Apr 29th

Authors’ Lounge – Paddy In Conversation with Jawaid Danish - DAASTAN E HAYAT

By Paddy

 

                 

 

Jawaid Danish is a renowned theatre personality and poet from Toronto, Canada where he has been living for over three decades. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of Rang Manch, that promotes Indian theatre in Canada. He also organises the annual Hindustani Drama Festival, that showcases the varied and rich heritage of Indian theatre. All the leading theatre personalities from India, have been a part of this annual event.

A recipient of several prestigious awards, Jawaid Danish is also a much-celebrated author of 12 books in Urdu, that include a rich repertoire of his works - plays, travelogues, fiction, translations, poems etc. Credited with the revival of the ancient story telling format Dastangoi in the West, he has added new dimensions and his own perspectives to this unique genre

Jawaid Danish is currently in India visiting various places and presenting his Daastan Hijraton ki (Epic of Migration) in the Dastangoi format, besides participating in literary events. To Dastangoi, often a narration of episodes from epics, fairy tales or fantasies, Jawaid Danish has given a contemporary touch by speaking of migration – its pains, pressures and pleasures! 

My own association with Jawaid Danish began when I was compiling poems for ‘Amaravati Poetic Prism 2016’ the International Multilingual Poetry Anthology published by the Cultural Centre of Viayawada & Amaravati (CCVA). When I requested him for his Urdu poem, Jawaid not only readily sent me his poem but also shared a recording of the poem in his rich baritone that also had the accompaniment of a singer who beautifully added a soulful musical dimension to his Urdu poem ‘Chehrey’. When this recording was played at the International Multilingual Poets’ Meet at Vijayawada on 13 November, 2016, it received a standing ovation and a spontaneous request for an encore. Such is the magic of Jawaid’s poetry and presentation! 

You all may also recall that a few days back, I had posted a piece on RML titled ‘Daastan Hijraton ki – A Unique Dastangoi Presentation by Jawaid Danish’

(http://www.ratemyliterature.com/magazine/read/daastan-hijraton-ki--a-unique-Dastangoi-presentation-by-jawaid-danish_10309.html)

As I watched his spell-binding Daastan Hijraton ki on two consecutive days, a sudden idea stuck me as to why not invite him to our own Authors' Lounge?

Come, let’s interact with this world-famous theatre personality and poet Jawaid Danish and find out all about him through an Authors’ Lounge tête-à-tête!

1. Hi Jawaid Danish ji! Greetings from RML and a warm welcome to the Authors’ Lounge! Many thanks for so readily consenting to grace our Authors’ Lounge despite your busy schedule in India. Let me begin this interaction by asking you to share your early years with us. 

Hi Paddy and the Comerades of RML, Greetings and Adaab. This Sher/couplet for you all: 

YEH KON KAH RAHA HAI KE MANZIL QAREEB HAI
KOI CHALEY WAHEEN SE CHALEY THE JAHAN SE HUM!

I was born with a silver spoon, a real brat and a spoiled 5th child, with four older sisters above me and two younger sisters and a brother after me. I was well-fed and a real fat kid. My father was the Chief Mobilising Officer at the West Bengal Fire services, Kolkata. My schooling throughout was in a convent school, and then, I attended Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for my BA-English (Hons.) and an incomplete M.A. due to the sudden death of my father at the age of 49. I was only 21 then and suddenly, everything changed in my life. Initially, a very happy-go-lucky guy, and a comedian on school stage. Time and circumstances turned me into a serious person, with comedy and laughter gone from my life! 


2.  Wah! Great couplet! And ah, the sudden twists and turns of life and what they can do to a person!!! From Kolkata to AMU to Toronto, is quite a leap of hope and faith, and perhaps ambition too! Please do share some interesting details of this journey.


I got popularity in my higher secondary years as a Yuva Vani (All India Radio) casual artist, and comic roles on Kolkata stage. I wrote my first skit in grade 10, "Love in Moon", and the second full lengthy play "Samaj ka Zahr" influenced by the Left Front activities in Bengal at that time. I was also a half decent singer, and sang romantic songs and Ghazals at Mushairas.  During my graduation, my theatre director and mentor Gurudas Bhatacharya asked me to choose between Singing and Acting or Theatre.  Guru asked me, “Why are you so desperate for singing?” and I said, the girls clap and I get lot of attention, He said, “I’ll train you in voice modulation, and you will get claps and cheers from their mothers too.” And then, I never looked back, never again attempted to sing, and adopted Theatre forever. 


I was always fascinated by traveling around the world, saved money by doing tuitions from grade eight, but during the illness of my father, every penny vanished.  I never thought I will leave my home to support my family, doing two shift jobs, commercials and jingles for Radio and T.V., and weekend tuitions, but all this was not enough to support a family of 6 members. Yet I never stopped dreaming about Paris. When an exporter friend and a local newspaper partially sponsored me for travelling to Europe and North America, my dream became a reality. In 1979, I flew to Paris and other European destinations and then to America. My Travelogue ‘AWAARGI’ got published every Sunday morning and it was an instant hit. Till then, Safarnama (Travelouge) in Urdu was very rare and I think I was the first youth, who not only travelled but also wrote an award-winning travelogue in Urdu. There were other senior Urdu writers’ contributions, but they were basically of religious nature and not about a vagabond’s wanderlust like ‘AWAARGI’. 
I convinced my mother, that I will be better off in America, and will also support the family better from there.  At the end of 1979, I left India and landed in New York with only 25 dollars in my pocket, and persuaded for a cash job in a news stand the same evening, just 5 hours after landing in New York. I stayed in New Yok for three years, doing T.V. Commercials, waiting tables at Indian restaurants and helping Chinese hawkers to sell their ware on the sidewalks of Broadway.


In 1980 I was invited for a Kavi Sammelan
and Mushaira at Toronto and soon, I headed for Canada and left New York. The same old routine drilling and grilling of immigration was repeated, but soon, I got control of the situation and never looked back. Now, it is almost 35 years, I am a Canadian citizen, with a frequent flyer card to come to India.

 

3. Ah, what an interesting and awe-inspiring journey of a self-made man! When did you start writing? And what and who inspired you to commence writing? Also, what keeps you motivated to continue writing?

 
As I confessed earlier, the beautiful university girls, their moms and Gurudas Bhattacharya inspired me to write. In the early eighties, there was no Indian Theatre as such in Toronto.  The Urduwalas were happy with monthly Mushairas or poetic gathering. Hindi folks were busy with semi Classical music, dance and Bollywood numbers.  First, I started looking for Indian actors, and concentrated on writing.  I discovered the problems and pleasures of immigrant issues. I am proud to be an Urdu Playwright, but lucky enough to get translated in English, Hindi, Bengali and Swedish. I never had any complex about being an ethnic writer, as I chose to write in Urdu but communicate in English.


The trials and tribulations of immigrant families in Canada is my recurring theme, but I have addressed a wide range of topics - AIDS, Cancer, Euthanasia and Honour Killings, Autistic & Special Kids, Rape, Transgender Settlements, Arranged Marriages, Single Mothers, and satires. These contemporary subjects appeal to the myriad cultures of Canadian mosaic and are appreciated in print as well as on stage. I am honoured and recognized, as an M.Phil has been  done on my diasporic plays at Delhi University and another M.Phil on my Travelogues at Ranchi University. 

In 2007 a 13-episode serial was produced by OMNI T.V adapted from my Book ‘Hijrat ke Tamashey’, with re-runs in 2009-2010-2011 and 2014. One of my controversial plays “BARA SHAYER CHOTA AADMI” was produced, as the first Urdu Tele Film in Canada with local Canadian talents, with House full shows in Toronto. 

I strongly believe that in this Age of Chaos and Confusion, Theatre is a great source of comfort and Healing. Rangmanch-Canada truly does represent Theatre for Peace, Purpose and Passion. Well, all this and above all, the adrenaline rush provided to me by the love of people around me who constantly encourage and appreciate me, and my own passion motivates and keeps me going always to embark on new theatrical endeavours and ventures! 

4. What a rich repertoire of your works you have shared with us! M.Phil. studies on your plays and travelogues in Indian Universities! Truly impressive! Please do share something about the various books and plays that you have authored and published. And also about the many-many prestigious awards conferred on you. 

MY BOOKS & PLAYS AT A GLANCE:

1. Prometheus: A Collection of my Radio plays - translated from Bengali and English  
2.  Awaargi : Travelogue of Europe and America
3. Kale Jismon ki Riyazat : African Anthology with Dr. Khalid Sohail 
- translations of plays, poems and fiction
4. Mazeed Awargi : Travelogue of Japan, Hong Kong and Bangkok
5.  Virsa : Global Folk tales with Khalid Sohail 

6. Hijrat Ke Tamashey : A Collection of my Plays on the life of immigrants in the West
7. Aik aur Awargi : Translation of Mazeed Awaargi in Hindi 
8. Bhopa : Translation of my select plays in Bengali 
9. Aik Baap ki Aulaad : Translations of Palestinian and Isreali Literature in Urdu  with Dr. Khalid Sohail 

10. Inqilaab e Zanj : Translation of Global Revolutionary Plays
11.Chalees Baba Aik Chor : Collection of plays on immigrant experiences in the West 
12. Jawaid Danish Number : Published by Tarkash Quarterly - Kolkata

FORTHCOMING: 

13. Ya Ishq : Saga of Love, A Novella.
14. Main Sab Kuch Bhool Jana Chaahta Hun 
: Diasporic Drama Collection.

AWARDS: 

2016 The Presigious Ghalib Award – New Delhi, India.
2016 Sadaf International Award for Drama – Doha, Qatar.
2016 Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Literary Award - Toronto, Canada
2015 AFMI Award of Excellence - Toronto, Canada.
2014 Life Time Achievement Award for Urdu Theatre in the West-Kolkata, India. 
2010 The Civic Arts Award – Pickering, Canada. 
2012 South Asian Theatre Festival Award - New Jersey, USA.
2008 South Asian Theatre Festival Award, New Jersey, USA.
2007 Shiromani Sahitya Award - Lucknow, India.
2007 South Asian Theatre Festival Award - New Jersey, USA. 
2006 West Bengal Urdu Academy Award - Kolkata, India. 
1999 Writer of The Year Award - Toronto, Canada.
1989 West Bengal Urdu Academy Award - Kolkata, India.
1985 New York Drama Festival Award – New York, USA. 
1984 U.P. Urdu Academy Award – Lucknow, India.
1983 New York Drama Festival Award – Bhartiya Bhasha Parishad - New York.USA.  

5. Wow! What an impressive array of books, awards and recognition for your work!! Best wishes for your forthcoming books and wish you many more awards in the coming days! Please tell us more about your well-known theatre group Rangmanch, Canada and its activities. 

Thank you, Paddy, for your good wishes! It took me ten long years to formally establish a theatre group. In 1996, a non-profit registered theatrical group, RANGMNCH-CANADA started staging serious Urdu plays in Toronto.  Soon I realized that a platform is needed to bring the community together. In 2000, We organized the first Hindustani Drama Festival, show casing the rich heritage of Theatre, with multilingual drama presentations. For the first time in North America, this one-of-a-kind Drama Festival was introduced, where English-Urdu-Hindi-Tamil-Malyalam-Telgu-Cannada-Gujrati-Punjabi-Marathi and even Sanskrit Plays were produced and presented on the same stage and same evening. It broke the language barriers and seamlessly bridged the gap in the multilingual Indian community. Rangmanch-Canada also periodically organizes Theatre Workshops, Round Table discussions, Seminars and Play Readings. Rangmanch-Canada is not just a theatrical group, it is also an institution to train and guide new writers and artists and to promote the performing arts and Indian Drama in and around Toronto, with the ultimate vision to take theatre productions to other Literary and drama festivals outside of Canada.

6. Again, so impressive and amazing – the way you have initiated and trail-blazed a theatre movement in Canada, showcasing Indian plays!!! You are widely credited with reviving the Dastangoi format of story-telling in the West with all its glory, fanfare and finery. Please share some details about this especially as to what inspired you to revive this genre?

