Sunday, 5 March 2017

Writers Meet

-Brian Mendonça

What does it mean to be a writer? What do other writers think about their calling? How to juggle one’s umpteen responsibilities with being a writer? These were some of the questions that raced through my mind as I headed from Nuvem on a Saturday afternoon for the Writers Meet at Pernem, 4-5 March 2017.

An initiative of the Institute Menezes Braganza, Panjim, the programme felicitated creative writers across languages in Goa and invited them to speak about their work. The proceedings were conducted in Konkani. When the writers were invited to introduce themselves, they did so in Konkani, many in Marathi, one in Hindi, and one, me, in English.

One of the languages missing was Portuguese. This amnesia seemed to close the door to a shared linguistic and cultural heritage. Languages need to be nurtured for their own sake. I felt that I could articulate the occident through my poetry and prose. I had already used Portuguese in my debut volume of poems Last Bus to Vasco: Poems in Transit (2006). The legacy of a language lives on in the life of a poet. Times change, people change, a language evolves.

Many of the writers around me, were stalwarts in their own sphere. However I had not read any of them in English translation. Some writers spoke at length of their work in translation, viz. translating sacred texts from Konkani to Gujarati. None spoke about any translations into English. Here was a market waiting for them, since they were already big names in the Konkani firmament. A few writers in Goa have made impressive forays into the English-speaking world by securing publishers who bring out their works in English translation.

As the writers made their introductions I listened to what their other lives were. There were around fifty of us with an equal number of gents and ladies. Ladies sat mostly in their finery and saris facing the dais to the right, gents sat to the left somewhat outclassed, except for a senior writer resplendent in his red kurta-pyjama.

The overnight weekend getaway was held in the sylvan surroundings of Heera farm, at Ozri, Dhargal. Here in the northern tip of Goa, writers came across as normal human beings. Some worked in the bank; some were teaching languages and literature in schools and colleges; others were writing fulltime or travelling to neighbouring states to pursue writing assignments. Many of them had retired. But they kept themselves glowing and active. The silver-haired gent beside me specialized in making wines – no less than twenty varieties. Many writers were involved in social work, viz. dealing with special children, or remedial teaching.

The Writers Meet inspired us. It gave us a reason to live – and a reason to write. There were thought-provoking sessions like ‘Why do I write? / For whom do I write?’ and ‘E-literature: enemy or friend?’  An early-morning yoga session was scheduled, ‘as writers need to be fit to write.’ A variety programme was specially put up for us. Thank you IMB.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 16 April 2017.

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