A Tongue-In-Cheek Report
The unbroken silence indicates no one from the twenty odd souls that gorged on coffee and sandwiches and cakes, is going to tap the keyboard for a report on what exactly transpired at Pranay’s flat on 060904, bewteen 1700 hrs to roughly 2130 hrs.
Here’s a full-bodied, sanguine, slightly tangential and somewhat tongue-in-cheek report :
The bored-to-death chowkidar seemed surprised when I gave the address… wahaan koi nahin… he said, and having reported half an hour before the time, I had to vanish. When I returned, a motley crowd was milling around –Soeb Fatehi welcomed me, we knew each other from our photos on the ryze pages. Rats disappeared into the kitchen, with cool cats droolingly awaiting the taste of first coffee. It came and kept on coming. In-between some delicious mashed-potato sandwiches materialized too.
Vijay asked me to start reading, and I dithered as I had plenty of time, no need to hurry back to Pune. Was staying over with friends at Versova. So the first one to read was : Vijay himself who read John Mathew’s short story on the new culture of call centres and all their attendant problems, entitled “The E-Slave”. Vijay had to read it out once again, and there was a flurry of comments on it, as usual both praising it and poking holes in its fabric. The general opinion was, it was relevant to the times, and captured the mood well.
I, Max Babi was invited to read out three poems from the published collection of verse “Emotions In Motion”, 1992 by Writers Workshop.
I read out a poem “Freedom” first, which was received in what seemed to me a stunned silence. There was a repeat as the tradition demands, and this time Dilfiza who wanted to know if those were bamboo leaves that slithered in… so I replied in the affirmative. After a few minutes of discussions, Dilfiza and Rats made the right noises appreciatively at the last four or five lines. Many heads nodded, and Veeru asked a few questions about the background leading to the birth of the poem. I told them the story.
Soeb Fatehi who obviously has good experience in conducting training modules and seminars wanted to be allowed to read out this poem. We allowed him and he in his rather sonorous voice, which swelled up like an ancient church organ inside a small chapel, somehow lent a new life to my poem, giving me a new taste.
All of us enjoyed his rather dramatic reading of the poem so much, we allowed him to read out the next two poems too. Over to the loudspeaker, I would say, after having read out a poem. And he would dig in with unconcealed delight, gusto and vim –quite a sight. Peter Griffin who came in late, placed himslef in the balcony to let out gusts of smoke from his ‘shweta rung, lumb roop, dhooan – dhadak dandika…’ so often, he remained there for a large part of the meeting.
Coffee breaks settled on us, as the evening shadows lengthened outside and the traffic seemed to come alive with vengeance, to an alarming degree of noise and urgency. My next two poems “A Wish” and “Welcome” were received similarly, and there was a particular dwelling of the discussion on my use of the word “hoarding” which Manisha mistook for what a miserly trader would do with intention of making black money, not what the Yankees call a billboard. Soeb was also doubtful about the usage word, because of the line implying a negative space whilst a hoarding is a positive entity… this is a typical engineer’s [or an architects]’ response, I explained to him, and stressed the fact that it is the phenomenon of looming up –just as a hoarding looms up on a grey evening when riding on the highway… Manisha objected to my use of the cat and the buffalo doing their own thing.
This lead us to re-open the discussion we had at Deepa’s place, with Brahmanda Singh recalling the topic : whether a poem should be edited or not. Most of us opined that spontaneous editing soon after writings is all right, but too much editing could transform the mood and content of a poem too much. I maintained that words written long ago, I like to preserve as they were written for I am not the same person anymore. Some mentioned that if the editing dramatically improves the content, well, why not?
Rats had to be summoned and she read out as scheduled her rather satirical piece on How To Open A School Without Education, and indeed it was a satire on the present state of affairs in education which has fast metamorphosed into yet another business. She illustrated this, later with many examples of almost illiterate but powerful persons wishing to open up schools. It was suggested that she should put this piece up on the Blog, and names also must be clearly mentioned….
Manisha then recounted a number of her own experiences wherein the entire suspenseful scenario –young mothers anxious to get their children into school, and the ill-matched teachers not inspiring confidence in the minds of the mothers, etc., and ultimately Manisha read out a very entertaining dialogue between two such ladies with children to be enrolled. Her script was very lively and full of humour.
Pranay the host read out his three poems, and there followed a longish discussion on the merits and demerits of writing verse that rhymes… for his poems as a rule rhyme. Bramhanand had a lot to say on this –and we all concluded that it is not easy to write rhymed verse if you care for the metre as you must. Quite often the poet would have to dilute the content or go off tangentially from the main theme to preserve the rhyme and the metre.
Cakes and sandwiches were relished with vigour, soon after.
Peter Griffin read out some hard-hitting short poems, which he had hand-written –what a rare sight in today’s computerized world –and many first-timers like Veeru, who had been religiously lobbing questions to the writers and the readers, seemed rather touched. Peter also made comments and told us about the background of each poem : he is an articulate person and it is a pleasure to listen to him.
Brahmanand the film-makers, whose articulation also demands attention, read out some of his very engaging poems, with the Dangling Woman being a clear cut hit –half way through the poem, the irrepressible Manisha commented she would rather leave the woman dangling than go any further… a point worth pondering upon!
Copious comments were made on his other poems, and it was well past 2100 hrs that Vijay brought the excited pack of writers and readers and listeners [and oranisers] to discuss the SATCT project.
Rats wanted to know why only short stories, why not poems, and Brahmanand suggested essays to be included too. However in the absence of the editor Sunil Nair, it was decided that it may be too late to change the basic idea. The next meet, will be on 2nd Oct. 2004, it was decided at Manish Lakhe’s place in Versova –and Annie informed us that that being Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary ‘The Final Solution’ by A. Patwardhan is going to be screened at 50 places, so why don’t we combine the reading and screening both? Almost unanimously the idea was welcomed.
When we parted –the strangers who had been talking or listening or thinking, parted as close friends. A wonderful event.