As you know, Dastangoi is the Lost Art of Story-telling of the 16th Century. It has been revived in India lately, and is in full swing. Lots of young, enthusiastic story tellers are in the field, especially in Delhi. Dastan is pure fantasy, but some experiments were done to add new tales, but those in India, are mostly political, satirical or romantic.  I got inspired and thought of reviving this great art form with my recurring theme of Migration. I wrote the script, which is mostly from my plays, with some good selection of Urdu poems. But when I presented this task to my actors, they were hesitant, because of the chaste Urdu narration and five vibrant characters of Indian immigrant community of Canada, together with their natural and characteristic dialects and expressions, popularly known as Boli Tholi.  Everybody loved it, but no one was ready for this challenge. For close to 25 years, I had seriously dedicated myself to writing and direction of plays.  My colleagues and students challenged me to grace the stage in this ripe age.  I was not sure, but took the challenge of taking the risk.  By the grace of Almighty, it was an instant hit. Basically, it was something new, something close to the heart of every immigrant. Thus, my Dastan Hijraton Ki has created history wherever I presented it! 

For the last five weeks I am on road, extensively travelling with never ending requests for my performance of Dastangoi.  In these five weeks, I have covered 12 cities, could not cover Bhopal, Mumbai and Kashmir, may be next time…. Dastan for me is the mother of all art forms. I have juxtaposed Dastan’s narration with all of Drama’s action - something new, never tried before. I am proud of my new-found love.  

7.  You have truly added your own innovation to Dastangoi in your immensely popular Daastan Hijraton ki.  Please tell us more about this and also about any other Dastangoi you are planning to present. 

It is only six months since I started Dastangoi, but am so fortunate to get international recognition, love and attention for this. It’s the hot weather here in India that is compelling me to go back to Toronto. Had it been winter, I would have opted to stay back, as there are so many bookings and requests from various cultural groups and universities. 

The best part is that after the Urdu performance, the interaction with multilingual students are done in English, as you have seen at the University of Hydrabaad. 

My promoters in Doha still want the same show, although I am preparing a two hours’ performance with musical ghazals and Qawwali, along with Narration, which will not be a solo, but a group show. But for now, I am enjoying my solo venture.

8.  Please share with us about your maiden Urdu film ‘Bara Shayer Chota Aadmi’ .

I wrote a controversial play‘Bara Shayer Chota Aadmi’  some 25 years back, It is included in my book Hijrat ke Tamashey. Almost all the plays from this collection were either staged or produced as T.V. serials, but ‘Bara Shayer Chota Aadmi’ was not touched because of its explosive subject. It exposed the brand name Poets and Celebrities, who come to Canada during summer for Mushairas and other cultural programs, and what they actually do behind the façade of   Literary gatherings. I think it was in 2010 that it was included in an Anthology – ‘50 Years of Urdu Drama’.  My group got excited and planned for a local film production. Some readers from Pakistan thought it is on Faraz, the popular Poet, but I have categorically stated that it is pure fiction. Well, it got good and bad feedback, remarks and critiques, as the poets all over disliked the exposure.  Instead of going into details, let me inform that you it is now available on Youtube; please go ahead and make my day!!!

9.  Interesting and intriguing! I am sure not only me but our RML members too will be making a beeline for that Youtube clip immediately after this interaction!!! Mention of Shayer brings me to ask you about your poetry. Do tell us about Jawaid Danish, the Poet. 

Poetry was inherited by me, as my father also wrote poems, my uncle was a poet, and so, I had poetry running in the family. Heard Ghazals from my childhood. I believe that a seasoned Playwright should have some knowledge of music and a flare for Poetry. I always add NAZM, to my plays as it adds lustre and grace. As I said earlier, from school days, I used to recite poems in Tarannum, singing on stage. But Gurudas my mentor, took that luxury away from me! I don’t sing anymore, but recite Nazms at Mushairas with equal confidence - thanks to the great Guru whose voice modulation training still works peacefully for me.  I hardly go to local Mushairas, but love to recite in private mahfils and gatherings. 

I compose Ghazals, and some very talented singers have presented them - Bharathi Vishwanathan of Bhopal, Akhtar Shoukat of Toronto and Gurmeet Muksh of Mumbai. But I love NAZM that I love to recite myself, or use it in my Plays and Films. 

10.  Your audio presentation of your NazmChehrey’ at our Amaravati Poetic Prism 2016 International Multilingual Poets’ Meet at Vijayawada in November, 2016, received a spontaneous standing ovation and encore from the poets! I guess, this one may be a tough one for you – of the many hats that you wear, which role do you enjoy the most – of a playwright, director, actor, Daastango or Poet? 

Yes, I do wear different Cultural and Literary hats, but basically, I am a Playwright, a down to earth student of drama, or as it is said in U.P., a Nautanki enthusiast. I think, all the craftsmanship is interconnected to Theatre and the ancient art of Dastan.   I enjoy, cherish and love writing plays.  I do direct them and sometimes due to some requirement, I am also compelled to act even after 25 years, but my loyalty always stays with writing plays, where I have a full control over my pen. That’s the reason, out of my dozen books, none is a poetry collection, as I do not wish to shift my focus from playwriting.  Although, now the time seems ripe as a lot of friends and publishers want my Poetry Collection, and I think, soon this will happen. But I’d still prefer to be remembered as a Playwright. 

11. How has your current Indian sojourn been? Please provide some glimpses of your tour. 

I am on the road since the last five weeks.  It has been a great experience! Every day, one learns something new; with every performance one gets a new feedback; every city brings in new admirers; I am short of words to express my feelings and thanks to all my friends, well-wishers and fans, it seems like a never-ending story.   I wish I could stay back, but really, the West spoils you; we are weather sensitive, coming from minus fifteen temperature in March. It is very humid here and hard for a performer of my age. I should have been travelling extensively and performing 25 years back, and now is the time when I should be confined to writing!  But life is so unpredictable, I was confined to writing when I was young, and I am performing when I should rest. The best performance was at Hyderabad, the interaction with students and professors was amazing, you are my witness.  The second best was Aligarh, where it was a surprise for me as well as for the students.  There was a Students’ Arts and Culture Festival going on, in the courtyard or park of GEC, lot of art display, and Solo competitions were going on.  And without notice, I was asked not only to preside but to be a judge of these performances. At the end the Dastangoi item was announced.  The fun part was, it was an open-air show -  the stage was decorated under a banyan tree - and everybody was standing. It was sheer pleasure, performing in an open space.  It also gave me a new confidence, that besides air conditioned auditoriums and Five Star Hotels, I can now perform in open air, Mela- thela, exhibitions and Fairs just as well

12. Thank you Jawaid Danish ji, for this highly enlightening, inspiring and most engaging interaction that has been a personal learning experience for me! It is truly commendable that in the far-away Canada, you are promoting Urdu and   Hindustani Theatre and poetry in a big way. One final question, how do you see   the future of theatre and poets in the Urdu language and what is your message for the young aspirants wanting to foray into theatre and poetry, especially those who have a profession to pursue and also have a passion for theatre and/or poetry? 

Paddy Saheba, this is the most entertaining and enlightening cross cultural exchange of experience and experiments.  I am humbled, flattered and elevated in your company! Maybe, I was a little over excited and talked some extra, but believe me, this is the real HASIL (gift) of this tour. 

Let me share a secret with you; 35 years ago, I smuggled a small plant of rose to Canada, tried to plant it in snow, people laughed at me, that you are here to make dollars, forget about this cultural baggage and Literary nostalgia.  I kept working on new soil and new ways to nurture that plant and my heritage. Today, it is a healthy tree, having survived the snow storms of Canada.  I was importing Indian Culture and Literature 35 years back to Canada.  Today, I am a proud Exporter of Indian Culture and Literature back to India.  Institutions invite me to share my literary ventures and my theatrical performances in India. 

Poets and writers - whether Urdu or any ethnic Language - should not have any complex.  We should do our best and leave the rest for the test of time.  If you have potential, you will surely survive, as they say survival of the fittest.  When I can survive Canadian snow storms, any Indian writer should survive.  We should see, what we can give, instead of what the Sarkaar is providing.  As far as Urdu is concerned, it’s a very strong breed, it will survive the test of time.

For any young writer, my message is: we should read more and write less, once you absorb world classics, a day will come when it will start oozing out in your writings. 

I follow the Sufi school, and have three golden words not only for writers but for all:

TOLERANCE, ACCEPTANCE AND LOVE. We lack tolerance in our daily life. Once we practise tolerance, you will naturally accept the other person with all the odds, and once you start accepting, naturally you will start loving that person, the world and finally yourself. I will bid Khushbash, with this: 

AAPSE JHUK KE JOMILTA HOGA
USKA  QAD AAP SE UONCHA HOGA.
                                                                               - Wakil Akhtar 

(WHO EVER BOWS IN FRONT OF YOU, HE IS TALLER THAN YOU. IN FACT, HE IS HIGHER THAN YOU.AS THE FRUIT LADDEN BRANCH ALWAYS BOWS AND BARREN TREES STAND ERECT)

Jan 6th

Authors’ Lounge – In Conversation with Paddy – Neelam Saxena Chandra a.k.a. Neelam

By Paddy

Greetings of the New Year! Wish you all a Wonderfully Creative, Productive, Happy, Healthful & Peaceful 2017!

The last few months (since April, 2016) have been very hectic for me, what with the humongous task of compiling an International Multilingual Poetry Anthology ‘Amaravati Poetic Prism 2016’ that has a record 527 poems in 53 languages! Sorry friends, I was not able to be around here much.

With a hope to revive Authors’ Lounge interactions, I thought, having an interaction with a truly multi-faceted, highly talented and inspiring personality, will be the best way to do it and kick-start the New Year
!

Accordingly, it gives me immense pleasure to present an interaction with our own RML member Neelam Saxena Chandra a.k.a. Neelam.

Neelam Saxena Chandra works as a Joint Secretary (U.P.S.C.).  Her professional qualifications include B.E. (Electronics and Power) from VNIT (Nagpur), PG Dip in IM&HRD, PG Dip in Finance and a course in Finance from the London School of Economics.

She has written 2 novels, 1 novella, 5 short story collections, 17 poetry collections besides nine children’s books and is a Record Holder with the Limca Book of Records. Additionally, Neelam is a bilingual poet and her poems have appeared in several national and international poetry anthologies, besides being translated in other Indian and foreign languages
.

She was listed in the Forbes list as one of the most popular seventy-eight authors in the country in 2014. Neelam is also a recipient of several awards, accolades and recognitions for her prolific literary works.

Despite her hectic professional schedules and literary preoccupations, Neelam ever so graciously consented to adorn our Authors’ Lounge, that truly is such an honour and a  privilege!

Come, let’s find out more about Neelam and get inspired!
 

1.   Hi Neelam! Greetings from RML and a warm welcome to the Authors’ Lounge! Thank you very much for readily consenting to grace the Authors’ Lounge despite your busy schedule. Let me begin at the beginning by asking you to share your early years with us.

It’s my pleasure to be a part of Authors’ Lounge. I feel privileged.

In my childhood, I was a loner, keeping to myself. I had very few friends (They are still my close pals). I loved scribbling my thoughts in a diary. I was fond of reading. I loved Mathematics, Physics and the various languages that were in my curriculum and would try to know as much as possible about them. My world was restricted to my family, my books and my dreams.  

2.  From Engineering to your entry into bureaucracy, please share some interesting details of this journey. 

Well, after completing my Engineering, I appeared for the I.E.S Examination and that marks the commencement of my journey into the corridors of bureaucracy. I was assigned the IRSEE (Indian Railways Service of Electrical Engineering) cadre and I am proud to be a part of it. 

3.     Very impressive journey so far, Neelam! When did you start writing? What and who inspired you to start writing, and what kept you motivated to continue writing despite your hectic professional preoccupations? 

I used to write poetry when I was a child. Initially, a few poems were published in a newspaper titled ‘The Hitavada’. Subsequently, my poems were confined to my diaries for a long time.  

My daughter gave birth to the story-teller in me. I would craft new stories for her every day and later, on the suggestion of my husband, I penned down a few stories which were published in magazines like Champak, Nandan, Balbharti etc. After that, I tried my hand at other genres too. 

When you are passionate about something, you pursue it despite everything. My job schedule is very hectic, but I still manage to find time, since I love writing. It’s the calling of my soul.  

4.      Interesting and very well said Neelam!  Indeed, passion does drive one to find time for everything! Ah, your VNIT and ‘The Hitavada’ connections - all bring back my own old memories of Nagpur, where I grew up!!! Please share something about the books you have published. And also about your records with the Limca Book of Records.

