Monday, February 16, 2009


Returned from the Kala Ghoda Festival yesterday evening, exhausted and contented. Listened to Lata heavenly rendering of Ghalib followed by Asha, the queen bee, crooning ` Meraj-e- Ghazal’ in her usual seductive and honeyed voice on my return flight. I used to listen her bewitching ` Heraito ke silsile’ when I used to commute to Navasari by the Ahmedabad Passenger on my walkman for years. The song still spoke for me. Has the song changed? Has the listener changed? From thousands of feet above sea level, the megacities of Mumbai, Surat and Vadodara looked like jewels studded necklace on an empress.
I flew after a long time. My earlier experience of flying was in 2000 when I visited the UK for a conference. The trip, of course, was fun and the sight of mountains slouching like herd of dinosaurs was exciting. The hateful venonmous clouds of pollutions hanging over the star studded cities was not exactly a pleasant site.

The best thing about the weekend at the Kala Ghoda Festival on 13 and 14th Feb was meeting friends whom I met only on Orkut! I stumbled upon Prajakta, Alka Gadgil, Kiran Kendre and Vandana Khare on Orkut and met them in real life only on my last visit to Mumbai. I met Prajakta after almost 2 and half years of `online friendship'! That was indeed exciting.
That the Kala Ghoda Festival, organized by the Times of India, offered space for the regional languages is indeed welcome and the organizers ought to be congratulated and thanked for this. The crowd, which usually frequents this festival, is not the one that is really concerned with something as Page 30 –ish like regional languages. I don’t think the Gore Log who swarm Kala Ghoda Fest can be blamed for this state of affairs. The people who hardly have any option other than the regional languages, too, are hardly concerned about their own languages.
I conducted two workshops in Marathi on 14 Feb 2009. The first workshop on creative writing in Marathi was a pleasant experience. I don’t know of similar workshop on the subject in Marathi held before the one I conducted. Refreshingly, participants to the workshop were people of the age group as varied as a standard eight student to a sixty five year old woman who wanted to learn more about creative writing. There was a young Maharashtrian wrote the tasks in English and a well-known young Marathi poet friend of mine was curious about such a thing as a `creative writing in Marathi’. The widespread attitude among Marathi speaking people with whom I shared the idea before conducting the workshop was that you can’t really teach something like creative writing. My argument was that as creative writing is a form of art, it can be taught to a certain extent like other arts like dancing or music or painting. Though you can’t really substitute basic things like the natural gift, `riaz’and study, you can indeed learn more about the craft of writing from such a workshop. I engaged with the nuts and bolts of writing techniques like literary devices of metaphor, point-of-view, plot, character, symbol, image and dictums like ` show-not-tell’. I gave warm up exercises and prompts. The participants were happy with the workshop and felt that it was necessary to have a daylong workshop on the topic.
The second workshop on translating Marathi poetry was a different thing even though many participants were the same. Translation workshop is not a new thing in our country, unlike creative writing in regional languages. The reason for this is probably the secondary status of translation! People feel translation is a craft and can be learned by labour while creative writing comes ` naturally’ like a leaf to the Keatsian tree!! People seem to forget that literary translation is a creative activity too, and probably it requires a ` gift’ as well. On the other hand, creative writing too has a side where merely having a `gift’ wont suffice. You need labour, practice and extensive study. I emphasised this in my creative writing workshop. Art requires labour and scholarship and that a good writer has to be invariably a good reader. Some of the participants in Marathi poetry translation workshops were experienced translators and sharing experiences with them was interesting. I pointed out in the theoretical section of my workshop schedule that the contemporary translation studies does not see the original and the translation in a hierarchical way and that the idea of thinking about translation in a negative way is outdated. The idea that something is `lost’ is translation and the attitude of mourning attached to translation is erroneous. The idea of `loss’ or ` gain’ is actually a relative thing. The `loss’ is from the standpoint of a person who knows the source language and the target language. Such a person does not need translation. However, from the perspective of a reader who does not know the source language, any translation however bad, is always a gain because she has no other alternative. My statement did not go down well with some participants who felt I was supporting bad or mistranslations. Nevertheless, the workshop was significant.
Two other events which featured yours truly were the Panel Discussion on ` Globalization and its Impact on Contemporary Marathi poetry’ and Poetry Reading Event. The panel discussion on globalization and its impact on Marathi poetry was very interesting. A well-known contemporary poet and critic Saleel Wagh began the discussion by converting into a debate. He said that globalization has no or little impact on contemporary poetry, as 95% of Marathi poetry is unaffected and the remaining is reactionary and superficially affected. I pointed out that if such was the case, Saleel’s own poetry belonged to the remaining 5%. Remaining panellist spent their time countering Saleel’s proposition. Probably that’s what he wanted. I argued that globalization has indeed affected life style, values, and political equations and so globalization is one of the most important contexts of contemporary Marathi poetry. What has happened is Marathi poetry has shed ` red tape’ mentality that it had previously. When we talk of contemporary Marathi poetry, we mean of serious and creative poetry and such kind of poetry is marginal in every period, hence to say that 95% poetry is unaffected is not valid. I also asked Saleel why he was underestimating his own poetry, which can be read only in the context of globalized metropolitan culture.
My throat was in a bad shape by the time we came to reading our poems and croaked like a hoarse frog in the poetry reading session.
It was with such a throat that I had a workshop with project fellows of Pukar, a renowned NGO working on urbanization and related issues on Sunday. The workshop was on the basics of writing blog.
Another interesting thing was GN Devy interviewed by Dilip Jhaveri. He does have a great knack for impressing people and I remember how awestruck we were when we were studying under him. He can be very intense and honest in his conviction and articulation. We all admire him for his work and for being who he is.
It was a hectic but exciting weekend.
Hemant Divate declared that he wished to discontinue Abhidhanantar and asked the gang of his friends what they thought of it. I said it was a good idea as the historical work that Abhidhanantar set out to do was almost done. Its function was to give a platform to new poetry produced in a new society transformed by globalization. I congratulated Hemant for knowing where to stop. The magazine is around from 1992 and has done a remarkable work of freeing Marathi poetry from ` red tapism’ and `licence raj’ mentality of the 80s. This was because Abhidha played a momentous role in `reprivatizing’ the `nationalized public sector poetry of the 80s, thus freeing it from bureaucratic outlook that had shackled Marathi poetry. Whenever the history of 21st century Marathi poetry will be written, it would be incomplete or dishonest without taking account of Abhidhanantar.
It was Valentine Day when we were discussing these things in the Gokul Restaurant near Plaza in Fort area of Mumbai. In the bar, a handful of Pretty Young Thingies were having a boisterous time with their boyfriends. The PYTs however were drowned in their drinks and we had to raise our voices to drown theirs. The guys were not so noisy, they zhelofied all the slaps and claps with patience of the Padmapani Buddha. Conclusion: It is easier to salvage a bibulous guy than a gal who has drowned in her drink.

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