Finding Solace in Poetry

What started as a simple poetry challenge on a Facebook group has now seen almost 900 Konkani poems so far being uploaded from people across the globe.

Ramandeep Kaur| NT

In 2017, Carmelite priest Jocy Siddakatte started a Facebook group ‘Kavita Mattov’, exclusively devoted to poetry. People could post their poetry here, get feedback, and improve their writing skills. Over the last few years, many poetry enthusiasts have joined this group which at last count has 5.7K members.

On April 13 this year, a poetry challenge ‘Kavita Sankhall’ was started on the group wherein people had to upload videos of themselves reciting poetry and tag two or three other members to take the challenge forward.

The idea of this poetry challenge was given by Lernard Fernandes, a cine artist, presently working in Israel, and Siddakatte implemented it in the group. Similar initiatives have been done in other regional languages like Arebhashe (a separate dialect spoken in Kodagu), Kodava, and Tulu. But while most of these have ended, the Konkani poetry challenge on their group is still going strong with participants from Mangaluru, Karwar, Goa, Israel, Germany, USA, and UAE. “People of different dialects have joined together under one ‘mattov’,” says the Mangaluru-based Siddakatte who is presently heading a Konkani monthly (‘Naman Ballok Jesu’) as editor.

In fact, the challenge also witnessed participation from children. “However, children found it difficult to express themselves especially when they took serious poems. Hence a group of poets joined hands to produce simple poems for the children to recite, which gave way to another movement – ‘Bal Sahity’,” says Siddakatte.

People from villages have also taken up the challenge, says Siddakatte, adding that this, shows the craze for Konkani poetry and is a proud movement for the Konkani community. “Every day 20-25 new people accept the challenge and upload videos. Now the real challenge is to provide them with good poems to recite,” he says.

And given that the lockdown period was a time to introspect, poetry was a great way to do so, adds Siddakatte. “The participants and thousands of people who have listened to the poems every day have definitely made a journey within and refreshed themselves,” he says.

Many Goans are also part of the group. These include Amey Naik from Dharbandora, who was the first Goan to be a part of this initiative. The challenge was forwarded to him by his poet friend Wilma Bantwal from Mangaluru. “Sankhall (chain) is accessible to all Konkani speaking community around the world and it has brought together Konkani poetry lovers/listeners through this social media platform which is not limited to particular region/state,” says Naik. “As per the norms, a participant has to recite one Konkani poem of any poet. So I recited the poem of one of the finest Konkani poets Ramesh Ghadi (also part of the initiative). His poems speak a lot about safeguarding village and its culture.”

Amey then tagged poet Anwesha Singbal from Margao in this poetry chain. Singbal went on to present a poem by senior poet Nutan Sakhardande. Though she is a poet herself she says she chose to recite Nutan’s poem because it isn’t often that one gets a chance to recite someone else’s poem. “And that is the best part of this chain. You don’t need to be a poet. You just need to be a poetry lover,” she says. Singbal chose to recite the poem ‘Aadoli’ (A cooking instrument used to grate coconut and cut vegetables or clean fish). “The poem is themed around woman and her different emotions and worries for which often the ‘aadoli’ is a silent spectator,” says Singbal.

Recently upon the completion of 300 episodes, the group organised a live programme and Singbal represented Goa there. “The programme was basically to celebrate the 300 posts and discuss poetry. I was the only Goan. There were other Konkani speaking people from Mangaluru, Israel, Gulf, etc,” she says.

Poet, storyteller, lyricist and environmentalist Ramesh Saju Ghadi who hails from Saligao, came to know about Sankhall through Mangaluru poet Uday Mhambre, and Naik. “I recited two of my own poems – ‘Ami Sagle Goenkar’, which is a message to Goans who are divided by religion, caste differences, and also politically, to remain united, while ‘Kalyank Konn Vhortallo’ is about all grooms wanting fair complexion girls although most of the people in the coastal region of India are of dusky complexion,” he says. He also presented a poem of late Manohar Rai Sardesai called ‘Fayche Goi’ which speaks about the visionary poet’s dream of liberated Goa written around 1961.

As the response for this challenge increases every day, the group has no plans to stop for now.