When poetry feeds the hungry mind

When poetry feeds the hungry mind

It was a morning spent on the roads of imagination, streets of words, alleys of art and lanes of beauty as three eminent poets — Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Ashok Vajpeyi and K Satchidanandan — took turns to lure the audience and play on their minds like chords with the beauty of words.

Many had skipped their breakfast and brunch, choosing instead to satiate their hunger with fruitful words in tune with subtle rhymes. A sweet Sunday morning was spent with much enthusiasm as over 200 visitors at the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) succumbed to a variety of moods—from joy to sorrow and ecstasy to melancholy—with the poets.

“Pachas saal se besharmi se kavita likhte aaye hain” (we have been writing poetry shamelessly for the last 50 years), said eminent poet Ashok Vajpeyi as he opened his book to read a few lines for the audience, making them laugh endlessly for the next 15 minutes. “Vajpeyi’s poetry has managed to win many a heart as he employs simple, meaningful words in Hindi. I have been a fan of his for a long time, but this is the first time I am listening to him recite his own lines,” Sravasti, a visitor, said. “I am thankful to the organisers for having brought him to Bangalore.”

Giggles to composure

Moving from Vajpeyi’s whimsical rhymes to Satchidanandan’s rather serious verses, people swung from giggles to composure, much in sync with the light breeze and the occasional sun that came out amid the clouds. As the session went by, more of them gathered around lawns after overhearing some words that were recited.
“I think I understand madness better than sanity, or mad people better than the so-called sane people,” said Satchidanandan before he began his session. “The mad are not mad like us.”

His poem on the plight of a pregnant Muslim woman, whose womb was slashed open and her foetus thrown into her burning house during the 2002 pogrom, brought tears down the faces of some people. “One of the tasks of us poets is to make people remember,” Satchidanandan said.

Poetry will come back...

Talking about how poetry is always a part of us, Satchidanandan recited, “We need rice, salt, chilly, firewood; we can do without poetry, yet poetry will come back...” which is a translation from the original in Malayalam by the poet himself. The audience too chanted in a single breath, “rice salt chilli firewood poetry!”

Sen’s poem titled ‘The Jungle Story’, which is about her students who came out of prison after being jailed during the Naxal attacks, was received with much amusement by everyone. “My time in the jungle is over mother, now the jungle lives in me..” she concluded, describing their plight.

The poetry session was then taken over by one of the Hindi cinema’s most appreciated lyricists, Gulzar, with “mera kuch saman tumhare paas pada hai..”. In conversation with Bhawana Somayaa, he had a candid session on how some of his best songs and films came about.

Later in the day, there were sessions by Kashmiri poet Farooq Shaheen and Telugu author Vempalli Gangadhar. The concluding session in the evening by Shabnam Virmani and Vipul Rikhi marked the end of this year’s literature festival in Bangalore.

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