You, Me and Poetry: A meet of young and old that encourages, nurtures and nourishes talent

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It’s a Thursday evening, and a like-minded crowd is already gathering at a cafe in Thane. The venue has been transformed into a makeshift location for the Open Mic event.

The ‘You, Me and Poetry’ meet takes place on the second Thursday of every month and has been happening for nearly a year.

After organisers of ‘Poetry Tuesday’ discontinued the event after successfully running it for years, members refused to let it fade. Later, one of the team members named Kameshwari Kulkarni took the lead to host the sequel.

The crowd is a mix of young enthusiasts and senior citizens. There’s a professor, a theatre artist, an HR professional, a teacher, an MBBS Doctor, a housewife, and even seniors.

At the event, there are about 15 performers and some listeners too. The show begins at around 7:30 pm with the organiser giving a warm welcome and announcing the name of the performer.

Speaking about ‘You, Me and Poetry’, Kameshwari Kulkarni says, “We used to come together for an open mic called ‘Poetry Tuesday’, but after a few years it went on a break and we decided to start ‘You, me and Poetry’. It’s an event for poetry lovers who get to express themselves and who cannot travel to suburban areas to pursue their passion and hobby.”

As the show begins, every performer gets a slot of roughly 5 to 8 minutes in which they are free to share poetry or prose on any topic of their choice. Language is no bar. One can recite in English, Hindi, Marathi or even Urdu.

However, there are a few simple rules that one has to follow. Stick to the time to give an opportunity to other poets, no political or hate speech and the work has to be original.

“We do not stress on the performance since some have stage fear, and many are in fact budding poets. You can come over and recite your poem without any fear. It’s a platform for everyone, irrespective of the age group. However, we don’t allow any political or hate speech,” she adds.

Jayesh and Kalpana Ramaiyya, a couple in their 60s, has been attending the event and reciting poetry for years, and for the 11th edition of the event, Mr Jayesh has directly come from the hospital, only because he believes that the atmosphere here makes him feel better.

“At You, Me and Poetry, people are given an opportunity and they really enjoy it. When I am putting my expressions in front of the audience, they appreciate it and it’s a kind of exchange of philosophy. Exchange of knowledge is like an ocean.”

Rutu Lagade stays in Ghatkopar, but has made the journey all the way from Malad after office hours.

She says, “One good thing about the group is the diversity, they accept people from all age groups. There is no focus on performance, and it helps and encourages new writers. Since there is a new theme every month, it motivates us to write more, to explore. Hearing different poems we also get to learn different perspectives and develop our vocabulary in other languages too.”

The topic of the event is pre-decided and posted on the Facebook Page of ‘You, Me and Poetry’. However, newcomers are welcomed to recite a poem on the topic they have written on, as long as it is their own work.

The organiser says, At the event, one feels at home because there is no competition. It’s just a group of people who encourages and nourish the work of the newcomers.

“I came to Mumbai from Gujarat over a year ago, and wanted to do something since I have been writing for over a decade. I get immense happiness and encouragement when I hear the sound of applause,” says Shashikala Kalkar who travels all the way from Parel along with her husband.

To express her feelings, she even recited a couplet saying:

Sab ko badi acchi lagti hai apneliye bajti, goonjti ye taliyaa |
Par, aise yuhi, sahaj toh nahi milti taliyan |
Jo kuch mehnat, lagan, samarpan se boya, uska return gift hai ye taaliyan|

Kameshwari, the organiser, is always the last one to recite her poem. She says, “The family is increasing thanks to word of mouth and social media. There are many poets whose writings are limited only to books. Here, they get to present their work which helps them reach a bigger audience.”

As the event ends, everyone gets together for a mandatory group photo, before they exchange their thoughts and views on each other work and meet for the next session.

This story was first published in Mumbai Mirror Online on March 21, on the occasion of the World Poetry Day

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