NILAVRONILL: Do you think literature or poetry is really essential in our life? If so why? And how does it relate to the general history of mankind?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: Literature and poetry are essential in our life (1) as a means of expressing emotions and communicating ideas of a subjective nature. (2) To provide a link with intelligent culture that modern technology and trends are dumbing down and destroying. (3) Providing a vessel of revolt against mainstream society, most noticeably by marginalised groups. These three reasons underpin historical change of humanity. The expression of emotions and subjective ideas creates a realm in human society separate from the objective constraints of existence, which provides an emotional release, an avenue for creativity and the development of alternative ideas on how to exist. They are a reflection of society, both in their content and the way in which they are shared. They are not static entities. Historically there is initially in hunter gatherer groups communication of information about origins, resources, landscapes etc passed orally. With the development of more sedentary societies and the development of writing, there is an exponential diversification of themes and styles to the modern day. Literature changes human society, but is in turn altered by the new society it helps create. On one hand it is used as an objective recording of society’s characteristics, but these recordings are then subject to subjective interpretations that may act as a catalyst for change. We must always be aware that nonfiction is literature too, and plays an important role in this process of societal evaluation and change by literature.
NILAVRONILL: Our readers would like to know your own personal experience regarding the importance of literature and poetry in your life. Why literature or poetry in specific interests you so much? Who were your favourite writers during the early period of your life? And how they have paved your early routes in literature?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: It is fascinating to read poems from other countries, other places, sometimes far away from our house, our own existence, that give us a different and new picture of what we didn’t know before. Internet and e publishers are immensely valuable for the rapid dissemination of knowledge and add many positive values to what would otherwise remain unknown territory to many, whose existence otherwise could be an empty and deserted area. The hectic pace that defines the lives of most of us may be doing more than merely serving as a source of stress and irritation. It may be robbing us of encounters with beauty, wonder, and glory that can thrill and transform us, enrich our lives, and equip us to live more fully.Poetry can help us to overcome this problem and teach us to slow down and appreciate the simple things of life more fully. Poetry is the art that offers depth in a moment, using the depth of a moment. In the short time it takes to read and contemplate a poem, we can penetrate to deeper levels of experience and more profound truths. Poetry can be a window to everyday beauty and glory, and launch us through the here and now to more transcendent places and times.I have read works of the mighty minds: The Ramayana, Mahabharat, Gita, Dinkar, Mahadevi Verma, Shakespeare,Spenser, Flaubert, Tagore, Kafka, Shelley, Pushkin, Tolstoy, William Blake, Wordsworth, Keats etc. I read them at a tender age. The scriptures instilled in me the concept of a spiritual existence and to perceive everything as a divine intervention with a purpose. The reading of classics aroused in me a keen interest to learn and wonder at the power of human mind and imagination. Although poetry is not obligated to anything, and is in its nature completely free of obligations – does not have to follow preconceived standards – it is sometimes useful to have a greater awareness of the craters that are visible or hidden in our lives. This reading of the great minds empowered me to my own resources of expression which I feel is a divine gift and encouraged me to see glory of a moment. A keen eye, sensitive faith, and gift of language as a means of transport is able to give clarity and interpretation to make more use of poetry to this end. The hope for change, a better future, desire for solidarity with one’s neighbour, the drowning out of negative thoughts by opposing something divergent, the building of bridges between various cultures.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole, is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: I think creativity is a divine gift and burden too. The poet in me and my environment has been a key factor in shaping me as a poet but not all my poetry or my role as a poet. Upon closer inspection you will notice that I carry a complex background, source of life, which indeed requires further insights. That is why it is important to do some self -research. This brings me not only closer to the language, the written thoughts, feelings, images, but also closer to the person who is behind those words and therefore closer to myself. In this time when it seems that we know everything about each other, can look everything up, there are gaps due to social and political circumstances and backgrounds. To some questions are made to write a poem about the state of the world, or about my own country, elementary thoughts about freedom and democracy, the role and meaning of my own religion that is deeply rooted, the conviction which path one should follow, the differences between good and bad, so-called morals and norms. With so many shifts that seem to be taking place at a global level, nowadays, it is not always easy to be sort of directional pointer, to impart to the other, the reader, the awareness of what it means e.g. to be a refugee, to live in exile, to be an outsider in society, to be displaced, to express friction points. And at other times my reflections are spiritual and personal quests, sometimes my own feelings and emotions about mundane things and existence. Sometimes the glory of the moment and the beauty of Nature and my relationship with living beings around me.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think people in general actually bother about literature in general? Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: The state of literature today- when virtually everyone can write and express themselves freely for self-expression—much, circulating in journals and on websites and in books lacks the charm and resonance traditionally associated with literature. Instead of building on common experiences, much contemporary writing is self-referential in the extreme, or employs images that confuse rather than endear, or that are too far removed from the experience of most readers to communicate their intended message or stir the desired affection in all but a few. And the form of most contemporary poetry, lacking in any discernible rhythm, pace, or lyric, can be more distracting than helpful.Literature today is actually thriving, with hundreds of journals and scores of new books being published every year. But, as Dana Gioia pointed out in his landmark study, ‘Can Poetry Matter?’ Most of this poetry is written for an elite class of poets and critics, a professional fellowship and mutual admiration society devoted to formlessness, complexity, egalitarianism, and confessionalism in poetry—just the sort of stuff that leaves most readers scratching their heads and moving on to other things.There are exceptions, of course. Many fine poets whose work actually adheres to traditional forms, who labour to achieve pleasing meters and rhymes, or draw on more accessible experiences and themes, have produced some truly powerful verse. Wendell Berry, Seamus Heaney, Billy Collins, Scott Cairns, and a handful of others come to mind. And some truly great poets have only recently departed the scene—besides Heaney, Czeslaw Milosz and Denise Levertov. But most readers will not be familiar with these names, or know how to find their poems. This is because, when it comes to poetry as a staple of the reading diet, most readers have long ago lost their appetite—if they ever had one. The issue in this case is, whether or not there is an evaporation of literature resulting from modern education in this era, based on jobs for this consumerist world. Today’s world has more literary organizations than past decades; however, a diminishing voice is crying for the death of serious literature, thus, trying to invoke negativity of literary evaporation in our society. The most prominent is Bollywood, Hollywood etc; based on fictitious and propaganda films for revenue making, which includes brainwashing entertainment. Another, is the demise of prominent poets and writers by suicide.Some of them are: Ernest Hemmingway, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace, Walter Benjamin, and Virginia Woolf. The electronic media has allowed critics to voice negativity regarding evaporation; therefore, we must use it positively and negate their voices. Education has prevented serious literature evaporation, and advances its proliferation.
NILAVRONILL: How do you relate your own self existence with your literary life in one hand, and the present time and the socio-political space around you, in the other.
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: Although literature is not obligated to anything, and is in its nature completely free of obligations, does not have to follow preconceived standards, it is sometimes useful to have a greater awareness of the craters that are visible or hidden in our lives. After all, poems are concrete things that the world citizen, and therefore the poet, have to deal with in some way or the other. I believe that as poets and writers we have a responsibility and a purpose to give hope in a world of many wars, the schisms in previously close sections of the population, consequences of poverty, the lack of involvement with fellow human beings, the indifference, absence of empathy, the astonishment about so many unresolved issues, in own living conditions but also on a larger scale, worldwide. With the present time and the socio-political space around me the writer in me has to understand and accept the responsibilities attached to the written word. And in that case my conscience speaks through language as a means of transport to give clarity and interpretation of my own understanding as a conscientious literary person.
NILAVRONILL: Please give us some idea about your own views on the contemporary Indian literature written in English.
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: Indian English Literature has come a long way – from just a few English books releasing a year previously to thousands of new titles launching every year now. From a humble start in the 20th century, after Independence, India published 21,600 new English titles in 2010. In 2020, India’s book market is valued at an estimated Rs 739 billion. India ranks second, after the US, in English language publishing with over 9000 publishers. The growth of Contemporary Literature in English from India for Indian readers lies at the crux of a paradox in this context, in that it seems to present both expansion and containment, trying to fit into the “world literature “. In the past Indian Writing in English was mainly dominated by male writers who presented socially constructed myths, ethos, norms as per the scriptures and dictates of patriarchy. Literature portrayed women as relative beings, ‘Manu’ , played a big role in influencing our psyche and most of literature talked about national freedom movement, social evils etc. Shift came after 1920s onwards when women writers came into mainstream and talked about inner recesses of mind, basically stream of consciousness technique was adopted and focus shifted from objective reality and social realism to subjective reality or psychological realism. Of course, west played a major role in it. So now both the components of literature content and form were taken care of. But form became as significant as content because literature now focused on individuals and not society. Reality was being presented by putting more emphasis on psychological than social. Women writers presented the unspoken, unrecorded and unsaid reality of women life and myths of ‘Sita Savitri’ was shattered and ambivalence attitude has come into being. The contemporary Indian literature is bolder and outspoken dealing with many topics that were a taboo before the postcolonial era. The social order, sexuality, disparity, oppression of any kind is openly and explicitly expressed without any inhibition. I connect with the immigrant writers and their immigrant experience which articulates marginal and anti-establishment politics in the west with an advantageous position. I think that now the writers have greater awareness of what they want to say and are very focused in their selection of content, have rounded characters and are more picturesque in detail with their exhaustive vocabulary. There is also a very impressive fusion of the indigenous language in their narrative that makes it more grounded to their roots. I have loved some of the contemporary writers more than the others as I found in them an honest depiction of their psyche and of the transition of the present world in matters of culture, individual liberty of expression and conflicts of breaking from their past . My favourite writers are; Shashi Deshpande- (That Long Silence, Roots and Shadow, The Binding Vine, A Matter of Time, Ships that Pass) Anita Desai (Fire on the Mountain, Cry the peacock, Clear Light of the Day) Rama Mehra (Inside the Haveli) Arun Joshi, Sudha Murthy’s short stories and novels, Anita Nair, Manju kapoor and many more.