O  You too are from Nagpur, Paddy! Coming to my publications, I have a menu of different genres to offer as my books. I have written for children, I have written novels and short stories and I have also indulged in poetry. I am happy to be following my heart.
Two records are registered in my name in Limca Book of records, 2015. The first is for first mother-daughter duo writing a book. The book was titled ‘Winter shall fade’. The second record is for maximum books written in a year in English and Hindi.  

5.   Wow! Heartiest Congratulations Neelam! Being recognized as a record holder by the prestigious Limca Book of Records is so commendable and being recognized twice over and that too in the same year, is truly amazing and such a feat! Amongst your many books, is there one book that is really close to your heart? If so, why? 

Thank you, Paddy! All my books are like my children and are equally close to my heart. There are no favourites. As per ratings on internet, my novel ‘Soul Seekers’ is the most popular, closely followed by my other novel ‘Can I have this chance’.  

6.     Please share with us the awards and various recognitions you have been adorned with as an author, writer and poet. 

Although I have received various awards and recognitions at various stages of my writing, the most memorable is an award received from Gulzar sahib in a Hindi Poetry Writing Contest organised by the American Embassy. Besides this, I was awarded the 1st prize in Rabindra Nath Tagore International Poetry Contest, Premchand Award by the Ministry of Railways, Radio City Freedom Award by Radio City for my lyrics in an album and II prize in a Story Writing Contest by Children’s Book Trust. A few days back, I also received II prize for my Hindi poem titled “Khushi” by the Poetry Council of India.  

7.   Congratulations again! What an impressive line-up of awards and recognitions! Engineer, Senior Bureaucrat, Author, poet, short-story writer, poet, wife, mother and many more… How do you manage to juggle these roles so efficiently and effectively? 

I believe that women have a natural flair for multitasking. I do enjoy all my roles. Besides this, the support from family matters a lot and I am lucky to have a supportive husband, a critic daughter, encouraging mother and cheering siblings and friends.  

8.   Amidst so many activities, do you find leisure time and do you have any hobbies too? 

Well, for me, writing is itself a hobby! Besides this, I also do a little of painting, I love occasional cooking, I read a lot, I participate in dramas occasionally and I also enjoy compering programs. You can say that I have a habit of trying to poke my big nose into everything.  

9.  Wah Neelam! You are truly a multi-tasker and so multi-faceted too! I understand, you are shortly launching your new book. Can you please tell us more about it? 

Oh yes! My novel titled ‘In the flickering of an eye’ is under publication by LiFi Publications and it will be launched on 10th January, 2017 in the World Book Fair. It’s a story set in the interiors of Haryana. The social conditions in the country form the background of the story with sagotra marriages playing a crucial part (Marrying within the same patriliny is considered incest in Hindu society). Here’s the synopsis for those who are interested in it. 

“Twenty five years worth of 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' have haunted and tortured Vinay. He cannot help but go back in time again and again to that one moment that changed his life forever. A chance encounter with a person from his past, and a journey through the majestic hills of Kalimpong lead him to some of his answers, in the form of an elusive woman, who bears a striking resemblance to the woman he loved and lost. Will he finally get his happily-ever-after? Or will his story, tarnished when he was nineteen by the gotra system, forever be punctuated with too many fullstops? Read on to find out more.”  

10. Congratulations again! And here’s wishing your upcoming novel a great launch, and a far and wide reach and readership! Do you enjoy reading the present-day poets / writers? Any favourites?
Thank you Paddy, for your good wishes! I love reading anything that provides me with a new perspective and enriches me in some way. Present day poets and writers are much bolder in their approach and write on a variety of themes. They also don’t hesitate to experiment with new styles. That explains why I enjoy reading present-day poets and writers.  

11. Interesting perspective! What is your view on the modern trends in poetry and writing in general? 

Poetry in particular and writing in general is breaking the boundaries and barriers that have been traditionally set and are undergoing great churning and change. However, the essence remains the same.  

12.Yes, completely agree! Thank you Neelam, for such an interesting, enlightening and truly inspiring interaction! Finally, what is your message to upcoming writers, especially those who pursue a profession and wish to also follow their passion for writing, as I cannot think of a better person than you to speak about it. 

Believe in yourselves. Cherish your dreams. Hone your skills. Keep pushing your horizons. Erase the word “Impossible” from your dictionary. 

Writing is essentially a hobby that adds stimulus to your profession and enriches you. It also makes you a better human being. Don’t worry too much about success – it will follow you one day!

Dec 22nd

The Beast

By Ryan44z

Hello I'm a new writer looking for constructive criticism Thank you!

 

I have labored to feed the beast for near twenty years, I have seen time change from mechanical to digital.

I've seen men's souls separate from their earthly vessels as they enter the cavernous dwelling to pay homage to the beast.

There are those who thrive in this dispiriting place they are the ones who permanently leave their souls at the altar of the beast.

Though they look like you and I they no longer carry the markers of humanity instead they have intermingled with the beast to become a new entity.

I say again I've seen mechanical become digital in my twenty years I've seen men broken to tears , I seen many levels of disappointment but I've persevered, but now my time draws near.

Jun 5th

Find of all history? Recursive Noun, a dissertation on Existence

By humtybumptyeiz

Newton is the father of existentialism, not Nietzsche. In fact, Newton is its first practitioner we..., well I know of. Nietzsche is the first, I know of (I think that banishing comma from English will be deprecating to the same), to become conscious of existence of existentialism,i.e., that he saw the light and died before understanding it (the light) in its completeness. Reason spawns from doubt- the negation of reason, let's call it for simplicity's sake unreason. Thus, as reason is because of unawareness, I think that Nietzsche leads us to the conclusion that awareness can only be the sole reason of faith. A person can only be aware if that person has faith. Now, the only way I can explain faith is the Mathematical way in English (for I cannot make the effort of searching for a Mathematical Equations text editor online, and the fact mentioned in the first part of the sentence existence is an example of a Recursive Noun): It (faith) is the limit of faith approaching infinity equals faith (now, follow the instructions laid down in the last part of this sentence in order to visualise the equation written using mathematical runes) - and this big chunk of this sentence is an example of a Recursive Noun.

 
Thus, on knowing of Nietzsche's being the being of his own knowledge, being consumed, by his intellect,'s  negation makes me aware of, by being the mirror-image of the being, vicariously, his being. Thus, I'm not an existentialist for being an existentialist will require me to see a definite existential world, i.e., the world as being the complete truth, which nullifies existentialism at its core. Thus, existentialism is simply a being, a candidate with great prospects to be on of the finalists of beings being considered to be accepted as the true image of the being. Thus, they must not jump to guns and start calling themselves to be existentialists- as this betrays the mask they are trying to put on in order for us to think of themselves as they are not by betraying the impossibility of the existence of existentialism, i.e., creation of one being's own negation negates that that being ever existed and was caused by the the existence of a simplest of all that facts that can be of being a contender for being a being. Thus, everything which we perceive nullifies itself and hence proves that all our perceptions can never, in any of the unknown possibilities, be considered as being the truth, the absolute truth of its own world in which it decides to have the faith of existing in. To put it simply- we can definitely be sure of the fact that what ever we perceive is and has to be nothing but falsehood. Or, in other words, all of us our, at every moment of the known (by the being) history, are existing as if a being whose existence can be, the one, and the only reason of the truth of its existence, was constantly living in a virtual reality and thus being reminded of the fact that one was truly existing because the mere idea, the merest possibility, of the existence of the thought of ones non-existence causes one acute discomfort which can be experienced because of its mere perception, as faintly and as misunderstood as maybe, being vicarious, repulses to ours bare ideals of our personal nature, or in other words- existence can only be experienced as the unknown in the unknown number of  possibilities existence can be accepted, after being filtred through a desert of diamond rocks, of an expanse which can exist under the sole condition that it had always existed and, that it will always exist, thus resulting in reverting to unawareness from awareness, i.e., a Recursive Noun. Thus the only perception which can be imagined of belonging amongst the final contenders for the accepted realisation to be realised, i.e., the only possible existence is doubt. 
 
And this is what he meant by Active Nihilism- doubt - that which is the only possibility that its own existence exists. Always be doubting of the satori of awareness as it will push us back into unawareness. Thus each is the progeny of the universe which one perceives. Thus there are unknown number of universes which are the sole building blocks of a unique possible universe, or, in other words, picture as infinite as you can of the number of unique universes possible being the sole containment of the only possible universe which can possibly be conceived. Thus, these universes interact amongst themselves, thereby confirming the impossibility of their unexistence. Thus everything can only be perceived as the only being which can be accepted as to be perceived as awareness. Awareness, being a Recursive Noun, can only exist virtually. Awareness is a word whose meaning can only be explained having the knowledge, and thus being aware of, the words of the fourth spatial dimension. We know, I accept it as my reality, that we/I yet have no true knowledge of the fourth spatial dimension, i.e., we/I haven't yet experienced its existence. 
 
Nietzsche was, however, in dissonance with the work of his life. One of the few Enlightened Ones, Nietzsche belongs.
 
And the first one and only one, in my knowledge, was aware was Newton. If he were born in our age, we would've been able to experience the change from our present existence to that of the existence of extraterrestrial human settlements. 
 
Nietzsche, through the means of Active Nihilism leads to the conclusion, in my understanding and processing, that everything is perpetually continuous. We never die. Law of conservation of energy of an isolated system leads to the same conclusion. We experience one virtuality after another till we all become aware, as in infinite time everything has the probability of its existence being unitary. So, don't worry, you are destined to be aware. 
 
Some interpret Nietzsche's philosophy to be misogynistic and are invisible to its reaction with oneself. He was a practitioner of the extreme. Truly maternal sadist. This is maternal - the inverse of sadist. Thus, he was aware. A true revolutionary. Again, the law of conservation of energy: when one is effective one loses to be aware. So, is the prevalent scientific temper has perpetually been Nietzschein in spirit. The discoverer who made all discoveries possible. The original purpose.  This means that are universe was born on we accept as Oct 15, 1844. Which, thus, is not a possibility. Thus religions which proclaim to proselytize awareness are false. 
 
Therefore, all of the humanity that has ever existed and shall exist has had had the false faith possibly. 
 
Hope you at least once visualized the pattern of the recursion.  
 
Now, imagine of an existence without this recursion.
 
How hard was it?
May 20th

Helpless

By Eliza

I could feel her,looking at me with her exhausted eyes-

Exhausted of the pain she bears,exhausted of the torture-

Her beauty is scraped out by everyone,

Still she bears,bears the pain helplessly.

Silent pleas of relief escapes from her heart,

Exposing the pain in her heart caused-

By the deep wounds received from her own children,

Still,her bruised body continues to serve all,as-

She bears,bears the pain helplessly.

She could have destroyed us by the way she gave us life,

Still she remains calm,for the good of us,her selfish children,

As she,our Mother Earth,full of love and care,

Continues to bear,bear the pain helplessly... 

Mar 27th

Authors' Lounge - In Conversation with Paddy - Soumya Mohanty Vilekar a.k.a. soumya

By Paddy

 

Soumya Mohanty Vilekar aka soumya here and I share something else in common besides poetry – Nagpur ! A place associated with my childhood and girly memories!

We met on Facebook and struck an instant chord, thanks to our love for poetry, music, art, cinema and concern for women-related issues. Since then, Soumya has been regularly adorning RML with her beautiful and soulful poems! 

Soumya wears many hats – widely published author with several of her works translated in different languages, blogger, short-story writer and a poet. Besides, She is a vocal contributor and Community Champion Leader at Worldpulse, a global platform dedicated to improving the lot of women all across the world. 

Besides being the Sub Editor of a quarterly Hindi magazine ‘Akhand Bharat’that publishes works of national interest, she is also the Founder of an all artists group "REVOLUTIONARY PENS" that aims to unite artists and writers across the globe to stand for humanity.

Soumya’s poetry collections include 'Life -Inspiration to Spiritualism' and the Soul Trilogy: 'The Mystic Journey', 'Winds of Phillia' and 'Suroor of the Soul'. The last mentioned with the recurring theme of humanity and romanticism, and served with vast doses of spiritualism, has received wide international recognition and accolades. Her 'Suroor of the Soul' poetry anthology is a fine blend of poetry and art.

Additonally, Soumya is in the field of Powder Metallurgy and holds a joint patent in the same.

