Monday, October 27, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - ENIGMA

Kids, this week, we are meeting with the beautiful young poet, Preeti Sharma, who writes at MUSINGS AND REFLECTIONS, and who posts under the name Enigma.  Preeti lives in Jaipur,  in India. As we're arriving, the sun is touching the buildings and turning everything the most lovely color, so I see why they call it the "pink city."  


Sherry: Preeti, I'm so happy to be meeting with you! Would you like to be called by your name, or remain Enigma in the interview?

Preeti: It’s one of my new year resolutions – to own up everything I post in the blogosphere, which I normally don’t do. So yes, I’d love to give my pen name a face and a (verifiable) identity. 





Sherry: And here you are, revealed in all your youth and beauty! Preeti, paint us a little picture of your life today, will you? And might you tell us a bit about your childhood?

Preeti: It’s difficult to recollect my life in a couple of sentences. But I’m going to try.
I’m 22 years old and a single child of my parents, constantly giving them trouble for being too unconventional. My father worries over my career while my mother worries over my clothes. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been quite a drifter, drifting between the place of my birth, New Delhi, which is the national capital of India,


Delhi - India Gate

 and the place where I was brought up, Jaipur – the pink city.


Jaipur - tripcrafters.com


My maternal family is very closely knit, so Delhi has always been just another home. I never actually learned how to differentiate between ‘siblings’ and ‘cousins’. And not surprisingly, my cousin brothers were my first best friends.

As a kid, I was pretty much an ideal child because I don’t remember my mother ever complaining about anything except the time I spent watching T.V. (cartoons are still my weakness, haha.) Around the time puberty started working its magic on me, my parents started having domestic and financial troubles. We endured a couple of rough years down the line, which I believe quietened me down as a child. I became more introvert and introspective and a bit too emotional. 

My father is every bit of a bibliophile like I am and it is his diligence and keen interest in my reading habits that I celebrate in every word I write. He has shelves upon shelves filled with books (mostly fiction) although, he has always found it inappropriate for his daughter to read Sidney Sheldon books, and to be honest, still does. So he wouldn’t willingly share his book collection with me. But he would bring stacks of children’s magazines and comics for me to read and reread and re-re-read till I could basically narrate every word on every page without as much as a glance on the paper. 


Qutub Minar

What began as a stint to kill time gradually developed into an intense affection for the written word. The old librarian at school found me a complete nuisance, showing unwarranted interest in browsing the shelves and being extremely picky about the books I chose to read. 

On the other hand, I had a very troubled relationship with my mother and I could barely get along with her till the time I started college. But, as one of my older (and wiser) maternal cousins told me, we all grow up to forgive our mothers and love them for everything that they DID do for us. It’s still difficult for me to be the ideal daughter, with her being picky about my T-shirt dominated wardrobe and lack of interest in art. But it’s easier for me to be her friend and make up for the lost mother-daughter time that we didn’t spend together in the past. It’s crazy how domestic issues can cause a ripple effect, and misunderstandings that creep in between two people, can spread out to an entire family. 

My paternal family was a broken unit which, I believe, has left a kind of mark on me, a legacy of solitude that I carry with reluctance. But I guess, we all have our share of childhoods that are imperfect and, in a broader view of things, I am proud of the person that I am today and it would not have been possible for me to be so without the kind of experiences – both good and bad – that I have had.


Albert Hall Museum

Sherry: This is so true, Preeti.  I looked around your site and see you are a student. What is your field of study? What are your hopes and dreams after graduation? 

Preeti: I turned 22 this may. My field of study is, not surprisingly, English Literature. In India, kids mostly segregate into different professional fields, such as engineering, medicine and law, after they finish school. So it was quite a break that I made in my family when I decided that I was not cut out to be an engineer (the horror of maths!) and took the easiest possible way out in terms of the career question. I loved to read and I loved to write and literature provided ample opportunities to do both. It also makes me feel intellectually superior to my friends when I go about dropping heavy vocabulary words and unknown author names in random off-topic conversations. 

