“It’s a tiny revolution. Then again, ‘revolution’ might be too big a word. But there is a churn and a gradual change of mind,” shared an author-filmmaker friend of this columnist who is often on panels at poetry and prose reading sessions held across the city. Our discussion crisscrossed all the recent and the not-so-recent happenings of these kinds that have blended, rather seamlessly, into the cultural itinerary of the city.
We liked what we heard. After all, in the past, while tracking the goings-on in the city for mid-day, we couldn’t help but notice a surge in these small-group gatherings, where poetry and prose across different styles and structures is discussed, debated and shared with the audience. It has certainly added a vibrant new fabric to the city. In fact, it’s seeped in such that one was pleasantly surprised to see a variant of such an event at an inter-school fest about a month ago. It was refreshing, and reassuring to note that the next generation is also thinking on similar lines. The most important take away from that competition was that the written word in some form or the other had found resonance, amid dark cloud–warnings predicted by naysayers about the loss of literary avenues and forums.
One must add here that the mushrooming of activity hubs and cultural spaces across Mumbai, and their openness towards such events has helped organizers to think out-of-the-box. “Earlier, we would see a trickle of people; perhaps those who had absolutely nowhere to hang out on a Saturday evening. But of late, the numbers have risen to 50, and at times, 75! It’s fascinating to see Mumbaikars come out to discuss Ghalib, share their curiosities about writing on Twitter or try their hand in an amateur poetry-writing session. Nobody judges you, and no brownie points for asking the smartest question,” revealed our panelist friend, adding even more insight into this development in the city. Giving more cheer to this emerging phenomenon is the willingness of trendy gastro pubs, lounges and eateries to offer their spaces before rush hour for such shows.
It’s a sign, and one that we hope continues and burgeons into a larger, seismic shift — a real revolution. The cherry on top will be if all such folk are able to put their heads together, find a common ground, and create an annual celebration of the written word, of course, backed by a steady sponsor. This platform can become a free-for-all oasis where bright, untapped writing talent gets their deserved place in the sun. Mumbai would become a richer space, for sure.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day