Let Your Mind Talk

A Goan Speakeasy

by Nolan Mascarenhas

Nida Sayeed

 

Let Your Mind Talk

It’s a quiet, generic unassuming evening as I head down to the end of the bustling stretch at Sinquerim. Armed with a poem for my recital this evening, Wordsworth to be precise, I am anxious about my delivery and the crowd’s reaction. I arrive on time, perhaps a bit too early, and was greeted by well-appointed restaurant – SinQ Tavern by Bodega – that was about to be transformed into a modern day speakeasy. What is a speakeasy? These were underground establishments serving illegal alcoholic beverages that came into prominence in the U.S. during the Prohibition era (when alcohol was banned) in the United States from 1920 to 1933. Today a speakeasy can refer to any retro bar. The term originated because in the old days folks spoke quietly when referring to these places, or when inside them, so as not to alert the authorities.

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Tammy Shahani

The speakeasy I was attending today in Goa also conjured up the feeling of an underground gathering, where activists, artists and the creatively inclined gather together to voice their opinions and recite poems and short stories. An eclectic mix of professors, students, artists, photographers, poets and entrepreneurs had their works ready for that perfect delivery. I was delighted to see the turnout, but I wondered what we must have looked like to anyone looking at us through the large glass windows of Tavern. Would they see us as over-thinking intellectuals engaging in some kind of futile mental masturbation? Or would they see our musings as a refreshing embodiment of free expression? While it is true this might not be everybody’s cup of tea (some of the works can get a little heavy and fly ten feet over the cuckoo’s nest), the evening was definitely quirky enough to make it memorable.

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Sushila Mendonca

 

Take, for instance, the original piece recited by Rishi Jalan, called ‘Eternal Love’, about the art and intensity of lovemaking demonstrated by, of all things, your earphones. All tangled up and knotted together, the piece portrayed the earphones as lovers in the throes of passion. Or for that matter, consider the essay by Ashish Kumar titled ‘Why I am fat, dark and tall’, examining societal norms and the pressures of perfection. There was some heavy reading (not for the fainthearted) featuring the works of the great American ‘beat generation’ poet Allen Ginsberg and some poems by Neruda, recited both in Spanish and English. A Sanskrit shloka of the Eternal Wanderer by yours truly quelled the misconception that those who wander are lost. A heart touching poem by Erica Pereira ‘The City Alive’ spoke about the city of Vasco and Apurva Kulkarni delivered a well-received assortment of five poems. One related to sensuality and touched on the Kamasutra (always a fascinating topic for us Indians). Sushila Mendonca, who was the compere for the evening’s proceedings, offered her sweet thoughts and readings at the beginning and end of the artists’ delivery, and elicited some chuckles along the way. Nida Sayed’s read her poem ‘I Wonder’ and others read works by Sarah Kay, William Blake and Wordsworth. All in all, a lovely evening interspersed with literary knowledge over a cup of chai at the SinQ Tavern by Bodega.

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Nolan Mascarenhas

 

The speakeasy is an initiative by Sapna Shahani. When I asked what inspired her with this brainwave of an idea, she mentioned the Spoken Word performance by Sarah Kay she attended in Mumbai. That, she said, was where the idea germinated from. She wished for a gathering of people who shared a love for literature taking place in a context of a social gathering. By now you might be wondering how to sign up. Yes, there is a Facebook page www.facebook.com/groupiesindia where one can register and be updated with the latest happenings as ‘A Speakeasy’ comes to us once a month, mostly on the third Wednesday at 8pm. You could also write to groupiesindia@gmail.com and the moderator of the group will slot you in for your recital. It’s free, and everyone’s welcome. Till the next time we see you, here’s to speaking one’s
mind.

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