its history, its culture, its ethos, its embarrassments.
Many of the themes reverberate across time and space. I find readers coming up to me or calling me saying, 'I read your article.' They appreciate its frankness and topicality. In most cases I choose to write about ways of behaviour that are a menace to society and are often unquestioned. The article 'Caitan-ya' comes to mind. My blog is also a archive of my writing, where those interested can go to, if they need to. The students lamented that there was no material on Goan poets available. My blog is a step to address this lacunae.
I step with the times I shared my poem written and shared on WhatsApp the day the BRICS summit opened in Goa in October 2016:
'Welcome to Goa the land of bricks
Where men are gallant, and others just pricks . . .'
This poem ushered in a new idiom of poetry of me, It was irreverent, hard-hitting and committed. It moved my poetry out of the closet and used social media to tap a theme questioning the cliches of Goa. Just before the summit commenced a young perfumer Monica Ghurde was abused and killed in her own flat in North Goa by an intruder. The reference to 'bricks' is to the rampant construction activity in Goa where we have no choice but to write more requiems for much-loved trees, rampantly destroyed. The 4-laning of the highway in the garb of 'development' is causing devastation to the green cover along the routes.
The youth of Goa must take up the challenge to be archivists of a Goa that is fast disappearing.When they left I presented them a copy of my second volume A Peace of India - but not before I had written each of them a small message on their books. I treated them as my own students. I invited them to sit in my class on creative writing which they did shyly. Their visit uplifted me. They brought good wishes from their mentors in their college, Anita Jacob, and Sharat Jamkhandi.
Once more on Republic Day, 26 January, I feel affirmed in my practice as a writer. Peace of India is a republic of poetry written across India over 10 years during my Delhi years. If I can share the exuberance of India with my students, mine will have been a life well-lived.
Pix of Ms. Sayesha Parab, Ms. Alvira Shaikh, Ms. Ratika Rane, Ms Sunobeer Khan and Ms. Shruti Naik with Dr. Brian Mendonca taken at Carmel College, Goa on 25th January 2017.