Monday, September 21, 2015

Blog of the Week ~ An Update with Panchali

My friends, each week you likely visit Panchali, who writes at pancholibochi, in the Poetry Pantry, or at Midweek Motif. Panchali is one of our long-standing members. We last interviewed her in 2013, ( a truly fascinating interview, full of customs, traditions, and wonderful photographs). It occurred to me that far too much time has gone by, and we need to pop back over to Kolkata, India, to get up to speed on all that is happening in our friend's life, which is always busy and interesting. A cup of chai, a grin and a wag of the tail from the beautiful Mawgli, and we are all set to begin. For certain, this will be interesting!

Sherry: Panchali, our interview in 2013 was such a wonderful visit. But reading your About page recently, I found I missed knowing some amazing things about you. I am so happy we can do an update and rectify that, LOL!

Panchali: Hello everyone!! Thank you, Sherry, for giving me this platform once again. I had never given any consideration to the importance of the “About Me” page on the blog space till I read this. Details were typed in a random manner without much thought. Maybe I’ll need to update it again*:) happy

Sherry: Do tell us how your family is doing. You describe yourself as “the mother of canines, cockatiels and fish”. How is everyone? Has your family grown any larger?

Panchali: “I sustain myself with the love of family.” ―I think that’s Maya Angelou. Nurturing a happy family is one of the things I got around to quite easily….so those words resonate with me.

Family isn’t always consists of members who foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belongingness. My pets are part of me, like my human child… (I never bother to rationalize it, though!) We co-exist, love each other. I have the blessing to feel the beautiful connections with animals, Sherry…!!

In the immortal words of Louis C.K., bringing home a pet is a "countdown to sorrow." And, when the inevitable happens it's very very sad. My two cockatiels, both about seven years old, died suddenly within a span of nine months in 2013.  Heavy …heavy… sigh!! I still mourn…and grieve.

Sherry: You know how much I resonate with your feelings for animals, my friend

Panchali: In January, 2014 we shifted home. From South-west fringe of the city to the North-east corner. Along came the entire family: six gold fish, 4 sharks and my sunny boy Mawgli. Relocating them was an experience. The scene around was full of chatter and laughter. I must write about it one day.  J

Sherry: I always love to see the beautiful Mawgli, when he pops up on facebook!  It sounds like a busy move, full of chatter and laughter. And how is your beloved "dotti"? I know you and she are very close. 

Panchali: An emphatic, YES!! ... when you say, I am close to my daughter...(oh, that’s my pet subject…LOL). Her workplace being nearby, she moved near our condominium with her husband recently. As a result, her after-office visits have improved numerically and I am so happy. Sometimes, my son-in-law joins in too. I’m blessed to have the best son-in-law on the planet. I’ll never be able to claim I’m perfect, but I am so grateful to have been saved…

Oh, we are still ‘four’ of us... the new bundle is taking a bit too long to arrive. :D

Sherry: It's lovely they now live closer to you, and visits are easier to manage. On your About page, I was very impressed to discover you have a Masters of Philosophy in Existentialism. Wow.  Tell us a bit about your interest in this topic, and what you take away from your studies. How do your spiritual/philosophical beliefs help you bear the sorrow you see all around you, in this world that is so out of balance? 

Panchali: Philosophic thought is an inescapable part of human existence. Almost everyone has been puzzled from time to time by many essentially philosophic questions about life, death etc. Immediately after I left High school, my brush with philosophy started from the undergraduate course. After my Bachelors, I kept my date with philosophy for my masters and then for the Pre-PhD credits. Year after year, I turned a new page with an increasing interest and never felt disappointed...From speculative metaphysics, I went on to analysis and finally to existentialism! That was the journey. 

Sherry: A very depthful journey.

Panchali: Philosophy of non-cognitive man, but "man" nonetheless , was gradually influenced by Darwin , Marx and Freud. Man was no longer a fallen angel but a descendant of the apes ; the paradoxes of his life became stark contradictions in society. This was hugely appealing to our growing up minds. My outlook of life,  to an extent , has been influenced by this philosophy, which talks about man and man alone….

Sherry: I can imagine so. I was even more amazed to discover you have a Masters in Hindustani Classical (Vocal) Music, and were a disciple of the renowned classical musician Pandit Vinay Chandra Maudgalya. I am seriously impressed. Tell us a little about your musical journey, my friend.  Do you still sing? 

Panchali: Hindustani classical music is a very complex and beautiful tradition of music that goes back over 3,500 years. Ancient Indians were deeply impressed by the spiritual power of music, and it was out of this that Indian classical music was born.