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature have largely been extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general? 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?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: Currently with texting and the abbreviation of words and the free verse dominance, there is a movement away from technique, style and in some cases substance. New types of communication are developing, but at the expense of old knowledge of literature and poetry; so, it is up to committed purists to keep this knowledge alive. Balanced against this cultural degradation of literature and poetry, is that throwing out the rules and regulations of writing has allowed greater access to the written word. Education ceases to be a barrier and tweet, Instagram, text and other social mediums increase the methods by which people can communicate their meaning through words. Allowing marginalised groups to invoke social change. Literature and poetry thus cease to be the exclusive property of either the educated elite or the creative fraternity, extending the dimensions of literature to all areas of society, not only as a means of communicating, but also as a form of entertainment. This creates a stratification of poetry and literature based on an imagined cultural worth and conflict between groups. One example is the ongoing dispute between ‘page’ poets on one hand who advocate an adherence to styles and techniques born of education; the other side is the ‘performance or spoken word’ poets who seek to escape the constraints of rules and regulations of writing, predominantly favouring free verse and stage techniques to get their message across. Within these groups are further subdivisions, the page poets having poets who concentrate on haikos, rhyming, sonnets, and other distinct styles, spoken word poets who have different time limits or ways of presentation. Literature and poetry thus become not broad categories, but individualistic pursuits based on preference. In view of perceived globalizing processes (in an international corporate capitalist mould): technological enhancement of communication and information transmission; international consolidation of industry (such as publishing and media industries) corporate management practices and organization (including academia ) These developments have picked up ,regarded as idealistic horizon of literary theory of world literature giving it more nuanced and pragmatic content.
NILAVRONILL: Do you believe all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? And what are the factors which pay dividends and which become obstacles for your ultimate growth as an international writer even beyond your time?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: I don’t think so, all writers are products of their nationality. I believe that the main factors include originality and quality which guides and supports a writer in his or her capability and ability to express. I think the individual has innate abilities and aptitude irrespective of nationality. Factors include originality and quality. Fate is usually the decider if bereft of faith; negativity can only be a factor of a writer is too political or irresponsible with words, manner in a broader context. The obstacle in one’s growth is when you try to follow others. I must say that God must be one’s guide; depend entirely on spirituality and universal values, as poetry is a divine gift. Peace on Earth is a prime inspiration for any writer with a concern for the Earth and its peoples. I depend purely on my intuition and having a global exposure, I am cosmopolitan in my attitude. Humanitarianism and world peace is more important for me. I must have complete trust in myself and analyse matters in a rational manner in a broader context. The practical factors which pay dividends is reading widely, international friends and literary courses. In India, money is a factor, that inhibits the growth of a talented poet and not knowing the process and right contact for promotion.
The Facebook poetry groups, are a boon; they can post regularly there and show their quality. They can publish in international publications with exposure on various media through traditional manner. It is the only way to be out of this grim situation.
NILAVRONILL: Humanity has suffered immensely in the past, is still suffering around the world. We all know it well. But are you hopeful about our future? How do you react when innocent peoples suffer immensely in Gaza or in Iraq, Syria Afghanistan or elsewhere? Whether it is state sponsored terrorism or sponsored by individual terrorist groups. Innocent people are the first victims. Your response.
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: My reaction as a human being is with rage at the callous nature of human to human animosity that often ends with unwarranted suffering, dispossession, maiming and death both physically and economically for survivor’s. Having said that, I am cognizant of the fact that war has become a business and few hands are clean including faith-based organizations, that’s what hurts most. One can react through the International Peace Councils, the means of information and social media. In critical times, one can send the case to the UN, and then make the whole world accountable and realise their responsibility for the lives of the innocent people. In the midst of the storm raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to grow, we are witnessing a general impoverishment and the risk that this crisis will fuel new conflicts around the world, while stymying prospects for resolving ongoing ones. Peace is not a foregone conclusion, peace is a fight, a daily conquest, faith, and hope. Peace is a word often abused, violated, soaked with blood, loved, and despised by the improper use of force, Peace stands as a harbinger of harmony and civil coexistence among all men. But to cultivate peace and to ensure that it is lasting, it is necessary to struggle every day to preserve it.
