Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life of a Poet ~ Dr. Baishali Mitra

by Sherry Blue Sky

Kids, the other day I read a quote from poet Mary Lou Kownacki that said, "Is there anyone we wouldn't love, if we only knew their story?" That is just so true, and is especially so this week, as we talk to our enchanting guest, Dr. Baishali Mitra, the Celestial Dreamz of Moonlight and Dreamz, who cordially invited me to call her by her beautiful nickname, Moon. When I asked her if she would grace us with an interview, she was so charming and humble and warm, she just blew me away. PLUS she lives in India, a place I have long dreamed about. So for this interview, let's pile some colorful cushions on the floor, close by the fire. Do you smell the scent of cloves and cinnamon? We are having a very specially-brewed Indian chai tea, the most delicious tea EVER. Get ready to dream, as we make a too-short visit to the beautiful country of India.

                                                    


Poets United: Moon, I am so happy to be sitting down with you. To set the scene, would you like to tell us a little about yourself? You live in a glorious part of the world, rich in history and culture. Anything you’d like to tell us about life in India? I am eager to hear your story.



                                            [ Moon "feeling one with nature"]

Moon:  I feel I am trying to make my way and learn from a life whose roots are in the remote past, far behind from all the challenges of the present moment. It is through my writing I try to solve all that is hazy and contradictory.


                                                             [Mysore Palace - wow!]

I was born at Kolkata, an Indian city, rich with the culture affiliated to Rabindranath Tagore, messy, over populated, and yet the city of joy! I was brought up in a society that still considered a fair complexion for a woman as perfect, marriageable and the sole requirement.


                                       ["Carving my way back to history - Karnataka"]

Kolkata proudly showcases all those ancient colonial structures, as well as modern sky scrapers; it flaunts the first metro rail in India and it is the only city that still runs a tram and hand-pulled rickshaws along with. Though I  left the city in 1993, yet I bear its nuances in my heart.


                                            ["A Vaishnav temple at Belur, Karnataka"]

My mother has been a strong influence as I grew up. It is she who taught me that my personality needn't be like a liquid substance, and that I don't have to take the shape of my surroundings. That's why I have always been aware of my identity that could never be sacrificed in the name of adaptation. As a result I was often disliked and disapproved of by other elders in the family for my opinionated nature, as I came across as a rebel to them.


                                                                 ["With my Ma"]

Poets United: Your mother sounds like a very wise woman, who started you off with a good sense of self. Truly wonderful.

                                                         ["My Bengali identity"]

Moon: Otherwise my childhood was fairly quiet. Bengali is my native language but somehow I have always thought in English. I remember how I would sit for hours together in the same place like a plump potato ( yeah i was chubby and I still am and I hate it ... ) and enact several incidents and stories in my mind, and how my imagination would soar higher and higher till it would merge with the gray blue sky. Other than me, there hardly used to be any human characters in my stories ... and there used to be this green frog and the tall tree, the crow and lots of rainfall. For a long time, I thought I was odd as a child, as too many friends never interested me. I loved being a loner and a bit melancholic ... I still do. I could easily relate to Alice in Wonderland and Sukumar Roy's ( Sukumar Roy = poet, artist, father of Academy award winning film maker Satyajit Ray) Nonsense rhymes, Gibberish. For me, my world of imagination has been so much more real than my objective reality.

                                     ["Glimpse of a wild elephant in Bandipur forest"]

Poets United: You sound like a writer and poet to me!  I suspect, with "Doctor" in your title, that you pursued considerable higher education. Would you like to tell us a bit about your chosen field of study,  and how you feel about it?

Moon: Having completed my Master degree in Linguistics from Kolkata University, I have acquired another Master degree in English Literature from Osmania University, Hyderabad, and subsequently my PhD in Indian English writing and Indian Diaspora.

                                   ["Lighting lamps at home - Diwali festival of light"]

Poets United: That is very impressive, Moon.

Moon: I am passionate about my thesis, as I have toiled rigorously for five years for it. In my work I have traced the migration pattern of select authors and its ramifications and repercussions in their works. ... But, all said and done, I realise that I can hardly call myself knowledgeable, as my search for wisdom still continues.


["Durga Puja ~ worship of the Goddess Durga, most auspicious for the Bengalis"]

Poets United: Speaking from experience, it appears that search is lifelong :)  When did you first begin to write? And what drew you to expressing yourself through poetry?

Moon: Well, I have started writing poetry since 2006, and I am sorry if this disappoints you :) but no, I was not writing poems since my childhood, though  I have had this habit of writing down my feelings, emotions, stray thoughts, and incidents in a notebook. By the time I had finished my formal education, I just had a few published literary articles to my credit.


       ["Halevidu Temple - 900 years old - famous for its amazing sculptures"]                                                              
But somehow I have always known that I am going to write poems; like I know that  whether I become successful or not, I am going to be a very happy and stubborn poet. My first poem was LOSS; not really a perfect poem, as there are too many "I" and "my", but definitely close to my heart. My poems usually reflect my emotions and my vivid imagination.
Loss

There are so many ways to die in this life!
Still vivid in mind -
an unpleasant clammy wetness;
panic drying my mouth,
I desperately clamp my legs
as if by doing so I could prevent the loss!