In Hindustani classical music, once you have learned the basic notes, you are introduced to ragas (which are like musical themes), and then you are encouraged to start improvising and making your own melodies within the structure of that particular theme. Today, I am nowhere near the level of talent it takes to become a performing artist, but I can still make some musical murmurings, and that gives me an inexhaustible source of delight.

My love affair with music started very early in life. Bengali children grow up learning music ... Likewise, I was initiated to Music by my father. Later went under the wing of Pt. Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, in 1975…later on, I became a “B” grade artiste of AIR Delhi. Yes, I have given a few ‘light classical recitals’ in Delhi Doordarshan as well. As a teenager, growing up in India in the mid-70s, we didn't have coloured televisions. There was only one television channel those days called Doordarshan. It was broadcast in black & white. No one owned color TVs or VCRs. So, I have no samples of the broadcasts/telecasts whatsoever. 

Sherry: I would have loved to include one here. But we can imagine! 

I note you have volunteered with the Action for Community Empowerment organization. You say you have seen a very suffering side of life, and that when you sit to write “those faces haunt me.” Tell us a bit about this work, Panchali, what you have seen and how it has impacted your heart. 

Panchali: Life abounds around us with almost daily accounts of meaningless violence, poverty and discrimination, and more often than not women and children are the victims, and more often than not citizens, as individuals, remain indifferent. It is a fact that woman is victimized and subjugated by the male community everywhere. And while exploring the cracks of these dark caves, I came across some real horrifying facts…it was like:

The curtains rose....
And a demented view
of the world flared up--
It made me
ashamed to be human!

I always had been a vocal protester against discrimination and abuse in public life. One day, I realised that it would be worthwhile to be a part of a group. Opportunity came after my marriage. My husband worked for a public sector organisation under the federal government. There was a formal platform which provided opportunity to work among woman and children: empowerment through education, vocational support and public health. I recall with satisfaction my happy and long hours in the Adult Literacy Centre and Women's Empowerment Centres for women. I also recall my association with a blind school where I apprenticed for a few weeks. 

Sherry: That is very meaningful work. Bless you for doing it. Your feelings around social justice issues often show up in your poetry. I would love to include one of your poems about this work, Panchali.

Panchali: Of all the discrimination in our society, child labour works among the worst. While there are legislations on the subject, enforcement is inadequate, for the laws in force do not take cognizance of the economic compulsion of child labor.

After seeing a small boy breaking stones in a construction site, I wrote this poem in 2010.


At dusk,
after a long day’s work
a boy stood up on his two feet
   nudged his way into me.
 I focused on his face,
             Eyed it uneasily
    Black, beady eyes staring at me
Blazed hate,     his bruised fingers lit slanders
       Hungry mouth belched
           Spasms of the righteousness
-ah, human insufficiency, I cringed:
             So shameful   so appalling.

His face streaked with dirt 
    broke into a smile-
I was caught in love
stuffed paltry coins in his hand
His smile saddened
     He slumped on the bench near me
         ...unsure with coins
Finally,     returned them.
I tried to talk… ;
Forgiveness seemed too far.
Not words,
    but his movements punched me
           ---in precarious undertones
He slowly prompted:
“I need necessities. Build a happy world for me."

A low rumble insinuated into my mind
Not all people are gallant enough
           to speak for justice.. 
I realized,
A benevolent NGO was fighting
         for his dignity and justice...
I drew in a deep breath
      very slowly,….deeply…and mumbled:
“Here we go... such deprivation cannot go on forever!”

Sherry: Oh, my goodness! This poem. The child. "Build a happy world for me." We need to build him a much better world. 

I also really loved your poem for the endangered Ridley turtle and would like to include it........would you like to say a bit about what inspired this poem? 

Panchali: My growing up process during 1970s exposed me to the Chipko Movement - a sustained resistance by the Himalayan peasants against clear-cutting of forests, and it saved thousands of trees from being felled.  

We realized that 'environmentalism' is meant not only to protect endangered species, but to resolve natural resource-conflicts as well. In 1980s and 19990s...we witnessed the popular effort to protect the natural breeding-ground of Olive Ridleys on the Eastern Sea coast of India. Turtle consumption was banned and successfully enforced. My love and affection for the animal kingdom and flora was, perhaps, an outcome of all these.