But it’s only a temporary high which lasts as long as I’m not being asked to mentally compute the amount of change the salesman owes me or how Rome, although once an empire, is a city today and not a country and no, that is not how you pronounce ‘gauge’. It’s an important lesson that I’ve learned – just because you know something that your friend doesn’t, does not make you a high-brow intellectual. Another important lesson that I learned is that mathematics has real life utility, which I haven’t been really able to put to use yet.

My ‘hopes and dreams’ are constantly in a flux and I’ve not gone too far from being that impulsive and indecisive child that I once was. But I have learned to give each dream and hope a shot while I can. So between owning a publishing house and winning the Nobel prize for literature (go big or go home, eh? :) ), I’m planning to become a professor, sharing with my prospective students the infinity and the magic that lies bound up within the pages of every book. 

Sherry: You have wonderful goals and dreams, Preeti. I love that you want to open students' minds to the joys of literature.

Preeti: I’ve had the good luck of being taught by some amazing teachers, who made the most difficult parts of literature (such as T.S. Eliot and Existentialism and general Literary Theory) a smooth sail. The way that I have begun to think and act, having graduated with an honours degree in English, is every bit of an irreversible change.  I’ve become a feminist. I’ve become critical of things I see and experience in everyday life. I’ve learned, what you say, to read between the lines and look beyond what is overtly said and done. That is the power of literature and the power of excellent teaching. 

And that is why I want literature to be an essential part of everybody’s life. It has the power to transform you from within and help you develop an unhealthy obsession with your favourite literary characters. “Heathcliff!”

Sherry: I can relate! I adored him when I was thirteen. Now I think he was a big old grump. Sigh. How things change, LOL. When did you write your first poem, and do you remember what caused you to pick up your pen and write it? What made you choose poetry, rather than prose? 

Preeti: Interestingly, my first poem was a religious poem, rather a prayer. I wrote it sometime back in 2006 with a blue glitter pen on a page so old that it’d crumble at the first instance somebody tried to fold it.  I clearly remember everything about it, except the words, of course. I also remember the amused grin of my mother when I proudly recited my original Christian hymn which probably made her think about what went wrong with my training in the family religion.




Taken on a recent trip to Goa


And poetry was not a conscious choice over prose. I chose poetry because I’ve always been in love with rhymes and crisp poetic structure. This was also the time I had started maintaining a personal diary so in reality, I was writing a lot more prose than poetry.

Whatever caused me to pick up my pen and write a hymn was nothing more than sheer boredom, coupled with an unshakable confidence in my literary abilities. Sadly, I did not have a special moment of inspiration or any epiphany that made me write my first poem. Although, in terms of prose, it was mostly anger and frustration of being scolded by my mother, recounting the dead-pan details of a studious school life and, later, the mushy feeling of falling head over heels for a classmate. A major part of my diary entries are a result of ranging emotions more than raging hormones, or maybe both.




Sherry: I see you post prose on your second blog, A Cluttered Mind.Which comes more easily to you? Do you feel differently when you complete a poem than a prose piece?

Preeti: ‘A Cluttered Mind’ is, or was supposed to be, a sort of an online journal which I didn’t believe anyone would want to read. I started it because I had stopped writing in my diary for some reason, and was looking for an outlet where I could  write without deliberating and just letting my fingers and imagination loose on the keyboard and on the screen. Over time, such random posts have helped me develop a prose style which is not really my own unique voice yet, but close to it.

I really cannot say what comes more easily to me. I’ve had my share of writer’s block both for poetry as well as for prose. To an extent, my poetry has become prosaic and my prose has become poetic. But I don’t mind it since I’m still discovering and inventing myself as a writer. Prose does demand a bit more clarity of meaning than poetry, so I guess I struggle less with the latter, shifting the burden of interpretation on my readers (the very idea that there are people who like to read my work makes me incredulous and happy). I’ve always been a bit of an escapist, haha, but maybe ‘lazy’ is a more appropriate word.



Taken at our annual handicraft exhibition



Sherry: I love that your prose is becoming more poetic - the two genres complementing each other. In looking around your blogs, I found the most amazing line. You wrote, “My mind is now a warrior, but my heart is still a foreigner.” Would you like to tell us a bit about what that means?

