Taking poetry to youngsters

Taking poetry to youngsters

 Kavita Trust in Mangaluru has been promoting Konkani poetry through various activities, writes Ronald Anil Fernandes.

When a few like-minded friends came together in public spaces  in the villages of Moodabidri, Karkala and Udupi taluks to discuss poetry in the late 1980s, they might not have realised that they are laying foundation for a strong and unique movement. Within three to four years, the number of people in the group rose from a handful to 70 and they began to call themselves as Zage Kavi (which means ‘Alert Poets’ in Konkani).

Melvyn Rodrigues, a Kendra Sahitya Akademi awardee and Konkani language activist, and Cha Fra D’Costa, a Konkani poet, dramatist and journalist, were the key members of the Zage Kavi forum. When Melvyn went to Dubai in 1992 for work, he decided to continue the meetings at his home in Dubai. When the number of participants crossed
50, he shifted the meetings to public places.

It is also interesting to note that during this time, a new tradition began in Konkani poetry. Until then, the person who used to pen down the lyrics also used to compose the tune and provide the music. However, with Mandd Sobhann, a Konkani cultural organisation established in 1986 by Melvyn Rodrigues, Cha Fra D’Costa and Eric Ozario, the responsibilities were shared among people who had the required talent.

A decade after Melvyn landed in Dubai, Kavita Trust was started as a forum to promote Konkani poetry in Dubai and it began initial activities in 2002. Later, it got registered as a trust in Mangaluru in 2007. Melvyn is the founder president of Kavita Trust. While the vision of the trust is to function as a platform for the promotion of Konkani poetry, its mission is to create a worthy atmosphere to write, study and interpret it.

Diverse activities
In the same year, the trust organised a Konkani poetry festival called Kavita Fest. This is one of the important programmes organised by the trust and is organised on the second Sunday of January every year. Delegates from Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Mumbai and overseas attend the festival. Besides a colourful procession, unique inauguration and keynote address by well-known thinkers, conversations with poets and multilingual poetry sessions mark the festival.

The trust also organises the All India Konkani Poetry Writing Competition for students, specifically those in Classes six to 10, to foster their poetry skills. This competition was started in 2007 in memory of Melvyn’s parents, Late Charles and Theresa Rodrigues. The trust also organises All India Konkani Poetry Reciting Competition for Youth (for those between the ages of 15 years and 30 years) and children (below 15 years). The goal is to popularise Konkani poetry among  youngsters.

What is unique about the contest is that the participants have to send three poems (self-written or penned by others) to the organisers in advance, and on the day of contest, they will have to recite them.

“Believe it or not, more than 2,000 poems have been written so far with the encouragement of Kavita Trust. Thus, not only has the trust contributed to the rich culture of region, but it has also succeeded in creating an interest in poetry among the young,” says a trustee. Over the years, the number of parents accompanying their children has also increased, adds the trustee.

Spreading the word
Besides these programmes, the trust has also been organising the James and Shobha Mendonca Endowment Lecture on Poetry annually since 2012. Every lecture is a much awaited programme and has had many popular poets such as Gulzar (in 2012) and Keki N Daruwalla (in 2016) speak.
The Joseph Mathias and Family Poetry Award is yet another initiative of Kavita Trust. Since its inception in 2008, the award has been conferred on poets for their commendable contribution to Konkani poetry.
Kavita Trust is also into publications. So far, it has published 26 poetry collections, critical essays and other books. The latest release is Rastya Degechim Fulam by poet M P Rodrigues. The trust has also published Melvyn’s Prakriticho Pass, a collection of poems which won him the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 2011. Recalling the Zage Kavi days in the 1980s, Melvyn says that there were only seven poetry books in Konkani in Karnataka at that time. However, today the number of poetry books has crossed 300.
Melvyn is happy that Kavita Trust has succeeded taking poetry to thousands of people, influencing hundreds of young minds. The trust also manages a website, www.konkanipoetry.com that has nearly 1000 poems and around 1000 pages on poetry criticism and poetry related
articles. This is a treasure trove for those who want to learn more about Konkani poetry. “Through Kavita Trust, we create an environment, wherein people are able to ‘touch’ the minds and emotions of
others,” he says. To know more about the trust’s work, one can contact them at
kavitatrust@gmail.com.

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