Ah, silence too deep to unscroll
    On these polluted shores… 
Battling shadows, lights and noise
Wonder, how long can a small creature
hum and heave and gasp?
Or, fight to stay alive....
when the blood pulse a mating call!?
This is a pathetic death that manhood spills
The rule of Life speaks to me...
…. where there is Life, there is Death too!!
 Someone dies for someone to live. Ah!
Who will solve this Existential Paradox of Life?

I see the wreckage of the 'Olive Ridley turtle'
lying on the sand-muddied shore
at the edge of bay of bengal...
On this grave... the sun falls every morning
chunk by chunk,
              making the sea fly high and low... 
Foaming poison-
                                         the water rips and breaks in the dark...
The red wave of turtles 
        lumber out of the surf on these balmy nights,
         and enter the human domain
           looking for a spot to nest;
.....meaningless human disturbances 
sing the blues; disturb the mating mood
The speed of life stumbles
deep filth fills the body in itch....and slowly decay
This is the Industrial Age's gift to these mortals

Let's not waste time asking...
'Can’t these little turtles
Borrow a small passage from humans
To lay their eggs without human interference,
when we have the earth for both of us!'

I stifle a sob,
place my hand on the wet turtle...
Wheeze a while on the dry sand
Lament loudly: We know the earth's a woman
Let there be some charitable
disposition on the part of human beings.
I, as a mother know
 that to give life,
….is the gift of god. 
Let fortune drip 
                         before it leaves 
the human eye for good.


But, I am no activist. For all I care is life, that I led with my k9 babies--Bibi, Misha, Bozo, Mick, and Mawgli  ( my eleven years old fur-baby who is still a warm puppy*:x lovestruck). And then Tweeky, Tusky and Shanku, the hermit, (a turtle picked up from my rain-splashed garden), and of course, my sharks and gold fish.   I am also blessed with sixty+ potted plants which are with me from 1993.

I came across these poignant lines from Milan Kundera: “ Mankind’s moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude towards who are at its mercy: animals”

Sherry: I absolutely agree, and we are not doing well. Is there a third poem you would like to include here? And tell us a bit about it?

Panchali: In the flurry of modern-day life, our ears get used to the background noise- a period of silence can be oddly deafening and very comforting too. Personally, I love such moments of complete silence. I love the opportunity it provides for quiet, contemplative reflection…

This poem was written on Mary’s prompt in 2013. I would love to share the poem again with the poets here.

Walk into an anechoic chamber
Settle in the swivel chair
Exclude all external sounds
‘Tune to the Sounds of Silence’
 And then…
                            How the sounds …
           To a dangerous pitch
Often buried in the depths of noise
                                  ..Fill up the senses
                               Swell …
To the point of
 Cacophonies stitch the senses…
                 And it strays the awareness
The soft rustle of leaf on leaf
                 Whispering trees,
                                        Oscillating time-piece,
                falling flowers against weight of air
The steam rising from a pot of tea.....
                             Invade the ears

                                         ….mind hovers around inanities 
Its an intimate moment, meditative
                                      Go ahead, touch them
                    They are overflowing...

Sherry: So beautiful, Panchali. I love capturing those lovely moments. What other activities do you enjoy when you’re not writing?

Panchali: Gone are the days when a woman only used to look after the kids & home. Due to internet evolution now there are many business ideas for homemakers as well.

Hand Painting

I always had a flair for good colours and eye for good fabric; so, I decided to get into a saree business with my own label- Raag Raagini. I knew nothing about designing when I started off in 2012. All I knew was that, I wanted to design the kind of sarees that I loved wearing.

I am a self-taught designer, and have become a “designer” in my own right. I’m still nervous about each piece as I have been with my first one; I personally handcraft each saree based on the trends. I keep it simple and just play along the six yard fabric…

Krishna the Flute Player
mural painting on six yard canvas

Sherry: Your work is vibrant, colorful and so original, Panchali. These are just Stunning. Gorgeous. What a treat to see them. Kids, check out Raag Raagini on facebook. So many beautiful things to see!

Panchali: I am passionate about music and grab any opportunity to go to classical music concerts. I love vacations; it is what keeps me sane amidst my busy life. Each country is beautiful in its own way but I am a wildlife person, so my favourite destination is Forest…

Sherry: A busy, happy and fulfilling life. It sounds so wonderful!  In closing, is there anything you'd like to say to Poets United?

Panchali:  Yes! I like to say thank you to the Poets United Team for making this beautiful community where we can share our thoughts with one another.

Thank you, everyone for   supporting a small-time blogger, a struggling yet striving poet like me. You folks give me enough motivation to continue my pursuit of writing…. It's truly an honour to be among you all. This is more than I wished in a lifetime.

