Wednesday, July 1, 2020

PADMAJA IYENGAR-PADDY WITH NILAVRONILL



NILAVRONILL TALKING WITH
POET OF THE MONTH

PADMAJA IYENGAR-PADDY
JULY 2020


NILAVRONILL: Why do literature and poetry in particular interest you so much? Please give us some idea about your own perception of literature or poetry in general.


PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: To answer this question, I would just ask myself: why do I love life and living so much? For me at present, poetry is my raison d'être as it has taught me to accept my life with all its ups and downs at the personal level and at another level, it has made me more sensitive, empathetic and insightful. Poetry, often communicates with me at various levels – I am able to gain insights about the poet’s perception through the poem, as also about how and why a particular poem resonates with me. Poetry, more often than not, reaches my heart and remains there for a while till the next poem comes along and impacts me – it could be my own poem or another poet’s. I believe, poetry has healing and levelling powers. There is a poem to suit every mood and time, and poetry thus uplifts mankind in general and humanity in particular.


NILAVRONILL: How do you relate your own self existence with your literary life in one hand, and the time around you, in the other.

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: I believe that my literary life and the time around me mutually compliment each other and drive my self-existence. My literary life often draws from the time around me and likewise the time around me often drives my self-existence. Thus, the three - my self-existence, my literary life and the time around me – are in harmony and at peace with each other. The three, for me, can never be mutually exclusive.


NILAVRONILL: Do you believe creative souls flourish more in turmoil than in peace?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: Creative souls flourish whether in turmoil or in peace. Only the direction and theme of their poetry change depending on whether it is peace time or a time of turmoil. Again, peace and turmoil times may vary for creative souls individually, except in times of major calamities or turmoil impacting entire communities, nations or the universe like the Covid-19 pandemic currently. During the time of a personal peaceful existence, a creative soul will perhaps be inclined to write / paint / create music about beauty, nature, love etc., with all its positives. However, these may change course when one is in deep distress or turmoil – the writing / painting / music would surely reflect the inner conflict and turmoil of the creative soul, somewhere or the other. In the case of calamities, turmoil or deep despair - natural, social, political or any other - at the community, national or universal level, the creative soul may protest, plead, invoke, pray, cry or sermonise through his/her writings, craft or art. However, out of such outpourings, somewhere hope too comes alive for a better future. Often, out of the greatest grief or greatest joy, emerges great poetry and literature, each very special! Wordsworth, usually considered a superior romantic and nature poet, wrote this of the French Revolution:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

Challenging circumstances around a creative soul, often result in highly empathetic, inspiring and humane creations.

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment,” said Henry David Thoreau, the famous author of the 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience” that influenced the greats like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many more.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature have been largely extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: I believe that like everything else, literature too evolves with time... and rightly so. If change is the sign of progress, then it is imperative that literature too adapts itself to the changing times whether in terms of information or technology or both or the information technology itself, that is so much a part of a writer’s work these days! Information Technology has enabled so many literary portals, e-zines and social media platforms like Facebook etc. to flourish and thrive, where with the help of information and technology, writers and poets are able to post their work and sometimes become “viral”, “internet sensations” etc. Cloud is now both a poetic expression and a technology! In the current Covid-19 lockdown times, we see poetry reading and other literary activities taking place via video conferencing – truly a wonderful gift of the information technology. However, the information, technology and / or information technology are all mere tools and aids. What matters ultimately, is the writing and poetry skills of the users of these external tools and aids.

Perhaps, to every generation, the ideas about literature of the next generation, would seem preconceived! Resistance is always a part of our life and as such, every change, every new thing even in literature meets with initial resistance. Take poetry for example, it has evolved so much through the ages, that now a variety of poetry co-exists peacefully and is appreciated. Who in the past, would have imagined prose-poetry as a genre of poetry??? And yet, it has gained eminence and practice in recent times, and surely, internet and social media platforms have enabled it reach, readership and acceptance.!!!


