Winters have been flirting with Bombay for a few weeks before we all sat down with our cups of chai and coffee at the gorgeous Kitaab Khana to listen to poetry. Scenes from North Carolina, Versova, Tunisia, Delhi and Dapoli flitted in front of our eyes as poets shared their beautiful verses.
Laura Traister, the Fulbright-Nehru scholar opened the evening with five poems. Jaipur mornings, a Cheruke legend, a music filled day at the beach were lyrical, strong, lulling. Her poem Free Period spoke of her ongoing affair with India, where she is living and teaching for nine months. Questions, she observed, provide answers, but also hurt innocence.
Gayatri Majumdar, editor The Brown Critique, read four poems. My Aunt’s Home, set in Versova was intimate, familial. Tribute to a Revolution was strong, reminiscent of a metaphor used elsewhere – heart as cold as fridge, humming, hollow. Gayatri asks, how did the sisters gather strength, tools? Her next poem – one of our favourite ones about poems – A Poem urges us all to stop suffering at the hands of failed foreign policy or stinking life, to not be a destitute butterfly who doesn’t have a memory of love, but to let a poem in!
Mihir Chitre, the young poet and advertisement professional, brought in boyish charms through his poem set in Dapoli over beer and surmai fry. No stranger to love, loss and pain, Mihir is the master of exceptional endings. 2:31 AM a Whisper is a commentary to social media voyeurism. He says, Unrequited is the only kind of love! Another poem says, World if vast / Why do I need moonlight to read the unwritten?
Devashish Makhija, the exceptionally talented film-maker, is a master of imagery. His poems will not show you images – they will show you a movie inside your own head; his poem becomes yours, his stories become you. Lucid, through waves of loss and troughs of pain, you won’t forget If I Kill Myself Today anytime soon. An expertly told story spreads from the micro – the speaker’s kitchen, to his neighbourhood – elections and redevelopment, to his beloved – her grief in the coming week, her apathy the next year.
Meherin Roshanara, the gorgeous poet, brought in protest and feminism. Her poem Numbers slams body image issues of women, the obsession of sizing up beauty by size. She redefines those numbers – 9 becomes a cloud with root. Her poem Hotel JNU says, Land refuses to be a nation/ Together we dive a gravity wave.
Tripurari Kumar Sharma, the lyricist and Hindi-Urdu poet, brought in the romance of Urdu shayari and the easy musicality of Khariboli. His poem on Mumbai described his love affair with the city, his observations of misadventures of the Mumbaikars. A masterpiece, Zahan (the Mind) brings out the infinity o our own minds, our startling inability to map it, through our arrogance of landing on Mars. A stroke of feminism, Tripurari speaks of Urmila, the ‘absent’ character in Valmiki’s Ramayan.
Kala Ramesh, the Haiku veteran, took us through arresting imagery through her Haikus, Tankas and Haibuns. Our favourite verse was about each of a newborn baby’s features being claimed by family members of parents. And a striking image of a leafless tree – the sun rising on a walking stick will come back to us every autumn.