I hadn't realized it, but for the last 46 years, since the age of 15, when I went to stay at the college hostel for my undergarduate studies in Pune, (if you leave out about 3 years in the seventies), I have always lived on some kind of college campus. First as an undergrad, then postgraduate studies in the US, and finally as a family member as well as institute employee, at the place I live now.
So it was kind of in the fitness of things, that one of the landmark events in my life, that happened yesterday, Feb 12th, was also taking place on a college campus.
The publication of a book of Visual Poetry "KaviKala" , by the group called Madness Mandalis, where I am a poem contributor , and now a member, took place at Mumbai's Wilson College..
As a child, rhyming was something that intrigued me, and making poems , for me, was a kind of hobby. Nothing serious about minds and stuff, but this was occasion-dedicated poetry.
Someone got a prize in sports, I wrote a poem. Someone else got engaged, I wrote. An uncle was honored with an award, I wrote. Pune had the Panshet floods, I had to write. Post my father's transfer to Ahmednagar in the civil services, we saw so many historical places , I had to write.
Much later, friends' daughters would be subject to biographical poems on their engagements, retiring best friends got poems , recited during farewell programs, and subsequent to a very well conducted 3-month Yoga program on campus, the main Guruji and his assistants also had a poem bequeathed to them. At one point , in his stubborn eighties, my father managed to convert two simple surgeries into 3 complicated surgeries due to some adamant demands, and both he and the nice, immensely tolerant doctor were presented with a poem in honor of that.
Post my taking voluntary retirement from my job, I started blogging. Among many other blogs (like this one) , I have a poetry blog, which happened because some people posted such wonderful photos and pictures on their blogs, that I was inspired to comment in verse. The poetry blog happened, so I could store all these verse pieces together. I had got over my obsession with rhyming, and the world had changed.
Sheer chance introduced me to a set of people called Madness Mandali. All young people my children's' age. They were doing a book on Visual Poetry. My poetry blog was actually Poetic Visualization, and I sent a few sample poems in and got selected. Simultaneously, they were selecting artists who had sent in their work. I was assigned a wonderful lady artist, Sonal Goyal, from New Delhi , and she would illustrate my poem . The book , to be called " Kavikala " would be , as they called it, a "mash-up" of 33 poets and 33 artists sponging ideas off each other, in pairs.
So far all my communication was by email. Occasionally , things were communicated on Facebook and assorted chats. But I had not yet met a single human associated with this project in person. Most of the young folks involved in the primary running around were recent alumni of Wilson College. The college authorities, hosting an Alumni dinner very kindly allowed this book publication to be a special event leading up to the dinner. Contracts were sent, signed, deadlines were decided, various announcements happened.
This was to be a publish-on-demand venture, removing the possibilities of unsold inventories.
They needn't have worried.
Their publication date constructively clashed with the Kala Ghoda Lit fest in Mumbai, and they were offered a table there. Well known senior poets (Gieve Patel), and screenwriters(Sooni Taraporevala of Salaam Bombay) , Sarnath Banarjee , Blue Frog's Ashutosh Phatak and many others, visited and bought the book at the fest.
At the publication function yesterday in Wilson College, the sale desk was thronged, and they had to close the counter early , so that they had copies to sell at the Kala Ghoda Fest today. The Principal of the College graced the occasion and declared the book published.
When the main person behind the book, Paras Sharma, got up to speak on stage, there were supportive hoots, whistles and shouts from the audience. A few of us poets who were present ( the book boasts of an all India spread of poets and artists, and some of the Mumbai types attended), were asked to come up on stage, and say as they say , "a few words". Several kind of nimbly ran up to the stage , greatly in contrast with what can only be called a slow tentative walk by me, holding on to things as I climbed a bunch of steps that reminded me of the old tough steep staircase in my late parent's house. So much so, that when I said my piece and climbed down gingerly, one of the young organizers actually ran up to help me, which was quite wonderful and greatly appreciated.
There was no excessive fashion, no tinkling of glasses, no folks lounging on sofas in style, no arched eyebrows, very few people in formal suits, and plenty of folks in jeans and tees.
There were some funny moments. As there should be. With folks who call themselves Madness Mandalis.
I was attending with my daughter. At some point during the proceedings, the starters and soft drinks started coming around, in our vicinity.
We were not part of the Alumni dinner folks, we weren't expecting to be part of it, would be leaving after the publication , but a lemonade in sultry Mumbai is always appreciated. The guy with the tray, probably thought, that given my very visible age, and an accompanying daughter, I was probably an alumni, and was very pleased to offer us lemonade. Shortly thereafter a delicious spread of starters appeared on a tray, and although food was far from my mind, I saw my daughter quite thoroughly relishing some yummy looking stuff on a toothpick....... :-)
Although I studied in English, my late parents greatly encouraged this hobby of mine in both Marathi and English, and I was exposed to and was indulged in, the best of literature in both the languages irrespective of the then current obsession with Maths and Science.
Going through their almost empty house , a few years , after they were no more, I came across a file of cuttings of so many things I wrote, which got published as a child, all neatly put together.
Which lies with me today.
That these things survived an almost complete paper cutting onslaught, typical of an almost 90 Alzheimerish dementia afflicted person was totally amazing, because I was now in a house that gave "paperless" a new meaning.
I always think of my parents at all my big moments, and those of my family. I think they would have enjoyed seeing this book, would have got tickled at seeing my name in the initial pages, which says I hold the copyright to my poem, and would have appreciated the dedicated artwork, by Sonal Goyal, who illustrated it. They would have lugged several copies to Pune to distribute to their friends. (Who would be immensely relieved to learn that this poem had nothing to do with them, as might have happened in the past.)...
I honestly wish my parents could have been around for this wondrous occasion......
P. S. The entire first printing stock was sold out by Sunday (the day after I wrote this ), at the Kala Ghoda Fest. The last copy was bought by the gent who owns the Crossword bookstore. :-)
Feb 14, 2011 Those wishing, may order the book from the publisher's site here.
(Current international rate ($1 ~ Rs 46)
Feb 21 2011 Also available at A1books , here
It will also be shortly available on some other B & M and other on-line sites. Details will be added as and when known ...