NILAVRONILL: Now, in this changing scenario we would like to know from your own life experiences as a poet, writer and a creative soul: How do you respond to this present time?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: I believe that the present times are the best as we are both the transition-generation, the internet generation and the virtually-well-connected generation with excellent access to global literature and poetry! I call ourselves the transition generation because experimentation is now a part and parcel of literature especially poetry. We are seeing the maximum shifts and changes in writing styles presently, and it is up to us to adapt to these changes to discover more new styles of writing. We have seen and continue to see major shifts in literature and poetry. The good part is after the initial resistance to the shifts and changes, all genres of literature especially poetry have gained acceptance. For example, even the “strict” haiku genre has evolved over a period of time – now we see shorter haiku, even a one-line haiku, which too conveys a lot and is just as impactful as a three-line haiku!

You may be aware that since 2015, I have been compiling and editing an international multilingual poetry anthology Amaravati Poetic Prism that has grown both in terms of poetic value, no. of poems and the no. of languages with each edition. The latest Amaravati Poetic Prism 2019 has 1303 poems in 125 languages by over 761 poets from 86 countries. Such exponential growth in terms of quality and quantity has been possible thanks to the contacts I have been able to develop over a period of time through the social media platforms like Facebook, poets introducing poets and through word-of-mouth publicity that this anthology has been receiving over the years. The poetry that I get to read and learn from while editing the Amaravati Poetic Prism series, has been a great learning experience for me and has enabled me to hone and improve my own poetry-writing skills.  I consider myself fortunate that I have been able to get such wonderful exposure.

I believe that I am living in a time when I am getting to learn a lot from the emerging poetry genres and also from some of my fellow poets who are practitioners of such genres.  And for sure, the experiments should go on for newer styles of poetry to emerge and flourish to enrich literature!


NILAVRONILL: Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? And is this an incentive for or an obstacle against becoming a truly international writer?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: Most certainly yes – writers are by and large the product of their nationality - at least in the initial stages of their literary existence.  However, as they grow in age and stature, they also get exposure to literature of various types from across the world. Here, whether a writer continues to remain a product of his/her national identity or expands his/her horizons by reading and learning from writings across the globe, largely depends on his/her reading habits, access to global writings and also one’s own inclination to learn, adapt and realign oneself. I believe that most writers make an effort to go international, so that their writings find far and wide reach, readership, acceptance and popularity. Thus, they overcome their local and national barriers and inhibitions to be seen, read and heard on multiple and global platforms. Notwithstanding the fact that the writers do commence their literary life impacted by their locality and nationality, but sooner or later, they make every effort to develop wings to fly all over the world! In this process, most writers successfully manage to surmount the obstacles that may impede the expansion of their horizons and literary expressions.

 
NILAVRONILL: Do you think literary criticism has much to do with the development of a poet and the true understanding of his or her poetry?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: I believe that “literary criticism” happens more in the academic realm, that become topics for writing academic papers and making presentations. In the general, non-academic scenario, poets usually post their poems in the virtual world on various literary portals, e-zines etc., or on the social media platforms like Facebook that has several active literary and poetry groups or are published in journals and magazines, where feedback from the readers facilitates their growth. In this context, not so much literary criticism in the literal sense, but an objective feedback surely helps a poet to improve and evolve further as a poet. Also, well-analysed and well-written reviews of their poetry and poetic styles, do certainly help the poets to become better poets. Some exceptional poets and their poetry do become a part of the academic curriculum and their works are then discussed in classrooms and academic circles, and also, become subjects of literary criticism in the academic sense, that emerge as study material for the students and for the authors to get an academic evaluation of their work. Generally, an honest and objective feedback or review, goes a long way in the shaping and further development of a poet besides gaining an understanding of his/her poetry. In the non-academic realm, poetry surely requires serious readers, meaningful discussions and objective critiques for poetry to thrive and evolve.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: Yes, I agree with that statement. My poetry has often been a reaction to what I see in the society around me, whether in politics or other events taking place in the world. I am not much of a romantic poet. In fact, I have hardly written any romantic poetry. How I perceived the society while working in the bank, dealing with clients and their expectations, reading poetry of other poets and also the goings-on around me, have all certainly shaped me as a poet and my poetry. Besides, my inner thought processes, personal experiences, attitude of our society towards women etc., have all also played a major role in shaping me as a poet and have also influenced my poetry. I possess an innate sense of humour and the ability to laugh, that have enabled me to view events around me in a totally different perspective at times and come up with some satirical and humorous poetry that may bring on a smile and surely drive home the message too! Humour has also helped me to shield myself from negativity, though at times, I may seem cynical too! I believe that a good sense of humour sharpens one’s vision and intellect.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think people in general actually bother about literature?  Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: Literature and poetry lovers are a class apart and these are not just from any particular fraternity or profession. They come from various professions, strata of society and different orientations. People in general may pooh-pooh literature; some even refer to poets as “wool gatherers”! But then, there is a set of people who are passionate about literature and poetry; they will somehow make the time to read and write. One sees excellent literature and poetry coming from medical, engineering and IT professionals, bankers, teachers (of not necessarily literature), lawyers, scientists and a variety of other professions and vocations, even in this consumerist world. Pursuing of literature and poetry by the so-called “non-literary” persons, requires a certain passion and keen interest, that enable even busy professionals to pursue serious literature and to also pursue literature and poetry seriously! As for the average man turning away from literature especially poetry … well, I guess, poetry or literature has never been the average man’s choice in any age. As I mentioned earlier poets, writers and literature/poetry lovers are truly a class apart in every age – consumerist or otherwise! It is so heartening to see writers and poets from across spectrums, making waves and enthralling their readers, even in this consumerist world!


