CHENNAI: Poetry is often acknowledged to be among the most powerful manifestations of literature. It is not long and meandering like how a prose can be. Yet it has the capability of holding the audience in rapt attention and on occasion, leave a lasting impression on them.
On Tuesday, Loyola College hosted poets, between the ages of 16-26 years, and the subject they dealt with was a city which was celebrating its 378th birthday. Madras, or Chennai, was born on August 22. The gathering of poets at Loyola reflected on the very best and yes, the worst (admittedly) that has made the city what it is now — Chennai That Was Madras!
There was an element of competitiveness, as the young poets took part in a ‘Poetry Slam’ contest, modelled on those held in the US. It was organised in joint association by the Consulate General of the Untied States of America (Chennai) and Prakriti Foundation. Participants had to recite or read an original piece of work that would be evaluated by judges, before the prizes were awarded.
Yet, it is much more important to acknowledge and talk about the enthusiasm shown by participants, drawn from over 20 schools and colleges in the city. They had to recite their well prepared poem within a span of two minutes, but those few minutes were enough to demonstrate the love they had for namma ooru.
M S Joseph Antony Jacob, vice principal of Loyola college, set the tone when he remarked, “We are here to celebrate the diversity of the city, where pluralism in terms of demography is cherished and promoted.” Although modern day Chennai and its cosmopolitan nature was invoked, quite a few participants appealed for going back to the times when the city was much cleaner and less chaotic.
There were others, like Shreenidhi Rajagopalan of DAV Girls School (Mogappair), acknowledging that some residents might share a turbulent relationship with the city. “Yet, you won't find too many pretentious people living here!”
Several participants highlighted the welcoming nature of people residing in the city and the strength of their collective unity. “Be it during the testing times of Chennai floods or Neduvasal, people came together as one,” said Celcy Priyanka, a student of Loyola College.
It has been told that the city makes ‘Superstars or Superkings’ out of a commoner. They might belong to other states, yet are given the grand stage to accomplish their dreams and even be heralded by locals as ‘one of their own’. This was best summed up in the words of Madhumitha B, a student of MOP Vaishnav College. “Society told me joy was made out of gifts and roses but Chennai told me joy was made out of Superstars and Superkings!” she recited. And several experiences tell us that Madhumitha is indeed correct!