Goa is a tourist destination, but in any case less affected by the virus than other places like Mumbai or Delhi. The biggest problem here was the return of hundreds of people stranded abroad to their homeland, most of whom worked on cruise ships. This took longer than expected, because the government of slavery is constantly led by the centre. Now almost all Shippies who wanted to return with their families have returned, and one of them has been taken to a hospital in Italy for a miraculous recovery. Given the gloom that surrounded him, it was a moving story.

The lockdown had no effect on my life. I’m not a rebounder, I’m an extrovert. I stayed at home, here with Don Paula, relieved that my youngest daughter, who works in Delhi, came back to us. Without tenacity I spent my days digging up a dusty old novel I hadn’t read yet and writing an episodic poem. The number of poems that bothered me and that were directly related to the blockade surprised me a little – only five, of which I published two. Surprising, because I’m lucky to have poetry six or seven times a year – any kind of poetry. The poems are generally not supplied in gift packaging. But that’s how poetry can work sometimes. Poems are fickle and unreliable characters, usually stingy and reluctant to break up, but sometimes generous and friendly. It is unusual for me to have two poems in song form, and since I am tone deaf, I wonder if I have understood them correctly.

Manohar Shetty
(
Courtesy of the author
)

Because I had a lot of time left and its publication was postponed indefinitely, I came back from time to time to shudder and think about my new poetry manuscript, entitled Frontier Lines. I’m never sure if all that craftsmanship really made it better or worse. That’s how poetry works. On this ship, you can be your own worst enemy. After all these years, in addition to the suggestions of the editor himself, I have long since stopped sending poems for peer review. In any case, I am now considered a high-level poet, which only means that the spontaneous outpouring of powerful emotions is a thing of the past. I’m a little smarter now. When I deal with poems published a few years ago, I know that I am beginning to suffer the loss of words, the loss of what is mysteriously called inspiration. Every new poem is now like an unexpected gift.

I’m not a globetrotter, and as the title of one of my books suggests, I’m a pet who likes to help with simple things. And although I say it myself, the house is perfectly situated, overlooking the sun, immersed in water at the confluence of the sea and the Mandovi river. For some strange reason, I think it’s a lion’s sunset.

Unlike many other cities, Panjim has never been housed in a closed prison. It remained partially open and even in the shortest time I could buy cardboard boxes with cigarettes. I smoke a lot, and although my accident is insignificant compared to the heartbreaking scenes I see on television every day, I feel a little relieved to continue this bad habit. In fact, his impending absence has only increased the need. For many here, the reopening of the fish market will be a relief for both the seller and the trader. Next door, I feel at home in a fruit and vegetable market that is now fully open and decorated with these huge frescoes by Mario Miranda who benevolently looks down on us.

308pp, Rs 399; Speaking tiger.

As I said before, moments of coercion and oppressive narrowness can evoke a string of poetry. Captivity has been the source of great creativity. Go back to the Russian poets and writers who were imprisoned in the Gulag under the Stalinist regime. In comparison, our setbacks are, of course, insignificant. But a poem is always a poem, no matter how it starts. Here’s a new one I’d like to share with you:

Sonet crown

1

Another beautiful name.

To mitigate the effects of the virus

As in the case of hurricanes…

Bola or Katrina – and there’s not much you can do about it.

With lives saved.

The sun is shining. It germinates.

And the rocks with the lightest…

Touch or breathe, leave.

mass graves, rapid cremation, wheels…

Rusted industrial and mining mines

Crash, smokeless exhaust,

The exodus from the country

Villages and fields, sky

So clean you can barely breathe.

2

You can’t sleep on a park bench,

On the terrace or in the garden, but…

Pushed into their cabins.

Soaked in the sweat of the cousins,

Parents, brothers and sisters, babies, distant…

Linked and scratched images

good gods and goddesses.

The nation has been at an impasse for a long time…

The Märzhaus is the only way to open.

For them, even though their roots have grown…

A swallow, even if his villages

Closed like ghost towns, these…

There are silent predators circling in the air.

Manohar Shetty has published several collections of poems, including Full Disclosure : New and collected poems (1981-2017). He lives in Goa.