NILAVRONILL: We would like to know the factors and the peoples who have influenced you immensely in the growing phase of your literary life.

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: The writings of my late brother R T Iyengar who died young at the age of nineteen, three years before I was born, influenced me greatly very early in my life. He was a superb poet and essayist both in Hindi and English, and was widely published in those days (1945-1949) in various journals and newspapers. He was also a wonderful artist specializing in pencil and India Ink sketches. Being inclined towards poetry myself from a very young age, I saw great rhythm and musicality in my late brother’s poetry, and therefore, was greatly impressed and influenced by his writings. I wrote my first poem in Hindi at the age of eleven for a poetry competition in my school and won the first prize too. Being a voracious reader, I read a lot of Shakespeare, and poets like Walter Scott, Byron, Wordsworth, Shelly, Browning, Stevenson, Tennyson (his “The Brook” is my all-time favorite), etc. And later, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Rumi and Vikram Seth. Amongst the Hindi poets, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Vrindavanlal Verma, Makhan Lal Chaturvedi, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Jai Shankar Prasad, Mahadevi Verma, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and many more were my inspirations. The works of a few Marathi stalwarts like V S Khandekar, Sane Guruji etc. that I read while in school, too impacted me. In my mother tongue Tamil, I have been very inspired and impressed by the writings of poet Subramanian Bharathi, and fiction writers Vasanthi, Sivasankari and Indira Parthasarathi. Andal Priyadarshini, a contemporary Tamil poet, too is my favourite and inspires me a lot.

It has always been a great regret for me that I could not pursue my earliest hobby of reading literature and poetry as further academics. Inevitably, I was drawn (sucked would be more appropriate) into the banking profession at the young age of twenty one as an officer that continued for over three decades as a senior banker, leaving me little time to do what I always wanted to do – to read and write poetry, essays, short stories etc. Once I was able to fulfil my responsibilities as a single parent towards my son and he settled in a decent job, I left my bank job and started seriously focussing on my writing especially poetry which has always been a passion for me. Thus, the “serious” phase of my literary life, commenced only around the year 2010. My elder sister Vijayalakshmi Sunderarajan too is an accomplished Tamil and Hindi writer and translator, and her body of work has also inspired me to grow as a writer and poet. My late mother who used to compose devotional songs and set it to music herself, has also been a major factor in my wanting to be a poet always, though economic and other compulsions drove me into another field for quite sometime …


NILAVRONILL: How would you evaluate your contemporaries and what are your aspirations for or expectation from the younger generation?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: Being a late bloomer in the literary and poetry field, I have lots and lots more to learn as a writer and poet. Therefore, I find myself most unequal to the task of evaluating my contemporaries. I believe, they are all great writers and from each of them, I have something to learn when I read their works. My aspiration for the younger generation is, notwithstanding the pressures of their chosen profession, they perhaps, should devote sometime to read the literary classics and contemporary writers. They also perhaps need to hone their grammar skills, as I get to read a lot of them and notice their not paying attention to language and grammar. My intention is not to sound schoolmarmish, but sometimes improper language and inappropriate grammar do jar or mar the quality of a piece. Poetry surely is an unbridled outpouring of one’s inner feelings and thoughts…however, in the written form, I believe that in needs to be properly channelized and crafted. Before it is sent for publication, a revisit of one’s poem I believe, is necessary, to obviate avoidable errors.


