Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kavikala : The homecoming (edited)

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 ...


  1. Many many congratulations. I couldnt make it to Wilson. But this stupendous. And the thought that true passin will always find takers best comes alive in your case !

    your frequent breaking into poetry at the sight of some of my ordinary photographs always got me very excited and more often : awed !

    This is truly well deserved. Heres wishing the very best !

  2. Congratulations Suranga. Given your exceptional talent I feel that this recognition should have come much earlier, but I am happy that your talent was recognised. I am not fortune teller, but take it from me, more recognition for your talent will now come.

    I have always enjoyed your poems [and more so the limericks!] you express the feelings so very well. And of course, you have the great ability to see the funny side of things when you write limericks.

    As your fellow blogger, I am proud to be associated with you.

    Wishing you all the best,

  3. Congratulations! This level of creativity is something I really admire.

  4. Kavi Thank you ! Keep posting more and more wonderful photos ! :-) It all started with comments on your blog, and your suggestion that I should put it all together somewhere.....

    Vivek Thank you ! Greatly enjoyed your amazing predictions for me . Haven't done too many limericks recently, but will soon rectify.

    Sangi Thank you . In some sense, writing these things is a kind of therapy for the mind, and is more and more enjoyable as you age...:-)

  5. Congratulations Suranga. I am sooooo happy for you. You deserve the honor and I feel proud to be your friend.

  6. That is wonderful, congrats lady :-) :-) I can imagine how much you would have wanted your parents to see this. I bet they are!!!

  7. ah such good news! you completely deserve this one and as always this was such a vivid account! m'am, you not only make your parents and family proud but us your blog readers as well! :D :D congratulations and a big hug :)

  8. HHG Thank you ! greatly appreciate your sentiments...

    writerzblock Thank you !

    quaintkal Thank you !

    R's Mom Thank you !

  9. Congratulations :) U so so deserve this and am lucky or what, that I have been able to get a few of those wonderful lines of urs on my blog :)

    P.S: We are going to Ahmednagar sometime this month :) :)

  10. how nice ! wow :))) iof only i knew, would have come to WILSON...shehhhh ! Congratulations :)))))

  11. Congratulations! And thanks a lot for covering the event :)

  12. Swaram Thank you ! And I really do admire some of your wonderful photos !

    NightWhisperers Thank you !

    Amit Charles Thank you ! Where do you blog ?

  13. Congratulations, Suranga. It couldn't happen to a nicer and more deserving person. I am proud of you and pleased to call you my friend.

  14. Congratulations and nice to be able to read your poems (and others' as well) without internet connection :-)

  15. Congratulations on becoming a published poet, Suranga!

  16. Congratulations, I am so very proud of you.
    You are so gifted. The poems you have written about me have truly touched my heart.
    Would love to have a copy of your book.
    I feel certain that recognition will continue to come your way !!!

  17. Currently, I've blocked my blog. You'll find a Scribble of mine in KaviKala titled "____________"

  18. This is wonderful to know. And many congratulations on being featured in the anthology.

  19. I had to read this again - and smile:)
    Thinking of you this afternoon.

  20. Darlene Thank you !

    aativas Thank you !

    Manju Thank you !

    Radha Thank you !

    Anil P. Thank you !

    Ernestine Thank you ! And welcome back again !

  21. Congratulations!! It also brought a lump in
    My throat becoz my Aai loves my writing style and I have kept my blog a secret from her :( while she is still hale and hearty I think I should share my writings with her. Thanks for reminding me :)

  22. Congrats Suranga. I am so proud to know u. :) U are fantastic. :)

    BTW, is this book in Marathi or English ????

  23. Sonia Thank you !

    UmaS Thank you ! And Uma, the book is in English, though there is a Hindi poem included. (They had asked for name title suggestions, and KaviKala was my suggestion. (I got a free book copy as the prize :-)...) but because they have written it in Devnagari script, everyone thinks the book may not be in English ....