It is very difficult to sum up Soumya’s multifaceted pursuits, interests and inclinations. Hence, I have chosen the following quote from her book ‘Soul of the Suroor’:

"Soumya Vilekar is a soul who continues to purely connect Life and Beyond through mastering the sublime energy within her to connect the Divine expression through her exquisite and charming words and exudes positive vibrations with the great intention of projecting soulful direction to humanity. She does not create a phenomena, but is herself a phenomenon." - 'Suroor of the Soul' (page -xi).

Her leisure time activities include: music, cinema, art, travelling, reading, sport, meditation, etc., etc.

Come, let’s find out more about Soumya, who has ever so graciously consented to grace our Authors’ Lounge this month, despite her hectic schedule:

1.Hi Soumya! Greetings from RML and a warm welcome to the Authors’ Lounge! Thanks very much for so readily consenting to grace the Authors’ Lounge. To set the tone of this interaction, let me begin by asking you to share your early years with us.

Warm greetings to all of you @RML and to you Padmaja !

It is an honour as well as a pleasure to get interviewed by a lady who herself is a great leader. RML is a wonderful platform for poets, literature lovers and writers providing space and also encouraging and connecting them to the rest of the world.

While sharing the early stages of my life, I would like to mention that I have been staying and moving across many cities, towns of India since my birth as I grew up and that continued even after my marriage.

Such a constant change in one’s life broadens one’s perspective and we often accept changes easily and so it happened to me too. While everyone likes to stay within his/her comfort zone, the one who can step forward and move out of that zone learns the intricacies of life.

I was born in Nagpur, Maharashtra, studied few years over there and then completed my schooling and junior college from Orissa. My graduation in science was from Ranikhet,which is a beautiful hill station near Nainital and till today its memories remain alive inside me. Just after my graduation I joined my dad in his consultancy firm and took training in the field of powder metallurgy. Having a passionate interest in this field since childhood, I sincerely started assisting him in setting up metal powder plants in various parts of India. He holds several patents in the same field and is a very good singer, artist and a multitalented personality. Writing too had been my hobby, although I never shared my early works with anyone except few close friends.

This shifting of places made me fall in love with the different landscapes, culture, region and distinct characteristics of every place that I happened to stay in and thus my love for travelling and photography got developed. As a student, I was very much interested in sports and played badminton and volleyball till I completed my graduation.

2. Thanks for that interesting glimpse into your eventful and fruitful early years that apparently shaped you into the highly accomplished person, writer and poet that you are today! When did you start writing, Soumya? And what accolades came your way during the early part of this journey that enthused you to continue writing?

Frankly speaking, I never planned to write - it just happened. While being included in a spot poetry competition in junior college, I wrote a poem on Taj Mahal, based on world peace. That poem got me my first prize for writing, followed by another spot story competition and I felt that I could write too.

Yet during that time, it was usually the last pages of a notebook or sides of a page which I scribbled on. Some of them I jotted in an old notebook and gifted them to friends while leaving college as a memory to cherish.

Subsequently, writing took a backseat for many years and in between a few poems got written  randomly whenever I felt like, which continued even after marriage .It was only in 2011,when we shifted to Sharjah,UAE that I restarted poetry with a blog . Every day I used to post around four to five poems while enjoying the space and the blogging atmosphere. I noticed people following my blogs and appreciating my work. It was a great motivation to see readers around the world reading my write ups. It encouraged in keeping the enthusiasm going, until my poems got published in some anthologies back in India. The journey had begun unknowingly; may be it was predestined, that I write and let the words live forever. Undoubtedly, appreciation keeps on the urge and will to excel our own level.

 

Well! I started as a poet and then started blogging and writing on different issues and short stories. Gradually the role started diversifying according to further interests and I wrote a novel, then another one (both unpublished) later on joining as the Sub –editor with Akhand Bharat. The aim of the magazine impressed me and also the non-profitable interest of the people involved who had a vision of reaching out to youth of India to create awareness about our country, its issues, our history and rich heritage along with talking about the growth and prosperity of our nation.

Multitasking has been my hobby and I love doing it. As all the interests are equally passionate for me, I cannot leave either and go on with only one. As a member of World Pulse I started as a Vocal Contributor and then went on to become a Community Leader Champion for the leadership group.

World Pulse is a non-profit organization which connects women across 90 nations in order to interact, initiate, motivate, encourage and inspire them to work at grassroots and empowers them to lead better lives and help others to do the same. This platform connects one to so many women across the globe and opens a perception of seeing the world through different eyes. We get to know what the reality in every nook and corner is, we learn to understand, accept and empathise with the trauma, condition and lives of women in the world. A small word, a gesture, a strong message, a helping hand, a kind gesture, a free training, an interaction opens for them a new path with a new ray of hope. This in itself is self-satisfying than anything else. To bring a smile on everyone’s face is something which makes you smile.

So, when we shoulder many responsibilities, all of them being equally beautiful and full of passion, one tends to become enthusiastic in handling them efficiently, managing time and other constraints. Hurdles do come, deadlines do get lapsed, yet everything gets managed, just a drop of faith and zeal is required… and it works..

Yes, I do hope sometimes “If there had been 48 hours in a day, it would have been great; I could have worked more…”

4. And amidst all this you also have leisure time activities like travelling, photography, cinema, art, painting, sport, meditation etc., etc.? When do you find leisure really to pursue these?

Staying in a cosmopolitan place and managing kids & family, it is usually the weekend that we get to breathe that too occasionally, if there are no social obligations. So once in three or four months, we get some time to drive to the nearby peaceful places of nature.

Pune being a city which is surrounded on all sides by hills, a drive of just 20 kms outside the city limits in any direction takes to scenic and beautiful places. Those moments , a drive to a waterfall, or a nearby lake, either to a mountain range or a temple at a remote place, a fort  all of these are equally picturesque and they get framed in no time, whether I have a camera handy or a mobile to click.

People who love art will always love cinema, as it is a more efficient way of expressing any tale through motion and action. I love watching movies and do that often with family. If destiny permits, soon I will be able to script for cinemas.

Sometimes in between I try to play a game of badminton with my son, not often, yet it’s refreshing. It surely requires lot of juggling in between the hectic schedule to manage all the passions to be pursued, yet it’s managed, which is enough to keep the interest going.

5. I think the terms ‘multifaceted’ and ‘multitasking’ fit you to a T, Soumya!! Please share something about the books you have published.

In 2012 I decided to compile few of my works in form of book and thus “Life Inspiration to spiritualism” got penned. It is a very simple poetry book, which talks of life in form of inspiration and also spiritualism. Along with it, “The Mystic Journey” got initiated which spoke of few divine experiences which one goes through while on path of devotion. The following year in 2013, I published an eBook “Winds of Philia” which was completely different than my previous ones; it was a bunch of romantic love poems, specially dedicated to my husband as a Valentine’s gift.

The fourth book “Suroor of the Soul” holds a special place in my heart, as the poems are very close to heart. It is about the journey of a soul who traverses on earth in search of real happiness.

6.I believe your ‘Suroor of the Soul’ is a very special poetry collection that blends spirituality, divinity, art and literature. Please tell us more about this book.

Yes, rightly said, ‘Suroor of the Soul’ is a special poetry book which blends everything perfectly. It has the mystical paintings from the very talented Shaheen and the verses flow like a river. They have the essence of the journey, when a soul walks frantically in life in search of god and happiness, following various paths. It speaks of divinity when the poem speaks about Surrender to be the first step towards devotion and divinity. ‘Suroor of the Soul’ embraces every traveller on the path of life to be a part of this journey and realizes the truth that echoes in our mind subconsciously.

For readers I’m sharing the link where ,they can read the detailed review of the book to get the feel of the book :http://suroorofthesoul.weebly.com/book-review.html

“Suroor of the Soul” has a beautiful and interesting story behind its creation. My friend and co-author, Shaheen, once gifted me with a beautiful mystical painting which was called “Suroor”. The painting now adorns as the book cover of our book. Well, when for the first time I laid my eyes on this unique piece of art, my thoughts instigated me to scribble verses with the condition of a soul in life and its struggle. I felt the urge to write about the sufferings of a soul while on its journey on earth. Shaheen is also a sitar player and the verses of Suroor struck my chord, as if the vibrations that came were the music of Divine. I could feel the vibrant energy and the tranquil calmness of these notes through my imagination. Somehow I remembered, “Music travels through your spine into every part of your vein, when the Master touches you with his divine note.” The words of this verse, got inspired by the colours of the painting, the lines got their rhythm by the different scales of sitar and the thoughts by the ever existing seeking of the “I” on the Universal path.

7.Please tell us about the awards and various recognitions conferred on you as an author, writer and poet.

I had been declared winner for the NanoWriMo Contest which has a deadline of 30 days within which one has to finish writing a novel of approx. 50,000 words. My poetry blog on Wordpress has been awarded as one of the top 10 most socially active poetry blogs of India by Baggout, a biggest online portal. For an online participation of a multilingual poetry event, I had been awarded a certificate by Poets Rendezvous Bangalore.

In between, I got a few certificates of participation and also invitations from several Writers’ Festivals to take part. As I was overseas, I could not become a part of these then.

A few weeks ago, a detailed and wonderful interview conducted by Prof. Ratan Bhattarchjee was published in ‘The Sentinel’, a newspaper from Assam along with a review of my works on ‘Merinews’, an online news portal.

Although prizes and accolades play an important role in one’s career or profile, my pen moves and the ink flow from the inspiration of life. It is a continuous process and a Gift of Divine that is indelible and eternal.

8. Absolutely impressed Soumya! What an achiever you are! Could you please share something about Revolutionary Pens?

Revolutionary Pens was conceptualized with a vision to connect artists across the world on a global platform where unanimously they can voice for the dying humanity. The birth of ”Revolutionary Pens ” is for an unified purpose of the revolutionary artists around the world to create a world free from hatred, violence, discrimination, terrorism, politicization and transform it into a peaceful and humane world. Amidst the world of chaotic noise and bouts of hatred, we the people of this world live in cocoon to free ourselves from these pangs and detach by ignoring the situation of the world. Issues are plenty, but every problem shows the lack of in humaneness in character and nature. It is an effort to reach to people through distinct artwork which shall echo the issues of inhumanness and create awareness regarding the same to save the soul of humanity. Every month it tries to speak on the prevailing social issues and adds another perception to the condition of our society.

Revolutionary Pens has a vision to strike a dialogue and create a world free from all turmoil’s and conflicts by different artwork. As art in any form, whether it is literature, poetry, painting, sketches, photography, films, music, dance or sculpture, it denotes a distinct message in the silence of that creation which reverberates through eternity.

 

9.  Interesting observations from a sensitive poet, writer and a committed change agent! What is your role in World Pulse? How do you propose to impact women and their living conditions through your work with World Pulse?

World Pulse is a powerful online community of women and allies worldwide who speak out and build solutions to today’s biggest challenges. It empowers women leaders on the ground by advancing their digital skills and leadership to mobilize around the world and create real social transformation. Today, tens of thousands of women from 190 nations are using WorldPulse.com to start movements and pressure global leaders to take a stand on the issues affecting their lives, ranging from the allocation of economic resources to securing leadership at all levels of society.

Our mission is to accelerate the global changes women seek by using digital communication to unite and amplify women's voices, solutions and impact worldwide.

I have been an active member on World pulse since last few years, first as a vocal contributor, where my words and writings inspired women and motivated them to take initiatives in life and in their respective fields. People somehow connect to words and emotions when shared and talked of experiences and in form of stories. The conversation brings out the drawbacks and helps many to come out of their shell.

I am now a Community Leader champion in the leadership group which brings forth various opportunities of being a great leader, to improve leadership skills and communication. I along with my team try to organize various leadership online programmes and talks along with campaigns to guide women to achieve their goals in life through certain actions and steps. It is all about taking an initiative to help women join hands and work together towards a goal. We have writing campaigns and webinar to be executed soon, which will be conducted by leadership mentors. The small efforts being larger results and it are touching to see women getting inspired and motivated by joining World pulse.

10. Thank you Soumya, for this highly interesting, inspiring and enlightening interaction! Finally, what is your view on the modern trends in poetry and writing in general?  Do you enjoy reading the present day poets / writers? Any favourites? And what is your message to upcoming writers, especially those who pursue a profession and wish to also follow their passion for writing.

It was indeed a great time to have a detailed conversation with you and thanks for lending the wonderful platform of RML to me.

Poetry is a form of art that can never die or get beneath the dust of times. It will always remain alive and relive through ages with the pure essence, like a fragrance of its expressions.