A jasmine tree bloomed out of my naval,
reaching my veins and appendages,
loving my mind and caressing my soul,
its leaf and flower drinking the love in me.

In mind's eye I see a tiny figure, ivory,
and when he looks up to my face
I know those eyes, mouth, smile, all mine;
a life to live,
among all the other deaths.

In that morbid room
I tried to hold onto him urgently,
begged him not to leave and
his eyes begging me too.
He was trying to hug desperately
to that slippery silk wall
that was already hissing like an annoyed serpent,
convulsing and rejecting.

The mother water that swayed him
now rushed him down the alley;
and he looked back
his eyes hurt with betrayal!
I heard that spine raking scream;
like a shrill metallic scrape, his or mine?

The amniotic fluid in his mouth must have tasted death
and my mouth felt the same; the taste of my failure.
There are so many ways to die in this world
I die all over again; death,
most grotesque this time.
Now it is funny when they call me beautiful,
for, when I look into the mirror,
failure as ugly as sin that stares back!


Poets United: Moon, such a grievous loss, and you write it so grippingly. Yes, there are many ways to die in this world. I'm so sorry.

Moon: I lost a baby even before it was born to me- that pain, a strange guilt somehow stayed buried. I would like to believe that I have come a long way towards acceptance, yet there is this vaccuum that time 'n again rolls down my cheek ... it is as if memory stills lashes out cruelly.

Poets United: Thank you for sharing this. I do love how this community shares the hard times, along with the good, and how we support one another.  What led you to this wonderful world of blogging, and when did you begin writing on-line? 

Moon: Soon it became very important to me that I express the shape of my life and my dreams and desires, and blogging happened. It is with a close friend’s suggestion I started my blog in 2009. Initially it was a casual gesture, but soon with everyone's love and with the support of my blogger buddies it became a part and parcel of life. Now my blog is like my baby. It needs to be loved and nurtured and caressed. This is a place I withdraw in order to think, grieve, fantasize, revel ... 


                                 ["A natural sanctuary of migratory birds at Mysore"]

Poets United: How did you happen upon Poets United? 

Moon: Through my blog I came to know my dearest friend TUG -(http://theunknowngnome.blogspot.com/) - who is also a strong influence. It is through TUG’s blog I happened to come across POETS UNITED, one of the best, stable and supportive poets' community. Its my privilege to be a part of you guys.

Poets United: Our privilege to have you. TUG is a gem, isnt he?  What style of poem do you write the most? Are there any forms you find difficult to read or write?

Moon: Well mostly I write free verse, as my poetry happens spontaneously. It's as if the words start yelling in my mind and then they just rush out. I usually have no conscious control over them. They just happen. I also love writing different rhyming forms, sonnets and haikus. I have tried limericks and pantoums but they demanded too much planning and strategising and I just lost interest and left it half done. The day I would be able to write all forms and patterns successfully and easily I would call myself a poet. But of course I love to read them all and it's amazing to find such talented writers here. I humbly bow down to you all and accept that each blog here is indeed a learning experience for me. 

Poets United: How do you know a poem is good?

Moon: Well, I don’t know if the poem is good! I just write what I feel and what I think. You have to tell me if they are good :) ... I am too lazy a person to edit or revise a poem for long and as I said mostly they just happen and I pour them as they come. But whenever I read an old poem I end up not liking it much, and feel the need for a lot of changes and editing.

Poets United: What is it about poetry that keeps you writing?

Moon: Poetry is like passion. It is like a riot that happens to my bloodstream. Poems allow me to leave the regular world behind and immerse myself into whatever I desire. It allows me to pull myself away from mundane stresses and retreat into a more relaxed beautiful creative space. At the same time this isn’t escapism for me. Remember Robert Frost’s Birches? Similarly, poems make me refreshed and stronger to face life and love.

Poets United: Who would you say has been the greatest single influence on your writing? 

Moon: My experiences, my known and unknown errors, my half-baked dreams, my passionate soul – all have influenced me. ... But I am a happier and more content person since my Son has happened to me. My motherhood has given me a sense of equilibrium. I guess it encourages me the most. 



                                                          [ "With my son Aayush"]
Poets United: Such a beautiful boy! Motherhood does complete and define us, doesn't it? For those of us who long to be mothers. What other three poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit most?

Moon: Oops, it would be difficult if you have already restricted the number. I often visit you ( http://stardreamingwithsherrybluesky.blogspot.com/) especially when I feel low and am searching for some inspiration. I have already mentioned TUG as a strong blog influence :); I learn from him. Besides there are at least 20 blogs that I love to visit regularly. But I would mention 3 as you have already tied my hands. :) --
Poets United: Oh, thank you, yikes! I should have added: "not me!" -  the others are such great picks! And a fervent thank you to TUG for suggesting I interview you. It has been totally enjoyable. When you are not writing, what other interests do you pursue?

