The mirror and the lamp…

posted by pooja das sarkar 

Picture this. A winter evening with the sun just about to set, a cool breeze making the warm clothes a pleasure to wear in the usually sweltering city of Kolkata, a mike, a custom-made chair for the poet, an orange paper lamp hanging from the ceiling above the makeshift stage and rows of people sitting on the luxuriously spread out mats on the rooftop of Kalam’s office. What does it sound like? A perfect setting for a poetry adda. Poetry and adda – two things Bengalis are famous (and a little infamous) for!


Providing a stage for the two passions of the average kolkatabashi was Kalam’s initiative of monthly poetry readings which we call ‘Second Sundays’. Held on the second Sunday of every month, these poetry addas are meant to be a platform for anyone (read: of any age, class, gender) to come and read their original poems. Not only is it a platform for reading, but as envisioned (and as it turned out), it is also an open and organic forum for discussions and critique of poetry.

 This ( 14 january) was the second month of the poetry adda but this one was special because invited for the adda were the contributors of the soon-to-be-launched magazine – Khola Baksho.The rooftop was brimming with bright young faces excited to share their poems created in the isolation of their homes with a roof full of strangers eager to listen to the unheard voices. About ten odd poets whose poems have been selected were present and shared their poetry as the audience listened intently while cups of steaming tea and samosas did the rounds.


Reshma (a.k.a Bobby), one of the Kalam youth staff and a poet herself, made an excellent MC for the evening. Among the poems read, Rahul Goswami’s ‘Aami je Dishahara’ touched a chord with all the writers in the audience as it spoke about the pains of experiencing writer’s block as well as a general sense of directionlessness (which was the feeling he said he had experienced during the writing the poem). Shikha Roy’s ‘Chokh’ brought up the issue of using real names of the people one writes about in a poem. Some among the audience were not as cofortable with revealing the names of people they were writing about but shikha stood by her poem.

Abhijit Lodh’s ‘Ekti Meye’ was the dark horse which won everybody’s hearts. Reading his long and difficult poem with much emotion and voice-modulation, his poem sounded remarkably better read-out-loud than when the review team had selected the poem. Both Bobby and I expressed our pleasant surprise at the results of the well-read poem. This also led to much post-reading brainstorming and discussion.

Mounik Lahiri, a second-time audience and critic at the poetry-reading, made the crucial point of reading as performance. He expressed his awe at the quality of the poems read by the youth (indistinguishable from established poets he said) but also pointed out the necessity of reading one’s work with clarity while reading to reach an audience. He came up with suggestion of training the Khola Baksho poets for the public reading during the launch on 18th February. Kalam thanks Mounik for the brilliant idea and for promising to do the needful himsef.

Shreya Ghosh, another keen observer, commented on the interesting repetition of the theme of death/life in a number of poems and wondered why this was. Commenting on Bobby Makal’s ‘Jibon Ki?’ she wished the poets would see life as a positive thing rather than as a negative and always as a binary to death – thus making death more important that life itself. Bishan pointed out the human and maybe poetic tendency to see and understand things in binaries. Samrat, a poet and critic present at the reading raised the point that peraps it was just a poet’s concern with existence.


As the pleasant cool breeze was gradually becoming a chilly one, Bobby read the last poem of the evening. Sitting under the soft lights of the orange paper lamp, the dark blue sky behind her and mike in hand, Bobby looked like the quintessential poet. Her poem suited the mood of the late evening – she spoke courageously about the moment of physical intimacy between lovers. Short and powerful – just like the rest of the evening.


5 Responses to “The mirror and the lamp…”

  1. 1 Sahar January 27, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    Hi! This sounds great. And I’m really glad that one of the youth from Kalam (Bobby) was the MC for the evening. I think it would wonderful to have youth rotate as MCs through Second Sundays in the coming months. It would be a great way to ensure participation and ownership.
    Sounds like it was a meaningful evening of critical inquiry!

  2. 2 ladytramp January 30, 2007 at 5:07 am

    Yeah i think the idea of rotation is a great one! Will surely try to implement that in the coming months.

  3. 3 asijit datta of RAMAKRISHNA MISSION,NARENDRAPUR(3rd Yr ENGLISH HONS.) February 11, 2007 at 3:00 am


    The clouds hung as fumes from a cigarette end,
    The sky lay vulnerable fearing darkness.
    Stood still in the middle of the SEA.
    But You should have stayed,if not for me,
    For the dim lit sun to perform its duty.
    The sun going down and down and down,
    Was a lullaby to my weary soul.
    The ray of Divinity,Hope,Power and Jesus
    Offered the last kiss ogf bliss on Earth.
    Before me the waves roared,the light faded,
    It was the vision of GOD on earth,
    The poem of TAGORE in ears,
    The morning dew on YOUR face.
    And You Could have stayed,
    If not for me,for the last sun that looked Red.

  4. 4 Joe February 13, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Pooja! My tourguide for poetry and Kolkata!
    Sounds like a great event.
    And how sweet that some poetry has been left here in the comments as an ongoing expression of the event.
    Wonderful! Thanks for posting. I’d love to hear about some more of the events.

  5. 5 ladytramp February 17, 2007 at 6:16 am

    Hey thanks Joe, it was quite an evening to remember! Wish you and Sahar can come when we have one of our Second Sundays. I still remember that day in Barista when you had come up with the name second sundays. Had another one last week, which had newer visitors and poems with heated debates about the interpreations…

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