The art of poetry will bring the best of aesthetic and poetic expressions to enliven the muse and creations forever.

Sometimes I read the present day poets and writers, yet not many touch the core of my heart. Paulo Coelho had been a favourite though, for some time.

Obviously survival has become a fight for everyone and people who follow certain profession do not get even a moment to breathe and relax, it is quite strenuous and exhausting for them in such cases to pursue their passion. But anyone who has the real passion for writing and is crushed by professional deadlines should scribble few lines whenever any abstract thought comes to the mind, irrespective of its formation, meaning, rhythm or composition. It is this random thought which actually will create poetry or the base of a story. To write down that particular fleeting thought that moment will store it for further exploration and work.

Let  it get scribbled in a diary, a piece of paper, on a note pad of phone, or on laptop while you are working, or even on your palm … “You let the thought live, it relives you later on.”

This course of action makes one dwell more efficiently and can perfectly work upon to set the routine for writing.

After all, if it’s a passion, the passion shall find its way to remain ablaze. Let your creative imagination flow without any restriction. Follow the heart and express reality. What matters is

 “what we write should connect to the heart”!

Feb 27th

Authors’ Lounge – In Conversation with Paddy – Dr. Charanjeet Kaur  a..k.a. Charanjeet  

By Paddy

Dear RML Members, here is a secret I wish to share. When Dr. Charanjeet Kaur joined RML at my request, I was in the seventh heaven! And when she so, so graciously consented to be on this edition of the Authors’ Lounge, my joy and the sense of being honoured, knew no bounds!

I have always acknowledged that it is Muse India that gave wings to my writing by publishing my poems, short stories etc., in their main editions and throwing open their ‘My Space’ to many aspiring writers and poets like me to hone our skills. She is also an Associate Director with Sound and Picture ARchives for Research On Women – SPARROW, Mumbai.

Dr. Charanjeet Kaur is currently the Chief Editor of Muse India, the popular bi-monthly e-zine that encourages and showcases the works of Indian writers in English and translations in English of writings from other Indian languages. Muse India, because of its high literary standards, is a benchmark for on-line literary journals. That Dr. Charanjeet Kaur spearheads and drives such a popular and master class literary journal, speaks volumes of her own literary accomplishments.

Dr. Charanjeet Kaur wears many hats. Till recently, she was the I/C Principal and Head of UG, PG and Research Department of English at Smt Chandibai Himathmal Mansukhani College, Ulhasnagar (Near Mumbai) with an academic and administrative career spanning 38 years during the course of which she also did quite a few things parallely and continues to do so.

She was an IUC Associate at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla to work on Mahatma Gandhi's Hind Swaraj. She has successfully completed a project on the cinema of Gulzar. As a teacher and researcher, her areas of interest include Indian Writing in English and Translation, Continental Literature, Literary Criticism and Theory and Aesthetics. Her critical and seminal works have been published in various academic journals and critical anthologies. She was the Director of the UGC sponsored Women's Studies Centre (WSC) for two years and was also closely associated with the establishment and growth of the WSC and Gandhian Studies Centre of CHM College since their inception. Besides her academic writings, her poems, articles, short stories etc. regularly feature in Chandrabhaga, Manushi, Kavya Bharati, NewQuest and of course, Muse India.

All of you would have read my review of Dr. Charanjeet Kaur’s beautiful poetry collection ‘Mirror Image and Other Poems’ (http://www.ratemyliterature.com/magazine/read/mirror-image--other-poems-by-dr-charanjeet-kaur---a-review_8380.html). She has recently published another poetry collection ‘The Songs of the Hills’. Both the books have been published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata.

Come, let’s invite Dr. Charanjeet Kaur to our Authors’ Lounge for a tête–à–tête and know more about her.

1. Hi Charanjeet! Greetings from RML and a warm welcome to the Authors’ Lounge!Many thanks for taking my call despite your mother’s and your indifferent health, myriad literary engagements that include putting together of the Muse India’s upcoming ‘Mass Appeal’  issue, and readily agreeing to grace this edition of Authors’ Lounge.Let’s begin at the beginning from where it all started Charanjeet! Please tell us something of your early years.

Paddy, my thanks for inviting me to the Authors’ Lounge. It is an honour which means much to me, more so because it gives me the opportunity of going beneath the skin of my writing and exploring [even for myself] the interconnections between how I live and why I write.

Well, introspection is something that one does all the time and memory jostles with the present in all our waking hours. My early years… A lower middle class family, in which my father believed in the power of education so much that my mother tells me that when I was not even a year old, he would speak of sending me to Bombay [Mumbai, today] to his brother so that I could go to the best of schools. His army postings till 1957 took him to various places in the backwaters of India, you see. As fate would have it, he was diagnosed with a heart ailment when he was 29 and he had to opt out of the Army; and after a period of struggle, he came to Bombay and joined the Central Excise Department. 

My parents were not highly educated in the formal sense, - father had completed his schooling and my mother could not join secondary school because there was no school beyond the 4th standard in her village. But, let me tell you, the informal education which I have seen in the case of both my parents has instilled in me the faith that education can happen as much outside the school system as within it. My love for literature comes from my father, who loved Urdu poetry and would recite it soulfully. Urdu was the school language for him, along with Punjabi, Hindi and English. Till today, even so many years after his death in 1981, I keep wondering about his fluency and feel for all the four languages. His English was impeccable and he had a fine ear for poetry.

My mother, who is 82, dedicated her life to us – and had little time for academics. But she has been the rational force in our family. Progressive, with no nonsense about her, she is the one person I know who is anti-superstition and anti-ritual, which she remains to this day. She is an avid reader of the Gurbani and has been so all her life. Even today, she reads for three to four hours every day.  So, my love for literature comes from my parents to a large extent. But my critical, analytical frame of mind... definitely, I owe to my mother. The poetry came from my father. 

2.  How did your academic career start? Please share some interesting anecdotes from this phase of your life.

My father’s wish was fulfilled, Paddy, and I was educated in one of the finest missionary schools in Mumbai, St Anthony’s Girls School at Chembur. I did quite well at school in all subjects, but my favourite ones were English Literature and Mathematics. I wonder what my life would have been if I had opted for Math as a career. I wish I could have lived two parallel lives, one each for these two disciplines! In fact, my father had other ambitions for me – that I would be a doctor, an economist or an IAS officer! It was a huge disappointment to him when I went in for literature; and that, in spite of his own sensitivity and love for adab, as literature is called in Urdu.

How the scales tipped in favour of literature is interesting. When I was 13, during a clean-up operation at home, I rummaged through a small steel trunk of my father in which he kept his military papers. I found a small library, about 12 to 15 books in English, Punjabi and Urdu, along with a few self-sketches he had done; it also contained a number of his diaries which I could not read because they were written in Urdu.

The book that caught my attention was a bound copy of ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ by Thomas Hardy, extensively underlined and with comments in the margins in his small and beautiful handwriting. I read the comments first and was sure that I absolutely had to read this book. By this time I had already read a children’s book [apart from the Enid Blyton and Nancy drew series] which I was in love with – ‘Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates’ by Mary Maples Dodge. I was familiar with Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in the abridged version, a little of the bhakti poetry of Kabirdas, Mira, Nanak in Hindi, some stories of Premchand, O’Henry and the usual stuff in text books. But ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, I remember, is the first complete novel I read, in spite of my father’s mild reprimand that mine was not the age to read this kind of book. I devoured this book, wept copiously over it, re-read it and became a Hardy person for the rest of my life. I must add that I owe my understanding of the deep sources of tragedy in human affairs and my knowledge about the frailties of human beings to Thomas Hardy. I have read all his works, I love his poetry, and my compassion for the world comes from the fact that I came face-to-face with the soul of Michael Henchard at such a tender age. Hardy did not make me a pessimist: he made me a humanist. That is the power of literature, Paddy, which I would like to share with my friends at RML.

College [SIES, one of the finest Mumbai Colleges] and my literature teachers there – Vinda Karandikar, Derek Antao, Zarine Anklesaria, Neela Karnik, Darius Cooper and later on at the University of Mumbai,  Nissim Ezekiel, Vilas Sarang, R B Patankar, my PhD research guide, Sunanda Pal at SNDT Women’s University, - my intellectual make-up, I owe to all of them. I must also mention Dinesh Panjwani – with whom I worked closely when he was the Principal at my College – because of whom my intellectual horizons re-opened and widened, and a certain clarity of vision and attitude which his approach to life instilled in me. 

3.  When did you start writing? Please share your experiences as a writer especially given the fact that teaching is a full time job requiring you to constantly update yourself academically to meet professional expectations and student needs.

My first poem I wrote when I was in the sixth standard. It was called ‘Life’. Very ambitious, I think, for a sixth grader and very presumptuous of me to try to define life at that age!! I don’t remember the poem, but I remember it was very bleak. I showed it to a few friends who asked me why I was so unhappy!! After that, I became a closet poet – writing furiously, but destroying most of my work because I was afraid that people would try to read my life into my work. It took me years before I could think of sending my poems for publication to journals. Yes. It is true that much of my poetry is personal, but now, after ‘Mirror Image’ and ‘The Songs from the Hills’ I am quite comfortable with this. If my personal concerns resonate in my poetry, well… so be it.

‘Mirror Image’ contains poems which I wrote over a period of twenty years or more and it is, therefore, much varied in its themes. ‘Songs’ contains poems written from 2010 to 2014 and, I think, is more focused and has a narrower canvas. One similarity I find in both the volumes is an intensity which is expressed in sparse language. I am a poet of few words, I believe.Both the books follow a certain pattern, - personal poems, which then turn to social issues and something political themes; these are sections which deal with conflict, pain and suffering; in the last sections, there is a move towards a resolution of the conflicts and the poems become more metaphysical and spiritual. In between there are poems which deal with my ‘relation’ with language.

It is true that I have not been able to write as much as I have wanted to: both domestic and professional commitments kept me from getting down to the discipline that writing is. It is not a matter of time only. A writer must have the mental space so that ideas flower and reach a certain level of maturity. My profession helped in my writing, though. The constant interaction with students, especially, kept me mentally alert and I could read extensively, because that was a professional requirement. The ideas for many of my poems came from within the classroom. And, much of my writing had to be in the nature of research papers and academic articles.

I have written a number of short stories but have not published much. One that was published in ‘Manushi’ in 1989, I think, ‘The Green Frock’ is known and is easily available on the internet; it is used as teaching material in Norway. It was also included in a Katha anthology. A few have appeared in ‘New Quest’ and in other magazines. But, unfortunately, I have not kept track of them. Still, I remain fascinated by the form and these days I have been posting some of my recent short stories at RML. 

4.  Thank you Charanjeet, for that interesting and enlightening response. What thoughts cross your mind as you write a poem? What triggers the poet in you? Also, any more books in the pipeline?

Ah! That is not easy to answer, Paddy. What triggers the poet in me? Well, it is usually a moment in which something gets crystallised and wants to get expressed. I won’t say it is spontaneous because before that moment happens, a great deal has been going on in the mind, sometimes for days – it could be an idea, an experience, a feeling, an emotion, a person… a mood…. Sometimes it is an event like a chance meeting with someone, a death (yes, many of my poems, I now see, in both volumes are about death), anything that moves me to my core. But I don’t write immediately. I allow the mood to set in, to expand, to take me over into it… Most of this time, I am often wordless at this stage. Struggling, perhaps to find the expression which would match my experience. And when the words do come, it is such a relief. But, yes, I do edit my poetry because the first draft is always self-indulgent and over-emotional. Editing my own poetry is the process which helps me to prune it and give it a form and shape.

No, at present I am not thinking in terms of the next book. But I am trying to take a look at the short stories that I have written  -  some written, some half-written to see if they can be worked upon. But I do not want to rush into publication.

One decision I have made: if I publish poetry again, it will be theme-based and will deal with social issues or metaphysical perceptions. I am not very keen to write and publish personal poetry now. 

5.  As I read your poetry collection ‘Mirror Images and Other Poems’ for writing a review, I noticed a deep spirituality in your writings. Any particular incident in your life that led you to the path of spirituality?

You are right, Paddy. I am a deeply spiritual person, though not a religious one. My religion gives me a certain social and political identity, but my spirituality extends beyond religions. In fact, you may call me a multi-religious person. I am very moved by the poetry that is inherent in religions – whether it is ibadat or puja or shabad or kirtan or psalm.