Moon: I read. Just about anything and everything. I fantasize. I indulge in day-dreaming. If I can take  some time off, I prefer to be among nature. I love to go to forests and watch the wildlife. 
                                                              ["My jungle spirit"]
                 ["Can you spot my companion, the fierce marshland crocodile?"]


The southern part of India has dense rain forests, rich in flora and fauna.  The lush green landscape and the wildlife of Periyar in Kerala, Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu, Bandipur & Nagarhole in Bangalore and Pulicat in Andhra Pradesh have time and again demanded my presence.
                                                         ["The beauty of Karala"]

At present I am reading Paulo Coelho’s Aleph. An excerpt from this book - “... everything you ever experience, or will experience is in the here and now. The world is being created and destroyed in this very moment. ...... Understand what is going on inside you and you will understand what is going on inside everyone else.... “

...everything you  ever experience,
or will experience,
is in the here and now...
Poets United: Beautiful! Do you have any causes that are dear to your heart?

Moon: Anti terrorism.  My heart pains to see the hypocrisy, double standards and the brutality that happen all over the world behind the garb of the word ‘religion.’

Poets United: Believe me, I feel the very same way. Any final thoughts to leave us with? A philosophy of life, words of wisdom, a quote you live by?

Moon: I live by the phrase that we create our destiny the moment we make our choices.
I practice Buddhism. It has given me a new perspective of life. It has made me realise that I have always tried to interpret things and people according to what I want to and not necessarily as they are. The more I chant, I realise that I need to reach and rouse the Buddhahood that is within me; the day I would be successful in doing that, my outside world will automatically fall in its right place.


                                               ["Inside a monastery in South India"]

Poets United: I love that! Buddhist teachings resonate very deeply with me as well. Is there anything else you would like to share with Poets United?

Moon: I wish to thank you all and Poets United for letting me a part of you. It’s amazing how I feel close as family here, but then that’s all about creative art. It allows you to be in a higher aesthetic space and relate with humanity at large.


                                                        ["Disciples"]

My nick name is Moon and I have unconsciously related my whimsicality and mood swings with the ever changing shapes and forms of the Moon :-P  Behind my apparent calm face I have always tried to hide a vagabond’s restlessness. It is my writing and the kind of support I get on my blog that is guiding me towards a more stable peaceful space.  I thank you all earnestly and extend my love and wishes to all of you.

Poets United: Believe me, it is our pleasure to have you in this community! Thank you so much, Moon, for giving us such  generous access to your life, and photographs. I feel like I have made the most wonderful trip to India this afternoon!


                     ["The tallest statue of Nandi Bull~ Chamunda Temple, Mysore"]
See what I mean, kids?  Another wonderful story of a human heart making its way through.  AND this interview has an elephant in it, which makes it a red letter day for me! Isn't it true that the people behind the pen are some of the most interesting folks around? Come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

12 comments:

  1. "Understand what is going on inside you and you will understand what is going on inside everyone else."
    That is one of the truest statements ever. Thanks to both of your for creating this post - I'm so glad to 'meet' you, Moon. ♥

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  2. Moon, it was wonderful to learn more about you and your life and beliefs, and I identify with this statement you made: " Now my blog is like my baby. It needs to be loved and nurtured and caressed. This is a place I withdraw in order to think, grieve, fantasize, revel ..." What a wonderful blogosphere we all inhabit. Sherry, thank you for presenting yet another lovely interview.

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  3. Hi Moon and Sherry,
    A wonderful interview..
    Happy to know you more Moon..
    Sherry, as always you have done a wonderful job..Your writings are touching.
    The interviews are really poured with affection..
    I always read the interviews here so that I could feel that more...
    Thank you very much...

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  4. What a wonderful interview, I really enjoyed reading and learning about Moon.:-)

    Well done both of you. x

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  5. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview.

    What an amazing soul in Moon and what a seamless co-ordination Sherry Blue Sky.

    Fabulous job.

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  6. I love the spirit -- so much insights and love -- of each of you poets, Sherry and Moon.

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  7. Sherry, what a smile you put on my face when I saw this week's interview was with My dear friend Moon! :)) Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Baishali you are truly of the jungle spirit and as beautiful as the Karala, your poetry, your being touch me. Continue dear Moon in daydreams, half-baked and full. Let the riotous yelling continue to express the shape of your life. Remain the ever tender person you are.

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  8. Thank you so much everyone for all your love and support.

    actually it is Sherry's love, warmth and compassionate heart that make us all so beautiful :)thanks Sherry, thanks TUG.

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  9. A brilliant interview and an interesting tour through India - lovely images as well- and a wonderful glimpse into the life of a dear friend.
    What a beautiful soul. Thank you :))

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  10. Beautiful lady. Moon's poetry lights up my day in this lovely community. Great work on the interview, Sherry.

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  11. What a beautiful person Moon is....this is a wonderful interview Sherry...it has been a blessing to learn more about Moon and her lovely poetry. :-)

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  12. It was truly my pleasure. I so enjoy presenting the incredibly varied lives of our talented poets. This one felt extra special to me, such a lovely soul, and so many lovely photos of India, a country I love very much.

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