NILAVRONILL: Humanity has suffered immensely in the past, and is still suffering around the world. We all know it well. But are you hopeful about our future?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: Yes, humanity has suffered and continues to suffer all across the world. In the consumerist and materialistic world that we are living in, greed for power and supremacy to become economic super powers, nuclear super powers, and many more, lead to struggles for supremacy between nations. Intense competition in this consumerist and firepower-driven world, also creates rifts and complexes between the have and have-not nations as also between individuals. Politics too plays a major role in stoking passions, mistrust and superiority complex between nations and people. Yes, I am hopeful about our future, especially after the sudden attack by COVID-19 that has locked in the mankind like never before and has set us all thinking about the ephemeral nature of our existence, and also to reassess and realign our priorities! These times have provided us ample me-time to introspect and turn the light within to find new paths. As nations emerge out of the Covid-19 threat, I am sure a new world order too will emerge of better cooperation, understanding, mutual respect, mutual trust and empathy. I hope and pray that upholding human values henceforth is on the top of any and every agenda! Also hope that international multilingual poetry anthologies like Amaravati Poetic Prism too play a role in binding nations and communities together and in promoting peace, harmony, amity and brotherhood through poetry!


NILAVRONILL: What role can literature in general play to bring a better day for every human being?

PADMAJA IYENGAR PADDY: Literature in general and poetry in particular, can communicate with the human being about what is important in life. Well-written poetry with a message can truly impact a person in a way that no other medium can. Poetry usually makes the reader ponder and introspect. Much like a powerful painting, poetry often leaves a personal-level impact as the reader can relate to it deeply and a good poem usually gets a revisit.  Also, poetry being usually short, manages to convey in a few verses and simple words, what reems and reems of text can’t do. Poetry has the capability to evoke a variety of positive emotions like patriotism, love, kindness, appreciation, gratitude, empathy, humour and many more, and thus, make the day worthwhile for every reader. The rhyme, rhythm and reason in poetry are unique and therefore, have the ability to raise the bar for the human being.


PADMAJA IYENGAR-PADDY, a senior ex-banker and a former urban governance consultant, is currently the Hon. Literary Advisor, The Cultural Centre of Vijayawada and Amaravati (CCVA), and on the Advisory Panel of International Society for Intercultural Studies and Research (ISISAR), Kolkata. Paddy’s maiden poetry collection ‘P-En-Chants’ has been recognized as a Unique Record of Excellence by the India Book of Records. She has compiled and edited 6 international multilingual poetry anthologies, one of them ‘WWW – Women, Wit & Wisdom’ of women poets. The other five, ‘Amaravati Poetic Prism’ 2015 to 2019, have received world-wide recognition with the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions recognized by the prestigious Limca Book of Records published by Coca Cola India and the 2019 edition with 1303 poems in 125 languages by over 761 poets from 86 countries, yet again in Limca contention. An official Member of the World Nation Writers Union in Kazakhstan and a recipient of several awards and honours, Paddy is regularly invited to national and international literary events to read her poems. Her poems, articles and short stories, some of them prize-winners, have been published in various national and international anthologies, print journals and e-zines. Her poems have been translated into several languages.

NilavroNill Shoovro: The Indian poet, is the founder editor and publisher of the monthly web journal Our Poetry Archive. His poems have widely been translated in many European languages. He is also an essayist and writes lot of articles on social issues, current affairs and literature.



7 comments :

  1. Very lucid without of depth.her thought processes are awesome proud to be sister of this great personality look forward to her becoming shinya academy fellow

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  2. Thank you respected Editor Nilavro Nill Shoovro, for featuring me as "The Poet of the Month" for the Jul'20-Special Indian Edition of OPA and for publishing 5 of my poems in this prestigious journal besides this in-depth interview that you yourself have done with me and published here! I feel truly proud and privileged for this great honour that you have bestowed upon me! Deepest gratitude!

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  3. Reading the interview was also like reading a poem which flows gently explaining the heart of the poet. Felt a touch of breeze while reading the interview.

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  4. Thank you dear Mallika, for your heartwarming feedback on the interview!

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