To a certain extent, my spirituality grew out of my difficult life: a peaceful childhood which was marred by the constant worries about my father’s health, genteel, middle-class poverty in my early childhood, an understanding of suffering in life and in my reading… I may say that apart from practical living, it is writers like Rainer Maria Rilke, John Donne, Samuel Coleridge, Kabir Das, Meerabai, Bahinabai, Thomas Hardy, Dostoevsky,  Octavio Paz, Dag Hammarksjold, Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, Mirza Ghalib, - their deepest work revealed to me truths which make my life meaningful. And obviously, they are there at the root of even my most personal poetry.

And yes, my niece (my sister’s daughter) has taught me what hope and courage are: born with hydrocephalus, she has had to undergo multiple corrective and life-threatening surgeries - 11 of them in the 18 years of her life.  She has emerged stronger through it; but let me tell you, Paddy, among the most painful sufferings in the world is to stand by helplessly and see a child suffer. Her parents’ strength and persistence have ensured that she is ready to launch out into the world today on her own terms. This struggle definitely made my spirituality deeper. 

6.  Ah, indeed the most painful sufferings in the world is to stand by helplessly and see a child suffer! Kudos to your niece for being an exemplary fighter! Very interesting is the way you made literary inroads through your spiritual quest! How did your association with Muse India come about? How do you enjoy reading others’ works from an editor’s perspective?

I cherish my association with Muse India ever since I came across it in, I think, it was 2008. I used to post regularly in ‘Your Space’ in Muse India where I made many friends and had many readers for my poetry. In fact, most of the poems in ‘Songs..’ first appeared in MI. I started helping out Surya Rao in the Articles Section and gradually took up the responsibility of editing one section. Meanwhile, I did a few special features for MI. On my retirement from College (Smt CHM College, Ulhasnagar, affiliated to the University of Mumbai) as the Head of the Department of English and for a brief period, the In Charge Principal, in 2014, Surya suggested that I take on additional responsibilities at MI. So, since last year I have been the Chief Editor with Muse India. It is also a pleasure to work with the team – Surya Rao, U Atreya Sarma, Ambika Ananth, and Priyadarshi Pattnaik, along with our Contributing Editors like Mohammd Zahid, Dr Dilip Zhaveri, Sukrita Kumar Paul, Sachidananda Mohanty, among others. It’s great to be able to get their various perspectives.

The network of MI is really vast, nationally and internationally. A great advantage is the live interaction with some of the richest minds writing today. I invite all readers of and contributors to RML be a part of it: www.museindia.com 

7. I am also aware that you are closely associated with SPARROW. Please elaborate on this.

    SPARROW, which has completed 25 years of its flight, is the acronym for Sound and Pictures ARchives for Research On Women, and is the brainchild of three dynamic women Dr C S Lakshmi, who is well known in the literary world as Ambai, and pioneering feminist academicians in India Dr Neera Desai and Dr Maitreyi Krishnraj.  The idea behind SPARROW has been the documenting and archiving of women’s lives, with a focus on women artists. It concentrates on Oral History Projects, video films (25 films have been produced by SPARROW), publications of books by women – some of the most important publications are  “The World of Maya”, a book on the  thought-provoking and gender-sensitive cartoons of Maya Kamath, Four volumes (the fifth and final one is being finalised) comprising interviews with and the writings of 87 women writers from languages as diverse as Telugu and Tamil to  Dogri, Mathili and others. This is just about a miniscule part of the extensive work being done by the organisation.

SPARROW encourages scholars and researchers to access their rich archives and documents housed at “The Nest” at Dahisar (Mumbai) apart from organising Writers’ Meets, Oral History Workshops for students, teachers writers and researchers. It is the recipient of the Prince Claus Award. Please do visit us at the website: www.sparrowonline.org

My association with SPARROW is because of my interest in women writers and women’s lives. Dr C S Lakshmi is an inspiration to work with and her team at “The Nest” make the association really worthwhile with their dedication, commitment and warmth.

8. What are your views on the modern trends in poetry and writing in general?  Do you enjoy reading the present day poets / writers? Any favourites? Also, do you feel that women writers, as a whole, add more dimensions and greater sensitivity to writing?

I think poetry has a place in every one’s life – be it in the form of jingles, film lyrics, humorous verses or classic poetry. Today, the multiplicity of forms in poetry is truly encouraging and, with the internet, reaching out to readers is much easier. I believe that all kinds of poetry is to be respected and schools of poetry can be very limiting.

As far as women are concerned, I don’t think that they are more gifted than men as poets. But, poetry does require a sensitivity that both men and women have to develop. Further, apart from emotion, poetry requires discipline, awareness and a vision. The broader the vision, the better the poetry. Discipline, because like all art, poetry uses its own medium – language – which is very fluid and whose nuances give life another dimension of meaning. Language is far more than grammar and vocabulary: it has a life of its own and must be handled very sensitively. 

9.  Thank you Charanjeet, for this fantastic interaction that has been a complete learning and enlightening experience for not only me but I am sure, all our readers. One last question – what is your message to upcoming writers, especially those who pursue a profession and wish to follow their passion for writing too.

What message do I give, my dear friend? If you are in a profession that gives space for your writing, you are lucky; but even with a full time job, if you are a writer, you will create the time for it.

For young poets – read as much good poetry as you can, develop a feel for language, write as much as you can, edit your work as rigorously and brutally as you can. And if you have something important to say – say it; the form and style will come with the strength of your feelings and ideas. Above all, reach out to readers, by all means, but when you write, write for yourself alone.  And treat language not as a tool, but as an organism which has a life of its own and which brings to life your mental and spiritual world.

Jan 27th

Authors’ Lounge – In Conversation with Paddy – Maaya Dev a.k.a. Maayadev

By Paddy

Dear RML Members, Wish you all a Wonderfully Creative, Productive, Positive, Prosperous and Peaceful 2016!

In my Dec’15 Authors’ Lounge Interaction with our redoubtable Elpi Ma’am, I had said that I wanted to save the best for the last. Likewise, I had also long back decided on my Jan’16 Authors’ Lounge Interaction - that this and only this one should be the first of the year 2016 because I could think of no other way of commencing the New Year’s AL Interactions! You will know and understand the full import of this statement as you read on!

Maaya Dev a.k.a. Maayadev here, is a sublime poet inside out, as she breathes and lives poetry! I sensed this when I had the good fortune of reviewing her maiden poetry collection ‘Shimmering Chimes’ that resonates with not only her sublime Krishna Bhakti that she says pervades her but some sensitively expressed poetry (http://www.ratemyliterature.com/magazine/read/shimmering-chimes-by-maaya--dev--a-review_7794.html).

She has already contributed quite a few of her poems here.

Another reason why I wanted to commence my 2016 Authors’ Lounge Interaction with Maayadev is because I wanted to start the year by presenting to you all a Profile in Courage, Conviction and Commitment! Yes, that’s what and much more is what Maaya represents…How many of us can overcome a major accident and reinvent ourselves? This is what Maaya did!

A major accident and debilitating injury early in life, had completely confined her indoors due to severely restricted mobility! Through years of perseverance, patience, determination and making poetry her companion while lovingly cared for by her close family like her husband and parents, Maaya succeeded in creating a new identity for herself, that of a sensitive poet and writer. ‘Shimmering Chimes’ is the culmination of that effort, struggle and never-say-die spirit of our dear Maaya!

Dear friends, without further ado, gear up for an interesting and absorbing interaction with this truly inspiring and admirable poet and  yes a living Profile in Courage, Conviction & Commitment - Maaya Dev a.k.a. Maayadev! 

1.Hi Maaya! Greetings from RML for a Great New Year and a warm welcome to the Authors’ Lounge! Many thanks for so readily agreeing to grace the first of the 2016 edition of Authors’ lounge for a tête–à–tête. So let’s begin at the beginning Maaya. Please tell us something of your early years. 

Hi Paddy, thank you so much for inviting me to grace the prestigious space ‘Authors’ Lounge’. I feel delighted and honoured. Before I get into the grip of conversation let me wish RML family a very blissful, prosperous and creative New Year. 

Somewhere read 'Happiness is revisiting childhood memories'. And today, while responding to your questions here, I am floating in the whirlpool of emotions and memories. For most of us, the childhood memories are precious and the same holds true for me too, except that in my case, it has much more depth than others. 

I was born and bought up in a small town in Kerala. In childhood, happiness meant simple pleasures of life like playing on paddy fields, running barefoot on grass, plucking flowers, eating kanni-manga (tender mangoes), celebrating festivals like Onam and Vishu with cousins, uncles and aunts. Since Dad was working in Dubai, we (me, mom, & sister) lived with my grandparents. I still remember when I was 7 years old; I flew down to Dubai to spend my summer vacation with dad and travelled back alone leaving my mom and sister there. I was very close to my grandparents especially my Muthasha (grandpa), I grew watching him living a simple and disciplined life. I have learnt a lot and instilled values and ethics of life from him. My schooling was in a convent school. I actively participated in dancing, singing, painting competitions and was always known to be a happy-go-lucky girl. Those were perhaps, the best days of my life. 

I graduated in Economics Honors from Calicut University and soon after, we relocated to Mumbai, leaving behind all cherished memories in a closet and got busy with the fresh demands and dreams of life.

2. Ah, for most of us, childhood, school and college days are the most cherished always and I can see that it’s the same with you too! I am aware that it would be painful for you to revisit the subsequent years after your debilitating accident. Yet, if ok, please share some of your experiences from that unfortunate phase of your life that you converted to your advantage to give yourself a new identity and add a new meaning in your life. I believe this question is necessary for all of us here and those who get to read this interaction to learn from you.  However, if you choose not to answer this question, I’d completely respect your wish and move to the next question.

Dear Paddy, nothing to hide really, if my life and experiences can inspire even if one person for a moment, I would be glad to share it anytime. 

As I said, I entered my youth with lots of dreams and aspirations. I got a job in a reputed shipping Company. Life was promising and I was thrilled the way life was treating me. But unfortunately, it didn’t last for too long and within a blink all my dreams crumbled; my world churned into bits. It took some time to register into my senses that a failure of spinal surgery confined me to bed forever. A medical negligence tossed my life. What I could see was an indefinite uncertainty!! 

However, this tragedy could not paralyze my spirits. Eventually I regained inner strength and bounced back. I learnt to accept the harsh reality and refused to surrender to my fate. All my efforts and focus were put exclusively to get my life back to track. Days, weeks, months, years passed, by seeking various treatments and hospitalization while witnessing the ups and downs of life. 

As life moved on, I became more adaptable towards life and situations. My entire perception to look at life has changed over a period of time. I started appreciating simple joys of life and acknowledge the blessings I am bestowed with.  I remained happy in my small world by keeping everything beautiful around me, be it surroundings, people, emotions or memories. Since nothing is eternal, I love to live and re-live every bit of this life. I am happy to have never lost the power to smile at life and blessed to be a ‘Pollyannaish’ throughout. 

3.“However, this tragedy could not paralyze my spirits” – this one line speaks volumes of your courage, determination and never-say-die spirit, dear Maaya, something all of us need to realize and learn to count our blessings. Notwithstanding the fact that you went through a truly difficult and de-motivating period in your life, what inspired you to turn to poetry? Was poetry always a part of your life or did your own early life’s experiences make you turn to poetry as an outlet for your suppressed emotions? 

I don't know if writing poetry was ordained but I was unaware of my writing abilities until a decade ago. It was my sister who spotted the latent flair of writing in me and appreciated, encouraged and motivated me to her best. Initially, I was more into hazy scribbling and was not much into serious writing. At that time, my writing mainly was revolving around my personal experiences and emotions. But since last couple of years, I have been able to give more time for fruitful writing and have earned some amount of creative satisfaction and joy. I found writing highly cathartic, refreshing and simply enriching and encoring my experiences. Life’s harsh experiences refine the sensitivity a poet requires and perhaps that’s how I ventured into the writing arena. The journey so far has made me realize how my unproductive days were turned creative and camouflaged the unwanted into a thrilling experience. 

4.Thank you Maaya, for that interesting and inspiring response. Not camouflage as you say, but converting an adversity into an opportunity! What thoughts cross your mind as you write a poem? 

Many may agree with me when I say that writing poetry is a charming labour. In my case, it is more impulsive and unintentional. It is a beautiful, spontaneous outburst of emotions and imagery, catalyzing in a momentum like some magic unfolding in the form of a poem. It is astonishing to notice how; a theme, an image, an experience, an emotion, a thought or even a word do inspire me to write a poem. Above all, delivering the best to my ability is a challenge until I can come up with something which satisfies me fully.  