Preeti: This is a line from a song called ‘Grade 8’ by Ed Sheeran, my favourite singer. And the reason why I love his songs so much is more because of the lyrics than the music. It’s just a stray line, but if you go about browsing his work, you will come across such amazingly simple and raw poetry that will make you love his songs. So yes, I am not the one who originally wrote this line. “No copyright infringement intended!”

To come back to the line in question, I think I used it because it perfectly portrays the conflict that I face between the calling of my heart and my mind. As parts of me, both have gone through the same struggles, but while the mind has decided to toughen up and face the challenges lying ahead, the heart still wishes for happily-ever-afters and things foreign and unknown to me. It’s like wanting something but not knowing what exactly it is that you long for. The mind is easy to dissect and analyze, the heart not so much.


Exhibition at Surajkund, Gaziabad



Sherry: I  resonate with not knowing what it is you long for. I suspect most of us feel that way when our lives are beginning. It all finds its way to us in its own time. Is there one person you would say has had a significant impact on the person you are today? 

Preeti: I’ve had trouble forming long-lasting intimate relationships with people – be it parents or friends. It’s mostly because of me being a volatile person. The only person that I ever felt extremely close to and completely understood and accepted by, was my (ex) significant other (I promised myself not to mention him because both my blogs are bursting with sad romantic poetry and posts, but oh well). Overall, I find myself to be the accumulation of many influences, and I cannot pick out one person who has affected me the most.

Sherry: Preeti, I am so struck by your short poem Hiroshima. Wow. I wish to include it here.
one wide, wide island
shadows and ashes and dust
little, little boy

Preeti: Can I just momentarily gloat over how amazing this short poem is? I still cannot believe that it got rejected by a Haiku magazine, hahaha.


Goa

Sherry: I can't believe it either. It is so powerful. Is there another poem you would like to include in this interview? Maybe tell us a bit about what it means to you?



I question the credibility of my stagnated love
But I am choked
And the cracks in his silence remain as they are

The imbalance of our inclinations
And his sour sympathies
Destroy the worlds I create for him

So I tear myself apart on pages he never reads
In pensive stories
Crafted for unfamiliar eyes

The horrors of love are just a phase, he said
Give us time, give me space, he said
Click! and a thousand suns died.

He smiles at his new sunrises
Tossing aside the remains of this decrepit love
Teaching me how to do the same

But I don't want to, not yet.

Preeti: Because I like to think of myself as the literary Adele, hahaha.

Sherry: I so relate to ""and a thousand suns died." You have captured the feelings exactly. What other interests do you enjoy?

Preeti: Predictably enough, I love reading, that too, out loud. I’m beginning to like the genre of performance poetry, and I’d recommend a YouTube channel called ‘Button Poetry’ to the readers. Other than the literary activities, I enjoy photography, virtual gaming and eating.



This is a famous Goa layered cake called Bebinca.

Sherry: The cake looks delicious! Is there a cause you are passionate about?

Preeti: It’s really difficult to pitch a certain section’s needs above those of others. It’s embarrassing to admit how little of my time, energy or money I have devoted towards any of the ‘causes’ that I’d like to help. For instance, I understand the importance of education and would like to contribute in literacy campaigns around my area. But education becomes an unnecessary luxury when one is struggling for basic necessities like food and shelter. 

And there is a burden of class consciousness that we carry with us which makes us look at people from the lower rungs of society as some kind of aliens. Evoking sympathy for them in my writings doesn’t amount to much, unless I can accord every human being the same dignity and respect that I claim for myself. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a cause.

Sherry: Awareness is taking the first step, my friend. How has the online community impacted your poetry?

Preeti: I have been a part of two online communities – Writerscafe.org and Poets United. Both the communities have made a tremendous contribution in my development as a writer, although at different points in time. Writerscafe was there for me in the beginning, introducing me to new genres, new styles, new subjects and new writers. I experimented, which is a sophisticated way to say that I wrote all kinds of rubbish which fellow writers were kind enough to appreciate and give much-needed constructive criticism. 

I was a bit more mature as a writer when I came across Poets United and I found myself  part of a community which is teeming with brilliant writers from all walks of life. It’s amazing how I can reach across time-zones and read works by such a diverse range of writers. And as a result of all that reading, I can notice a sort of refinement in my own work. The more I read, the better I get. And more than anything, I love the feedback I get from other members of Poets United – it’s always very encouraging to see writers much more experienced and qualified than me liking my work.

