(Those who have not read the first part can read it here)
There’s an odd kind of silence in the room.
Fury giving way to stillness.
It’s only the clock ticking on the mantle shelf and the strong aroma of filtered coffee that justified our presence in the room.
I cleared my throat to repeat the question
Me: How would you like to be known as ten years hence?
Amitji: I am not ambitious enough to wish how I would like to be known as! Life is a mystery…if my wish comes true I would rather be with an NGO working for an environment related cause, or in a sanyaas ashram tucked away in a small Himalayan village, meditating, studying Buddhism and Zen with the Masters.
Me: What about experimentation in writing?
Amitji: I am all for it! Writers, and especially poets, must not restrict or confine themselves…should give free wings to their flight, even at the cost of losing purity of language. Expression of feelings should be primary and unalloyed…the vehicle may be otherwise!
Me: And commercial success……………….?
Amitji: Lucky are those who enjoy it, but it must not deter those who don’t. It has its negative side as well…perhaps the pain of deprivation and want will vanish in a rich man’s poetry, or at least it will not be genuine.
Me: Pick any one of the quotes which is closest to your heart and why?
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words – Robert Frost
Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not an expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But of course, it is only those, who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things – T. S Eliot
I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing the least what they mean – Socrates
The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth – Jean Cocteau
Amitji: Only a fool would attempt to counter any of these geniuses. I dare not be judgmental about Mr. T.S. Eliot’s statement, one of the most learned poets ever, but will however submit that intellect in my opinion does not have an edge over emotion(in poetry). A combination of what Frost and Socrates have said, hence, comes closest to my heart. I am not being diplomatic. The ‘why’ part is left on you to assess and analyze.
Me: Do you really live in a glass house of your own making as in Chitakte Kaanchghar?
Amitji: Yes, I do! And it is very painful, suffocating in there!
Me: Poetry reveals as much as it distorts. Your comment in favour or in disfavor or both.
Amitji: Tough question indeed…leaves me without a reply. Kindly excuse.
Me: Your maiden anthology seems like a linear travel from real to surreal, from verbosity to silence, from material love to awakening. How would you define this journey – experiential or evolutionary?
Amitji: Both! Experience is useless without evolution, and evolution without experience will not be real!
Me: Everyone has his or her own favourite – call it influence or inspiration. Who is it for you?
Amitji: I have many favorites, but am afraid they don’t inspire me, some of them may have slight influence on my writings, subconsciously. I am saying ‘slight’ because I can’t write as impeccably as them. I feel flattered when my work happens to remind a reader of a great name.
Me: There is a kind of cynicism in many of your verses – Ishq, Libaas, and Haal to name a few. Does one have to lose faith to be an ace wordsmith?
Amitji: Ha ha ha! I did not, and do not aim to be a wordsmith at all. O.K. let’s put it like this: all three of these poems were a result of real life experiences, and not a trace of word play was intended when they ‘happened’. Never anticipated that ‘cynicism’ would be observed in my poems at a later date. An example of word play, however, can be seen in ‘Unki Adaa’
Me: You may not be tempted to answer this one: Poets have a very distinct persona. They are sensitive, reflective and rebellious. How would you describe yourself as a poet?
Amitji: I am very tempted to answer this being an easy one I am sensitive, reflective and rebellious! Disillusioned, pessimist and an introvert too. Hoping against hope that way a dreamy optimist as well!
Me: Do you think perspective is gender specific? Would a woman poet feel or express differently than a male poet?
Amitji: I don’t feel so. Why would perspective be gender based? Oh yes, women are more sensitive and refined so their points of view are bound to be deeper and more beautifully expressed. In my view women are superior to men in almost all respects, and their innate delicacy make them a divine being virtually.
Me: How is expressing in haikus different from expressing in lengthy verses?
Amitji: Haiku is an admirably amazing metre! I am currently writing haiku in Hindi. The limitation of seventeen syllables is very challenging sometimes and leaves you exasperated. It flows in smoothly and effortlessly at others. Creating a haiku is a pleasure indeed! It must not be a straight, prosaic statement within seventeen syllables. The element of awe and finesse of poetic rhythm are its fundamentals. It is a challenge for the reader too: the utter compression needs quite an alertness to be understood and appreciated. Its poles apart from writing in conventional lengthy verse.
Me: Publishers, world over, shy away from publishing poetry. Do you think poetry is getting increasingly marginalized by lack of hype or organized publicity?
Amitji: Yes, it is! But not a matter to worry about! Its time will come again…
Me: Your remarkable proficiency in Hindi and Urdu is manifest in your writings. However, I have also read your bilingual haikus in Hindi and English. Both are equally effective. How about then preferring English over your mother tongue?
Amitji: Thank you for your nice words. My ‘bilingual’ ones are only English translations coupled with Hindi originals, meant for non-Hindi speaking friends. The translations may look like haiku but are NOT haiku in a classical way. Nor were they intended to be. You are kind to say, and I am pleased to learn, that the translations were found equally effective which was a painstaking effort…preserving delicacy of thought and maintaining compression of verse simultaneously.
I have not yet written a classically true haiku in English. Will try my hand soon…thanks a whole lot for this great idea Wonder why it didn’t occur to me earlier.
Well! That gives us some more reason to look forward to – an anthology of haikus in English next!!!
But before we could close the interview I had to…had to…had to request him to recite at least one piece from his book and the thorough gentleman that he was, how could he refuse a lady….
So as his voice resonated time stood still and I was ecstatic to note that it was the one that was my favourite as well…..
‘मुस्कुराहट से कहाँ छुपती है आँखों की उदासी
आँसुओं के समुन्दर आस्तीनों से नहीं पुंछा करते’
Oh yes! When pain is the soulmate, life can anything but be lachrymose.
But the stars gathered outside my window twinkled a different story.
And when Amitji left with a big smiling “cheerio”, I knew there was always a ray of hope, even if faint and fading, out there somewhere in the horizon for us to make way in the darkness!!!