5.As I said in my intro, Krishna and Krishna Bhakti seem like an integral part of your life and living…Please share some of your life’s experiences and anecdotes that made Krishna pervade the very core of your existence. 

Well Paddy, I grew up worshipping, listening and reading mythological stories of Lord Krishna. Unknowingly I got fascinated by His personality. But it was during my testing period that I developed a deeper faith and spiritual bond with HIM. I was properly guided with right intuitions and I believe it is HE who acts as a ‘Guide’ in my life. The beautiful thing I experience is I can feel HIS presence when I need HIM the most and I could derive required strength to recuperate whenever I hit the bottom. I truly don’t know what words can actually define my faith, love, adoration, and devotion for HIM but there is a ‘Divine Intimacy’ that I share with HIM undoubtedly. It is a matter of joy that my birthday fortunately falls on ‘Krishnashttami’ that further reinforces my belief that I am blessed and loved by HIM immensely.

6.Very interesting! How did this beautiful poetry collection of yours ‘Shimmering Chimes’ happen?

In my book’s blurb, I have mentioned how this happened. I will share here once more for all of you. As every journey has some origin, this pious journey too started with a call from an unrecognised, unaddressed dream which my instinct embraced whole heartedly to fructify as rhapsody. I am glad it got fulfilled in the most gorgeous way one can ever dream of and thank you so much Paddy for reviewing it brilliantly that added ‘Shimmering Chimes’ worth all the more. 

7.Thank you Maaya. Given the divine and sublime quality of ‘Shimmering Chimes’, my review of it wrote itself! I am aware that you have been extensively decorated with awards for your poetry. Please share some details about them for the benefit and knowledge of our readers. 

Hahaha, I really do doubt that it’s extensively decorated with awards.  But yes, I am fortunate and blessed enough to see that poetry lovers and fellow poets are well appreciating, getting engaged and enjoying my poems. Well, I was able to find my poems in various national, international anthologies and national, international journals like Episteme, Criterion, Langlit, and so on. Glad to win Delhi Poetry Challenge 2015 a National Hunt Contest by Kaafiya Poetry Festival in collaboration with Readomania, bagged the title ICOP CRITIC OF THE YEAR 2015 at Destiny Poets UK along with two more placement in other major categories as (Highly Commended) Poet of the Year, Faith Centred Poet of the Year 2015 of  ICOP AWARDS. Also received other recognitions like Best Poem, Editors Pick, Featured Poet at Writers Digest, Muse India, Poetry Soup etc.

8.Wow! Heartiest Congratulations on all those truly commendable and well deserved recognitions to your poetry! Besides writing, how do you engage yourself?  

In my leisure, I keep surfing and reading. I developed interest in psychology, philosophy and spirituality and found a lovely connection between all three. I observed an invisible transition, a seamless merge one after one (psychology > philosophy > spirituality). It is amazing how these subjects matured my thinking and contoured into the person I am today. Sketching and crafting are my other pastimes I love to immerse in. I usually unwind listening to music. Ghazals and instrumental music are so soothing and meditating to the core! 

9.What are your views on the modern trends in poetry?  Do you enjoy reading the present day poets? Any favourites? 

Poetry since its very inception has undergone sea changes, depending on socio-cultural practices and many other inevitable factors. Unlike Victorian Era, modern poetry is contemporary and poets are highly experimental, innovative, daring and adventure forth into serious subjects like terrorism, war, abortion, abuse, death etc., by dropping conventional poetic diction. Poetry is now a multi-dimensional discipline and the trajectory is more specific and yet unbounded. It is expanding, evolving and is having its own eccentric trending attitude. In short, modern day poetry is the recasting and remolding of traditional poetry with the blend and flavour of realism and radicalism.

Yes, I do read the present day poets too. I enjoy the works of Maya Angelou because of her sensitive approach and emotional depth that she effortlessly and beautifully showcased in her poems. Rainer Maria’s style is unique and I love his haunting, powerful, brilliant oeuvres. Some of my favourite poets are Y B Yeats, E M Forster, T S Eliot, Rumi, Tagore, Sarojini Naidu and thus, the list goes on…

10.If there is one lesson that all of us could draw from your highly positive attitude to life dear Maaya, what would it be?

Life is beautiful in all its unpredictability and mystery. So live life to the fullest and re-invent yourself, your joy and peace in the run. Always remember, life has a way of balancing itself out – when something precious is lost, it gets replaced with a better one.

11.Well said and thank you Maaya, for that most enlightening and illuminating response! According to you, what really constitutes poetry? Do you have a message for the young and upcoming poets out there?

Poetry is ‘Poet’s Painting’ of words and imagination on the canvas of heart. It is the music of a sensitive soul. The tranquil expressions and thoughts flow from the inner world to the outer world to touch and ignite many hearts while uplifting the very cord of life. Poetry is a classy literature form which is aesthetic in beauty, gentle yet powerful, penetrating and entertaining.

Well, reading good literature truly helps. One should enjoy the process and it gets better over a period of time so keep writing. One writes confidently when it comes from the heart. Never ever plagiarise. Slowly adapt a style of your own and stand unique.

Thanks to all those who are reading this interview and once again thank you so much Paddy, for this beautiful opportunity! And before I conclude, let me say that RML is a ‘Literary Wagon’ and my best wishes for more and more success!

Dec 26th

Authors’ Lounge – In Conversation with Paddy – Dr. R. Lakshmi Perundevi a.k.a. Elpi

By Paddy

I wanted to save the best for the last. And that’s the reason why I scheduled the Authors’ Lounge interaction with Dr. R. Lakshmi Perundevi a.k.a. Elpi for the year-end as I felt that no better send off can be given to 2015 than having the erudition of a seasoned and senior writer like our Elpi Ma’am in the Authors’ Lounge! 

Time and again for the past two years, Elpi Ma’am has regaled us with her wonderful poetry! Alas, she forgot her password and then don’t know what exactly happened, all her work here has got deleted (by one of her own commands!!!) and try as our Administrator etentacles did to retrieve her works, he could not succeed! Let’s hope in the days to come, Elpi Ma’am will repost all her old poems here and post many new ones too, so that they are preserved here for posterity because of the immense learning and joy they provide! 

Her enthusiasm and zeal at the poetry meets are to be seen to be believed! She is truly a livewire at these meets and a hugely pleasant company to the young and old alike! Such is her charisma and amiable disposition! Her zest for life, living and poetry are as infectious as her smile! The regulars at CPC Seminars and those who were at the recent 8th International Poetry Festival at Guntur will surely agree with me! 

Dr. R. Lakshmi Perundevi a.k.a. Elpi is a PhD in English and taught at Sri Meenakshi Government Arts College, Madurai. Currently, she leads a well-deserved retired yet productive life at Chennai. 

A quick look at her profile brings forth some interesting tidbits about our Elpi Ma’am – that she holds qualifications in Gandhian Studies and Inter Religious Studies, and that in an interview she gave at Connecticut, USA and made full use of the opportunity “to speak about our country, its culture, people, antiquity, people of different regions and religions living together”. Another interesting facet of Elpi Ma’am is her “interest to infuse positive approach to life by counseling, writing poems and depicting through dolls available, the significance of our culture, protection of environment like Global Sparrows Day”. 

Come friends, let’s find out many more facets of Dr. R. Lakshmi Perundevi a,k,a, Elpi and her life journey so far and draw lessons from them! 

1. Hi Elpi Ma’am! Greetings from RML and a warm welcome to the Authors’ Lounge! Many thanks for so readily agreeing to grace this year-end edition of Authors’ Lounge and for facilitating this tête–à–tête.! To set this interaction rolling, please share with us some snippets from your early years. 

My conversation at times narration, will be from the heart, straight and simple and very different from what we normally learn, as you have called this a tête-à-tête… Born as the sixth child among sixteen children of whom three submitted themselves to enhance the child mortality rate of our country, I was brought up in a mansion like house in the outskirts of Madurai City. My family was my world with no outside influences. We missed nothing being ourselves a good enough number along with the kids of distant relatives and friends and an equal number of children belonging to our servants, living in a joint family in the same compound. All the essentials for a cricket match were available amidst us!

The teen boys would form the team; The neatly shaved sticks would be stumps. The scrupulously squirrel nibbled orange shells in good shape would serve as ball. The coconut Pazhai from which flowers burst would be carved out as bats. And our gardener's son – Umpire! A chatty friend - commentator, all girls and the others left out would sit on the Thinnai or gallery, two boys neither teen nor too young to pick up balls when broken to pieces being dried ones, supply new ones. Last but not the least, would be the cheer leaders - the youngest of the lot in the birthday dress or a wee bit of a nappy. Tea break would be taken care of by my mom. 

Cricket was not the only game we played. There were many more. 

If you are asking about my school, we all again went together1,2,3,4,5,...by school bus picked and dropped at door step checking again 1,2,3,4,5....whether we studied or not, the number should tally! That was the eldest daughter's job. The school was the first of its kind run by nuns and the college too Fatima College came into existence as we grew up and its portals were open for us to continue our studies. But for the St. Joseph's Convent and Fatima College, Madurai, I would not be here for this tête-à-tête with you, Paddy! 

2. Wow! What a memorable childhood and youth! Your cricket team would be the envy of any gully cricketers in India especially those cheer leaders! What inspired you to start writing, Elpi Ma’am – any particular incident?

My interest in observing people unobtrusively in various situations enabled me to be inspired by them. I am a bundle of emotions tickled to laughter and moved to tears easily. Not sufferings alone but even words would affect me. I wrote a poem on a boy selling papers in the train who refused to accept any money for a good help he rendered, and another one on a whale that died on land in spite of the utmost care given to it. 

3.  Interesting! Our Elpi Ma’am a bundle of emotions tickled to laughter and moved to tears easily! Notwithstanding the fact that your entire poetry contributions on RML got deleted for whatever reason, I do remember quite a few of them. I have observed a sense of recalling the past (both pleasant and sad memories) in them. Please elaborate on them for the benefit of RML readers.

I am afraid my answer to your first question grew lengthy so I would give a short reply now…I feel that I have dealt with all kinds of feelings like humour in D-I-L and M-I-L, narrating the hide and seek game we play with modern gadgets specially the smart phones.

Bravery - The Brave Soldier, motivation - The Three Young Men delineating age is not a bar to be young and agile, Nature - The Night's Woe, Roses and Life, The Choice of Flowers! Sorrow - the death of my seventeen months’ old son, generation gap - Bridge the Gap an appeal for the elders and trendy to meet at a point, advice- Anything Can be a Weapon. RML motivates me to pen more and touch upon all aspects of human emotion, endeavour and experience! 

4.  Thank you Elpi Ma’am, for that enlightening response. What thoughts cross your mind as you write a poem?

I write for myself, my happiness and to have an outlet for my feelings. So I do not call myself a poet. Even Pope has said "I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came". I do not stick to formats nor do I try to make it trendy by trying prosaic poetry or poetic prose.  Anything, any word or action would urge me to write, anywhere, anyhow, any time on any piece of material. As I write it takes shape on its own and the end fits in a manner I would never have thought of! I like all my concluding lines as they are not mine. I feel I serve only a medium for thought to find a way for expressing itself. 

5.  Thank you for sharing your thought processes during your poetic musings and outings. Please do share some of your interesting experiences as a teacher of the English language. 

If I can blow my trumpet, I was selected as the Best Teacher by the entire college students which was the first and the last of its kind that happened at my College. 

I had made the outgoing students undergo training in three media namely All India Radio, Journalism in English and Tamil dailies and Television,  a training that was undreamt of in those days especially for girls. 

I had also conducted workshops in English and seminars along with literary exhibitions which were appreciated as the first-of-its-kind by the dailies and Sun TV that also did a dedicated telecast for a few minutes as a special feature. But let me say this - all these were possible because of the students as they realized that it was done for their benefit. Many of them now hold good positions. Nothing gives greater joy to a teacher than to see her students flourish! 

The English Department would always win the shield in all the fine arts activities under my guidance.  I truly cherish those days because now it seems that gone are the days when life was happy and gay. 

6. Kudos and respects Elpi Ma’am for your accomplishments and achievements during your professional life! Besides writing, how are you presently engaged?