Sherry: This is a supportive community, isn't it? My writing would not be what it is, without it. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Preeti: Thank you. Much love and awesomeness to every one of us.

Sherry: Thank you, Preeti, for allowing us to get to know you better. We will enjoy your poems all the more, for knowing the poet who is writing them. 

I so enjoy these visits with the poets in our community. Every week another unique poet, with an interesting story. Do come back and see who we talk to next, my friends. Who knows? It might be you! 


15 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this interview, Sherry. It is nice to see that "Enigma" is less of an enigma than she was before. Smiles. Preeti, you really sound like a very mature poet. You share your hopes and goals for your life well & have an honesty about your work that I like. I enjoyed reading that your father's love of books had such a strong influence on you. And I agree -- "Hiroshima" is an excellent haiku.

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  2. Ha ha, Mary, I love that "Enigma" is less of an enigma now. I so enjoyed doing this interview. Preeti, I was amazed to find just how pink the pink city actually is - what a glorious shade it is when the sun hits it at just the right time. In Tofino, four o'clock was the magic hour, when the mountains blushed a deep rose pink....so beautiful.

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  3. I enjoyed reading this interview, Preeti. Thank you for accepting to share so much about yourself. We certainly know much more about you now.
    I too studied English many moons ago and became an English teacher, not a professor though. As an avid reader, especially at the time, I enjoyed studying the English literature and language. We also studied civilization. Thank you also for the glorious pictures. I love cooking and eating and your cake looks fabulous.
    Sherry, as always, you did a great job!

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  4. A lovely interview as always Sherry...So glad to get to know you Preeti...I'm totally blown over by that awesome little haiku...wow...I've been to the Pink City way back in 1987 and that too by Pink City Express from Delhi :)...you are lucky to live in that beautiful town, in fact Rajasthan itself is a fairy tale State full of forts, stories of kings & queens, hills & desert...Thanks for this lovely chat :)

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  5. I love "Button Poetry"! But Ed Sheeran's is new to me and I'm listening to his album now ("The worst things in life come free to us ..."). Great interview, you two. Thanks for letting us know you Enigma, and sharing such beautiful photographs and powerful poetry.

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  6. Preeti, thank you so much for sharing with us. I wish I'd had half as much enthusiasm for life when I was your age. I was always a scaredy cat. I read John Hersey's "Hiroshima' when I was a little younger than you are now and it left a deep impression... I think your Haiku is wonderful and can't imagine it being rejected by the magazine.
    Sherry, fabulous job with the interview. I am so glad to see a real person behind the Enigma.

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  7. So nice to get to know each other better through these visits.......thank you, all, for reading, and Preeti, for sharing your story with us.

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  8. i always enjoy reading about the artists / writers. i am relatively new to this site and it's a good way to start.

    the hiroshima haiku is beautiful.

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  9. Do keep coming back, Totomai. The best way to get to know us is to take part in the Poetry Pantry every Sunday - that's when we all come to pluck poetic goodies off the shelf. So happy you found us.

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    1. Thanks Sherri -
      My love for poetry especially haiku is coming back.
      I have forgotten how I write poems back then haha :-)
      Thanks for this site.

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  10. Hi... Preeti.. Wish you all the best to pursue your dream job.. :) You captured awesomeness in your clicks and your poetry...

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  11. Hi Preeti,
    nice knowing you.
    don't be put off by those rejections, poetry selection/judging is very subjective.
    i like the hiroshima haiku, it has strong imagery on many layers. and the name of the bomb that destroyed the city was "Little Boy".

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  12. Hello everyone,

    Thank you all so much for your kind words. I'm so happy to be a part of such an amazing online community of writers.

    And a special thanks to you, Sherry, for my first ever interview as a writer (actually, my first ever interview. Period.)

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    1. You are most welcome, my friend. I was more than happy to get to know you better, and enjoyed the whole process.

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  13. Hi Preeti, sorry missed your interview, don't know how I missed it. Really nice to know about you and I enjoy your writing very much. Best Wishes.

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