NILAVRONILL: We all believe in individual liberty and human rights, yet these two are the constant targets of attacks from various quarter of power, even in India. How you would like to respond to this situation?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: The attack has political or commercial reasons. As literary Poets and writers, our duty is to spread culture and peace by our wisdom to help the world to promote individual liberty equality, human right for a peaceful future. To save innocent people, I , of course would never react with violence , l will try to use peaceful means as much as possible , as a poet and writer . As a humanitarian with the help of NGO’S and contribute in diminishing their physical and mental need first. We can make our affirmations clear with representations and lobbying to source of attacks in plea and appeal or champion with imaginative depositions. As Joseph F.Kennedy said :- “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable “.
NILAVRONILL: Dear poet tell us; do you believe one day may be in the distant future this world will be a safer place for every new born? When we will see each other as an equal in dignity and embrace everybody as human being overcoming all the differences of ethnicity, religion, nationality, racism? Bringing the world altogether?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: Yes, I wholeheartedly believe that one day we will all see each other as equal in dignity and embrace everyone, overcoming our differences, and bringing the world altogether. With this covid-19 pandemic, people of the world have realised that solidarity and togetherness is needed to save the world. I have a certain wish that it will be like this. I pray each night for all the children of the world, that they will have the same possibilities. They are our future. The world shall become better, if we must teach our children how to respect each other’s differences. And we as parents must be their guiding lights. Yes, when humankind becomes more enlightened, and realizes that solidarity is a must for survival. That humankind is threatened by non- cooperation as this pandemic has taught us. All conflicts of differences have to be forgotten for the sake of humanity. I am reminded of the song of – John Lennon – “Let’s give peace a chance.”
NILAVRONILL: Many thanks for spending such a wonderful time with us, we would like to conclude this interview with a personal note, are you satisfied about your own achievements in your life? What are your plans for future? And how do you evaluate your contemporaries and what are your aspirations from the younger generation?
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR: Thank you very much for taking interest in my views and giving me a platform to express them publicly. I am never satisfied with the little that I have contributed to society and would like to achieve more in terms of doing for the harmony and peace of humanity. I think I have not written my masterpiece, yet. My plan is to write my autobiography and stories of women I met in my travels which was very touching and inspiring. Human expression today from many sources of media, literature and communication is vital of contemporary problems in the world – particularly – peace and security of the peoples of this world.
I have great hopes from the younger generation. Young people must show more respect for elderly or mature adults in social harmony that the strong should share their strength with all ages, with a caring attitude that begins with parental respect and understanding. I find them more politically conscious and aware about the environmental issues. More confident in believing in a better world of equality without any boundaries and barriers of disparity. My aspiration is that with their youthful energy and wisdom of technology they will not only bring the world closer in space but also overcome their differences to bring the world together in peace and harmony. I am like a mother who never gives up on her children. I quote the great scientist -Stephen Hawking: “There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR is a retired Principal, author of twenty-three books with many waiting to be published and translated in many languages in International anthologies. She is a Multi-Genre Award Winner with more than 200 awards, reviewer, columnist, editor, academician, researcher, translator, motivational speaker, a philanthropist, a scholar and social activist. She holds prestigious positions in many International organizations, literary and humanitarian. She exemplifies the ideal that writing is more than just words on paper, it is a means of creating positive change in the world.
3 thoughts on “TALKING WITH POET JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR”
Jyotirmaya Takur is the best writer and wonderful poet. And her poems are so beautiful.
Great Woman of Words!
Greatly she views the world!
Gambling none in her words
Game for love bestowal forward!
This interview,you have given,does have incredible features such as the quality of the questions posed by the interviewer,the profound answers put forth by you,the issues of contemporary importance discussed in the interview,the threadbare deliberation upon various kinds of poetic works,the progressive discourses engaged in,the thought-provoking aspects brought into perusal in the session,the warmth nature of the interaction,the engaging tone maintained in the interview,the major and pertinent trends and tendencies in literature having given priority,the natural flow of ideas kept intact all throughout the interview and the organised way of the question-answer session with a holistic approach thrown in.Kudos to you Jyotirmayaji for answering to all the questions in a detailed,elaborate,efficient and effective manner.
Cijo Joseph Chennelil@