And a special word of thanks to you, Sherry for this finely tuned interview. May God bless you, my friend.

Hasn't this been a wonderful visit, my friends? So varied, interesting and inspiring. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. nice update ladies . I am sorry for the loss of your birds, but Def love your definition of family. Speaking of which, how nice that your daughter is closer ans gets to visit more.

    Def the color in your designs are wonderful and neat how that spun out of your own desires to have a particular sari .

    1. X... thank YOU for your kind words !! I am glad you enjoyed reading the interview. Sherry indeed did a great job..there's so much to learn from her... . Thanks again.

  2. Panchali, what an interesting woman you are. I am so impressed by your love of this earth, animals, children and family. I also admire your courage in trying new things. Your designs are beautiful. I am grateful for your inspiration and was deeply touched by your poetry. Thank you.
    Sherry, thank you for giving us more exposure to Panchali. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview.

    1. Wow. Thank you so much, Myrna.. Your poems inspire and motivate me. Thank you for your kind words.Blessed to have found you here 😊Big thanks again.

  3. I'm so happy you enjoyed it, my friends. Panchali, you are one very interesting woman. It is always such a pleasure, chatting with you! Give Mawgli a hug from me, will you, please?

    1. Thank you, Sherry for bringing this interview to PU... :) Mawgli sends hugs and love back at ya, !!! I can’t tell you how much your friendship, love and support means to me. I feel deeply honored to be featured here. *with a warm smile* Thanks a bunch!!

  4. Panchali, your interview here awes me. I knew you were a good poet, but I had no idea you were also an artist and a saree designer! Just beautiful patterns, Panchali. And how wonderful to read once again the poem you wrote for a prompt of mine back in 2013. (Where does time go?) And "Away From Him" is such a powerful poem. Yes, as Sherry said, we do need to build him and others like him a better world. And, ha, I agree that pets are also 'family.' I enjoyed reading about your human family as well, and about all of your interests. Sherry, thanks for this wonderful update. And, Panchali, good luck with the saree business.

    1. Mary, I absolutely adore the way you spin words, so an incredibly generous comment from YOU made my day :)) Thanks a bunch!!
      Thank you for appreciating the saree designs..they are simple yet inventive, elaborate yet minimal. They reflect my likes and sensibilities. The business happened by fluke actually, but I am enjoying now. Thanks for the compliments and good wishes. 😊

  5. Reading this interview was a lovely start to my day! How serene and dignified you look in your photos, Panchali, like the very fulfilled woman you obviously are. The poem about the child and the one about the turtle both spoke to me forcefully. And your work at Raag Raagini is amazing. I am awed by your multi-talentedness, and by your focus on the wellbeing of others (including non-human others). You say you are no activist, but writing so passionately on these matters is one form of activism, and so is your work with/for women. Many thanks yet again Sherry, for a great interview!

    1. Awwww. Thanks, Rosemary,That was a lovely compliment...! Thank you for getting involved with the interview that friend!! THANK YOU!
      I’ve loved your poems ever since I started reading much to learn from you. :)

  6. Panchali, Ma'am, you are such a talented lady. The beauty is you resolved to maximize them in a big way. In so doing you get to enjoy them with all the added personal satisfaction. Besides, you still are able to surround yourself and extend all the love and affections to a 'mini zoo' at home.Talking about painting and designing (self-taught! wow!).These need concentration and inspirations of the highest
    order which get accomplished within your busy schedule. Such an inspiration knowing you, Panchali! All the best!


    1. Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Hank.. your comments thrill me always.. :)))) I do feel free to be impressed with myself now... :P

  7. What a fascinating interview ... I thoroughly enjoyed it! And your artwork and poetry, Panchali, is wonderful!

    1. Thank you, Wendy!! Wish, you all could come and see the artwork in my exhibitions! :)

  8. What a wonderful interview. Your art and your words are very touching.

    Thanks, Sherry, for updating us.

    1. Thank you, Gail for the compliments. So good to see you here!!

  9. Yay! I so love my job! Monday is my fave day of the week, because of all of you, the poets featured, and the ones who come to support and appreciate each other. Thanks to all of you. It is truly my pleasure.

    1. Ohhh...Sherry!! Thanks a lot for helping us get the stories out. It's truly a wonderful endeavour and commendable too – surely a staple of the soul for many many poets here in PU! Smiles...
      A big hug and thanks again!

  10. Another great interview - I like that you included animals as family. As I was reading the poem about the turtle I felt sorrow and I had to choke back a tear. The flute player is have many talents and I thank you for sharing with us at Poets United.