Shuttling between Madurai and Chennai I saw the vast difference in the lifestyle and activities. Having some leisure time I wanted to feel at home creating artificially an ambience closer to being at home. This resulted in my arrangement of dolls depicting the interpretation of the verses of Andal, the great devotee of Lord Krishna whose verses are sung in all temples all the 30 days in the winter month of Margazhi. My niece had sung relevant Pasurams in an inimitable voice. It came out so well that it found a write up about it in the Adyar Times, a local publication of Chennai. This is very special for me because the write up drew Mrs Hema Ravi and her husband to me. Hema has been behind me literally supporting all the things I do. Thanks Hema for initiating me into spending my time usefully and for connecting me with more friends.

I spread awareness to save sparrows every year making use of dolls, arranging them in spaces where all could see and learn. 

I also depict the celebration of our Tamil Nadu State festivals like Navarathri, Karthigai and Pongal, in the ancient traditional way using antique things like vessels, lamps, stove using wood etc. Through all these activities, I keep myself occupied and also keep our ancient traditions alive. Sometimes I go on long pilgrimages too. These are some of my leisure activities at present. I also dramatize using dolls to tell stories of the Hare and Tortoise, manually moving the animals and giving them voice.   

7.  Ah, now I see the significance of all those dolls in your profile picture! Please tell us something about your association with Chennai Poets’ Circle (CPC). 

A simple, unassuming gathering of like-minded people passionate  about writing, accepting members in a friendly manner, never failing to show hospitality, patient and interested to lend an ear to everybody's verse from different walks of life, both men and women highly enthusiastic to attend unmindful of the distance even as senior citizens. For this too, I am thankful to Hema for giving me an opportunity to make more friends to share some thoughts intellectually. It is because of her from CPC that I contributed to RML and found a space in Metverse Muse besides contributing my poems in poetry anthologies like CPC’s Efflorescence, CCV’s Poetic Prism, and IPF-Guntur’s Rainbow Hues and Happy Isle. 

8. A Big Thank You to our friend Hema here for introducing a stalwart like you Elpi Ma’am, to RML! What are your views on the modern trends in poetry?  Do you enjoy reading the present day poets? Any favourites? 

I studied at a time when words were considered sacred to be used carefully and with some reverence. Any word inappropriate would be hidden in our text be it Shakespeare, Milton or Wordsworth and Keats. But in modern days due value is not attached to words and they are abbreviated or wrongly meant or unnecessarily introduced in the name of being trendy. Of course good and evil exist side by side and it is up to us to make the right choice. What is meat to one is poison to another. What is trendy today will be out of fashion tomorrow! There were days when we were hesitant to say or write the word love in the romantic sense, but today, even the usage of the word sex is recklessly handled. Overdoing to show being uninhibited is the order of the day. But a writer who makes his writing public should remember that he should satisfy all types of readers. 

My favourite poets of the modern times have stopped with T. S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats and others belonging to their era. Among the present writers, I am familiar with on line poets particularly RML contributors all of whom I like. I would like to make a special mention of Dr.Celes, a writer of his own style, Soman reminding us of Charles Lamb in his  writings, Supratik touching all aspects of life gently provoked but yet contained, Pankajam for her flow of emotions, Hema Ravi for introducing us to different patterns of poetry writing - new or forgotten on both animate and inanimate things giving life to them, Chandra for the detailed research that some of her poems demonstrate, bubul and Rajeev both gentlemanly writers who I look forward to, Madhumathi very emotional and Mona for her musical Ghazals and of course you Paddy for your incisive and satirical take on various issues. This list is illustrative and not exhaustive and includes everyone here as each has a unique style of writing and something novel to offer. 

9.  Perhaps, this is the first time that an Authors’ Lounge guest has chosen so many of our own RML members as favourite writers/poets! Thank you Elpi Ma’am! I had asked Dr. Madhavi Godavarthy an academician, this question and am tempted to seek your views too as you are also an academician. Does being a non-academician restrict a poet or vice versa? 

Paddy, again to be true to myself, your response to each and everyone is highly poetic. You were the one dealing with money. Anybody talking with emotion is unconsciously a poet. To the best of my knowledge, all poets were not academicians. In fact all the poets of yore who were non academicians have become source of research for academicians of today. Then why this thought at all?! 

10. Wow, what a fantastic response! According to you, what really constitutes poetry? Do you have a message for the young and upcoming poets out there? 

Poetry is Music

Poetry is Beauty

Poetry is profound feeling

Poetry is overflowing emotions

Poetry is all embracing and all encompassing. 

Let the writings of the poets be from the heart. If it is the head alone,  then modern gadgets will do the job, but can they touch the heart? Do write poems for all to  read, enjoy, recollect, quote and in short, to live poetry...!

Nov 29th

Authors’ Lounge – In Conversation with Paddy – Mr. Muhammed Afzal a.k.a. Afzal

By Paddy

 

The name Afzal on RML immediately conjures up the vision of all those lovey-dovey romantic poems he posts here, exclusively addressed and dedicated to his dear wife! In fact, many of us ladies here feel that his wife is truly blessed to have a loving husband like him! The rate at which he has been posting poems on his wife, I am sure that very soon he will be able to bring out a dedicated collection of poems on and addressed specially to his wife! 

But wait! Afzal doesn’t write only romantic poems, he also writes plays and poems on variety of topics especially relating to his profession – teaching. He is a Mathematics Teacher at Al Wadi International School, Jeddah, KSA. 

Come, let’s invite Afzal to the Authors’ Lounge and find out more about him! 

Friends, I have great pleasure in presenting my e-mail tête-à-tête with Muhammed Afzal a.k.a Afzal.  

 

1.   Hi Afzal! Greetings from RML and a warm welcome to the Authors’ Lounge! Please share something of your life so far, with us. 

Hello Paddy. I am very thankful to you for giving me the honour to be on RML’s Monthly Authors’ Lounge Series. I am very grateful to the RML family for their support and encouragement..  

Regarding my background, I was born in Hyderabad to a Post Master father and a housewife mother. I was a student of Government Junior College, Aliya, Gunfoundry, Hyderabad. I completed my M.Sc. (Mathematics) from the Osmania University. I started giving tuitions to young students from the first year of graduation to pay my college fee. Coming from a large family and being the eldest son, I really felt shy asking for my tuition fee from my parents. I also did B.Ed. from Shadan College of Education and M.Ed. from Ghulam Ahmed College of Education. Thereafter, I served for over a decade in different schools at Hyderabad. 

I used to concentrate more on Mathematics and Physical Sciences during my college days and gave less attention to languages - English and Hindi - as compared to my class mates.

When I applied to Al Wadi International School, Jeddah, a team visited different cities in India. After a rigorous selection process comprising Aptitude, and Written Tests and live teaching demonstrations, they selected only two people from India and one of them was me! 

When I see myself working with people of various countries and teaching students from different nationalities, I feel a sense of accomplishment and thank God for this opportunity and exposure.

It gives me great pleasure to share with you that I have so far been a very successful teacher. My students like my teaching style very much 

 

2.  Indeed a great story of hard work and success, Afzal! How did your initiation into poetry happen? What inspired you to start writing poems - any particular incident? 

Since childhood I was used to hearing from my father the poetry of Allama Iqbal, a great poet. Once I wrote my thoughts on a paper and showed it to an English teacher of Al Wadi International School. She told me, “Sir, you are a great writer”. Then, I forwarded my work to the English HOD, Mrs. Ayesha Talat, who was very impressed. I am thankful to her for her positive encouragement, inspiration and advice to me to continue writing without bothering about the grammatical errors that got rectified over a period of time through practice and continuous learning to keep improving in my writing skills. 

 

3.  That’s truly interesting and inspiring! Kudos to that English Teacher of Al Wadi International School and the English Language HOD Mrs. Ayesha Talat for igniting the poetry spark in you and their encouragement to keep writing! What thoughts cross your mind as you are writing a poem? We notice that you write a lot of romantic poems dedicated to your dear wife ... Has she finally joined you at Jeddah? 

I always stood first in my class throughout my school life and at college too, I was a topper. Being a topper always, came with its own price of jealousy amongst my fellow students. I often felt lonely… and sought refuge and solace in writing.

When I married, I got the unconditional love of my life partner. She loves me totally, never complains and has always stood by me. Therefore, I write a lot of poems on her. 

When I am in a mood to write poetry, thoughts flow automatically especially when my heart dances remembering my sweet heart wife. She is going to join me at Jeddah very soon within the next 3 months.. 

 

4.   That’s wonderful news! I can imagine how this period of waiting and anticipation would inspire many more poems dedicated to your wife! And yes, we all wish that you continue to write poems on her even after she joins you! Poetry usually is all heart and Mathematics that you teach is an exact science – all about numbers and symbols! Has Mathematics in any way impacted your poetry? 

When I was born, Hazrat Kashfi Biyabani Rahamatullah Alay, my grandfather in relation, and a great Sufi Saint, gave his cloth and told my parents to give the name AFZAL to this boy and wrap him in the cloth and call him by name KHALEEQ. He was a great poet and had the knowledge of an ocean. He was blessed by Hazrath Syed Shah Shah Ghulam-e-Afzal Biyabani, a great Sufi Saint whose Mazr-e-Shareef (grave) is at Khazipet Shareef. 

My father used to say, “You were blessed by the Soul of Knowledge, and the Showers of Light and the Hidden Treasure of Knowledge in man, because you got the sacred cloth of Hazrat Kashfi Biyabani Rahamatullah Alay!”. Insha Allah, in my future life if God blesses me, I will surely do something good for the humanity and also my country. I believe that poetry is a gift to me from my grandfather. 

 

5.   Very noble thoughts those and you are indeed blessed by a great soul that has put the thoughts of service to humanity in your being! Besides writing poetry, we here at RML, have also read some plays written by you. Have any of these been turned into a school play by you and enacted by your students? 

In my school magazine’s first issue, my poem “A MESSAGE TO HUMAN BEING” was published. I was the only teacher whose work was published in the school magazine. All my colleagues felt angry and jealous. In fact, one of the English teachers even banged the door and closed it on seeing me. A lot of politics in every field abroad; usually talent is crushed in a very bad way. The seniors play different and devious games and juniors are given an exit here. I sometimes feel bad that an Indian is plotting against another Indian and not allowing him to survive. My life has been full of struggle, but I have always swum against the tides of this ocean called our world... 

 

6.   Ah, politics at work place! Afzal, let me tell you that is a universal phenomenon and has no nationality! My appreciation that you overcame so many challenges to reach where you have today! May this spirit always be in you! Do you write in any other language too? 

No, I do not write in any other language. But during my college days my friends would surround me whenever I began reciting some poems in the Urdu language! 

 

7.  Now that’s really great news that you were a popular Urdu poet during your College days! May be, you should restart writing in Urdu too?! What are your views on the current trends in poetry?  Do you enjoy reading the present day poets? Any favourites? 

I rarely get the time to read these days due to a hectic work schedule. My school here follows the Cambridge syllabus. We have to prepare the students to top in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and also enable some really accomplished among them to get world ranks. This means a lot of  paper work, preparing worksheets, lessons, etc., etc. 

I do get bored and tired sometimes. RML has truly come as a blessing in disguise for me and helps to rewind and refresh. The encouragement of my fellow writers here spurs me to attempt more poems! When I get the time, I like to read the Harry Potter series of which ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’ is my personal favorite.  I find J.K. Rowling’s style of writing truly impressive and entertaining. I have also read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen and some parts of ‘No Time for Good Byes’ by Andaleeb Wajid, and ‘Macbeth’ again in parts. New writers like J.K. Rowling and Andaleeb Wajid work for me and look very good to me. 

 

8.    According to you, what constitutes poetry? 

For me personally, poetry constitutes an outpouring of the feelings of one’s heart. Our entire universe and its inhabitants can be brought alive through a poem and that too in a few lines! Poetry gives an inner glow and happiness to the person writing it and a sense of delight to the person reading or listening to it! It is truly the nectar of nature’s beauty! It is indeed a Blessing of the Supreme God.

 

9.  Very well said, Afzal! Best Wishes of the entire RML family to you to keep writing always! Do you have a message for the young and upcoming poets out there?

   Yes, I would want the young generation to read a lot of literature too and give expression to their thoughts on humanity and love, so that peace prevails in the entire world! Peace undoubtedly is the Need of the Hour and who better than our youth to carry forward and spread the message of peace and humanity in this world?

 

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