Organizer: Mamta Sagar
100 Thousand Poets for Change organized by Mamta Sagar at Tumari, India
The event ‘100 Thousand Poets for Change’ was celebrated through a multilingual poetry reading that spread across the three day Literature and Cultural Festival (28, 29 & 30 Sept 2018) in memory of Ha Ma Bhat; at Halkere Village, Tumari, Karnataka, India. Kannada poet Ms. Mamta Sagar, curator of the Lit Fest had organized 100tpc as part of the larger event. Poems were presented in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English languages. Poetry readings and performances were the highlights of his year’s festival. This little island, beautiful and serene is located in the backwaters of river Sharavathi. People from the island villages, neighboring villages and townships travelled all the way to attend this festival. Apart from the formal readings at the festival, we had many informal poetry sessions during coracle and motorboat rides, under the trees and in the village premises.
Mr. Raghu Halkere, director of the ‘Literature and Cultural Festival’ organizes this annual event in collaboration with Ms. Ha Ma Kanaka, director of South India Writers Ensemble (SIWE).
Reflection on Tumari Poetry Festival
Tumari is a small village located in the backwaters of the Shimoga district in Karnataka. It is virtually unknown, and in many senses, untouched by the outside world. Cell phones turn useless, for lack of any network reception. In fact, Tumari itself is inaccessible by land, an island sitting within the backwaters. The only way to get there is on a boat that launches at specific hours of the day, much like a bus.
Until very recently, I had never even heard of Tumari. But recently, it has become a significant experience of a place, its people, and its philosophy for me. As a part of the project Bengaluru Narratives, I was invited through Mamta Sagar for the Tumari Literature Festival of 2018, where I would be exposed to a completely new world of what I would call ‘local intellectualism’. It is our preconceived notion, as city dwellers that those that live in rural areas cannot appreciate let alone create any meaningful art in any meaningful way. It is our ego, for believing ourselves to be superior. Of course, objectively that is untrue. But the experience at Tumari truly helped widen my gaze.
Our journey began at the Bangalore City Railway Station, where we met up with other poets travelling with us, whom we had met before at Kaavye Sanje events. The train departed at eleven in the night, and we reached Sagara the next morning.
After arriving at Sagara Jambagaru station, we packed ourselves into two large cars, and headed towards the launch site. The ferry was large, with enough space for a bunch of vehicles as well as passengers travelling by themselves. The ride lasted for about twenty minutes, gliding above cool blue backwaters of river Sharavathi. All around us were green islands and green forests. The sky stretched out its sky blue arms, holding with it clouds as large as concrete buildings. The air itself felt fresh, filled with the echoes of birds calling out to one another.
Reaching Tumari, we discovered it to be a very small village, but what it had to offer was immense. It was a beautiful paradise of nature. The oxygen was clean, and the people welcomed us warmly. Tumari lies in the belt of the Western Ghats, and the terrain is mainly mountainous. We had gone during the monsoons, and although the afternoons were bright and warm, the rest of the day, and night, was overcast. It even drizzled and rained a few times during our three-day stay.
The whole village had one hotel, Haal Kere, which is owned by the man organizing the literature festival, Mr. Raghuanna. Therefore, all the artists stayed in the same hotel, including myself. They served us delicious local food and refreshments throughout our stay. While there, we got the chance to interact with poets, and dancers, singers and performers who were very far removed from my own sociological background and upbringing. This was an entirely new world to me.
The venue for the festival was a single theatre set up for performances and live shows for an audience of about a hundred people or so. The theatre was on a little hillock, and everyone gathered there during the three days of the festival.
I was even lucky enough to pick up some common phrases in Kannada, as well as learning a folk rhyme in Kannada and understanding it’s meaning through translation. Diversity as a concept is something I have always accepted, but have never really faced. Becoming exposed to such various forms of diversification, including spatial, cultural and even gender diversity, bore my preconceived notions and stereotypes before me, and destroyed them.
On our second night in the village, a dandiya team came to our hotel to perform their craft. They were all highly energetic, full of passion and electric movement. We were truly left mesmerized. Until some of us began swaying to the beat and singing of the performance. Soon, this swaying had turned into dancing, and by the end of it, everyone had joined in.
I was given the chance to perform my poems on Saturday and Sunday. I was glad to be able to do that, and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward. Sunday was also the last day of our trip, and we decided to head to the backwaters. Our destination was a small island, which we would reach whilst riding in a coracle. A coracle is a traditional round shaped boat, fit for about five people or so. The entire boat ride was serene. Sitting in a coracle feels almost like one is just barely floating above the water. The island itself was very small, and was surrounded by a view of dense and wild mountainous jungles. Animal sounds seemed to echo everywhere.
Having the chance to be around older poets, who were better at their craft and posses a quality of refinedness in their work that I would like to be able emulate, helped to be able to look at where I may be as a poet in the years to come. To a certain degree I felt reassured: I wasn’t the only poet in the world, nor was I very old (yet).
Student at the Creative Writing Programme
Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology
Tumari Literature Festival