    1. Animals are family, Truedessa!! In fact, Mawgli, my dog thinks he's human too. Love this silly boy <3 !! Smiles...
      Great to see you here ... pleasure to have you drop in.. :))

  11. Whew...what a blessed morning to begin....reading this interview is an inspiration to live meaningfully...Panchali di, your words are so full of beauty, love and depth...bless you...You are one greatly talented soul....I pray to God that may you have the happiness of the arrival of the new bundle of joy to you...the heartfelt poem Away fro Him will stay with me....

    1. Dear Sumana,
      You make me feel so good always... thanks for the pat on the back... it means so much to me... :)))))
      Yes, I am dying to become a, keep me in your prayers.
      Thanks a ton!

  12. Panchali, you have so, many beautiful gifts~ I am in awe! Sherry you shine and polish all poets! I think Poets United should comply your interviews into a book with some extra poems by all members~ What a fascinating woman Panchali is~ Yes, blessings to you, both!! I am profoundly moved and so happy I stopped by~

    1. Thank you for your incredibly generous words and blessings, Ella.What an honour and a joy to work with poets like you here.
      Great idea! It will be nice to have a book with bits and pieces of these interviews and poems. What an amazing community of talent this I can’t wait for that book! :D
      Great to see you here... thanks for the visit... :)))

    2. Actually that thought has come to me as well........a book of interviews and chats with our poets. would be a big job, but a joyful one.

    3. Oh, I am pleased to know that you're also thinking on that line, Sherry... more pleased than I can tell you. Smiles...I hope it happens! It will be such an honor to be part of that publication.. :)))
      Please don't stop thinking about it. Smiles.
      Thank you.

    4. Me too, Sherry--I'd be pleased to assist. Let me know if you want help.

  13. So much life and love - colour and joy..i love all the photos but as an animal guardian the one with your dog particularly made me smile - very good to see you here Panchali

    1. Thank you for the thumbs up... Jae. Pleasure to meet another animal lover on this forum. What an amazing group this is... :)
      Thank you so much for the appreciation... I feel gorged with delight..Smiles.

  14. Thank you so much Sherry and Panchali for this wonderful update :D I m seriously awed by the many gifts you have Panchali Di.. your vibrant spirit never ceases to amaze me.. I have always admired your style of poetry and now after reading this update it gives me great joy to learn about your sari business :D I will definitely check it out on Facebook!

    Wishing you loads of happiness and success for the years to come ahead :D

    Lots of love,

    1. Sanaa rock my world regularly! Your mastery of writing poetry astounds me. So blessed to be here with such talent!
      Thanks so much for the encouraging comment. Hugzz

  15. Sherry what a fabulous are amazing with how you get to the heart of each poet you interview. And Panchali what a creative humanitarian you are...such a creative force with song, words and drawing/creating such beautiful sarees. A beautiful, joyful visit...thanks to both of you!

    1. Thank you, Donna. I admire you so much, so these words carry great weight.

  16. Very commendable accomplishments and so much humanity...Hear the silence is a lovely poem. Glad to have met you here Panchali..

    1. Thank you, thotpurge! So good to see you here... :))))

  17. Yes, I love the poem "Hear the Silence" There is too much noise in the world, people seem afraid of silence.
    Your sarees (saris?) are beautiful. Makes me wish I knew how to wear one.

    1. True that...and silence is beautiful only if listened carefully, Debi. I am glad you enjoyed reading the poem.Every being is actually a live text-book if we are ready to learn...
      'Sarees' and 'saris' mean the same. Wish, I could teach you virtually how to drape one :D
      Thanks so much for coming by.... :))

  18. "Family isn’t always consists of members who foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belongingness." Maybe we are a bit of a family here, Panchali. I love knowing more about you and seeing these powerful poems in the context of your life. My life chases learning, and your poems always celebrate it too--wow and wow and wow. The one that surprised me and brought me to tears is my favorite! We always think the impoverished ones want coins and dollar bills. We can learn from youth what a necessity is. Thank you. And thank you for sharing your glorious art!

    1. Of course, we ARE, Susan. This is a passionate poets' community where each one of us has made connections over the years that go beyond ordinary interactions.
      So many wows! I think, I can pat myself on the back if I managed to captivate you!! *wink wink* Oh, thanks a ton, Susan. I am truly honoured and humbled by your kind words.You made me feel so good. :)))
      Thank you for coming by my page at Raag Raagini. ..


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