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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: Poetry is a part of the refining process of human soul, which elevates human perceptions, and finally ends up improving the quality of thought and social interaction. Literature has always stood for higher values of life. History is only half the truth, as it records only the happenings which took place at the empirical level. Literature deals with what happened in the mind of men, who suffered through the ages. I believe that poetry, like any other art, represents its times. It is a byproduct of the social and political stratosphere. Therefore, it is a powerful source to understand any epoch of history. Finally, it can be said that literature is the unedited version of the history of an epoch.
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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: Life that we are living on record is only a tip of the iceberg, which I call ‘the lifeberg’. Real life is lived in our thoughts, our emotions, our memories, and our reflexes. While an ordinary person is focused at the living of life at the actual level, the poet has a vision which goes deeper into the surface reality. Because, what we say and what we show, are only fragments of our real self, which remains submerged in anonymity. Poetry has had a calming effect on my mind. I feel silenced and sobered.
Sobered, silenced, and sedated
I am alive to my calling
As a human being
To spread love for life
And add to the store of being
I was impressed by Shakespeare and Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, in my initial years. I regard Shiv Kumar Batalvi has a poet who could equal the creations of John Keats. Walt Whitman whose writing style impacted my thought processes was the subject of my doctoral thesis.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole, is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: I have already said, a poet cannot live in isolation. He is a part of his social ethos. It is society which impacts his thoughts. Even if poets are generally thought to be isolationists, and prefer to remain aloof like islands, it has to be remembered that the existence of an island is contingent upon the main ocean. Social realities shape up his personality and personal ethos and whatever he is, it is his internal reality plus the social reality. No one can escape it. In my case, I have seen extreme poverty, displacement, and getting into job at the age of 18, hostile environment at workplace, sustained suffering all through on various counts. My works actually are a commentary on my life which has been running parallel like history. What I am, I have two versions. One is the social version. And the other is the literary version. Both have shaped each other. Moreover, it is not only how society shapes us, it is also how we help in shaping our society anew with our thoughts.
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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: Up to 30 years back, people did bother about literature. I have seen the bookshelves of people who although from diverse backgrounds, preferred to be seen as lovers of literature. In the drawing room of a person who has studied Economics, you could easily find a book on History of English Literature or even novels like Pride and Prejudice. But this was 30 years back, and earlier, when people read literature out of love for it. The reason was it had a sort of newness about it. Just as we still are possessed with a desire to visit Canada, English and America, so was the pull for Russian, Greek and English literature. But now, this has taken a strange turn. Literature is a lost game. Only those who find avenues of employment in it, go for literature, and that too like desk workers. Only cut and dried lectures, without any intellectual involvement. For decades, people have been telling what Wordsworth said about poetry. There is no improvement on it. Reason: there are very few who love literature. And there is no question of an Engineering or a Medical student, going overboard for literature. Yes, there are exceptions where doctors have been seen writing poetry or even short stories. Love for creation is common to all and who knows where it finds softer soil to erupt into poetry or fiction.
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.
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: What I preach in literature, equipoise, is also the central issue with my life. I try to remain in a state of disengagement and do not involve myself much. I keep my mind drained of all thoughts which create a negative environment in my mind. The present impacts my thought processes and I have written extensively on the socio-political currents and expressed my views on political developments. My article series on gender consciousness has focused on the problems of the family, the feminist issues etc. In fact, I consider that I am a part of the social stratosphere, it has made me, and I have added my bit to it. It is a relationship of give and take. In fact, we get a lot from society, and when it comes to giving it back, we are generally ungiving and unforgiving too. I try to be kind to the people, the animals, the birds and the nature around, and possess a loving and forgiving attitude towards other people. It helps me retain my equipoise.
NILAVRONILL: Please give us some idea about your own views on the contemporary Indian literature written in English.
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: Indian authors are making it big in the world market, and some novels like the A Suitable Boy have turned into celluloid stories. The Age of Kamla Das and R.K. Narayan appears to be over. The ethos of the present moment, which is characterized by fast moving digitalization, do not support novels like the Guide. The zeitgeist of the times supports fast paced web series and novels which click with socio-political movement. Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Arvind Adiga, apart from Khushwant Singh, Salman Rushdie and Shashi Tharoor have convincingly documented their times. The world looks with amazement and anticipation at the Indian writing in English. The new generation of writers which is coming up on Fb portals also offers a lot of promise. Thousands of books, novels, anthologies are being published. We should remember that for a few grains of wheat, we have a large stem and then, some leaves which we treat as chaff. Where there is chaf, there is not only grain, but also fire. So, I think FB has become a very vast workshop for upcoming writers, and a sanctuary for established poets.
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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: Certainly. My experience shows that in 1985, when I wrote my first book, Confessions of a Corpse, or later on up to the end of the 20th century, literary paradigms were different. Published word was the only world available to the writers, mastering which was not an easy task. The fear of rejection of the manuscript was too real. But thing have changed with the world becoming a globalized village. The greatest issue was how to excess the world-wide readership. This job has been accomplished very well by the introduction of the social media and digitalization. As I am posting a poem on FB, I get response from people sitting in Egypt or Australia. Such connectivity was not possible, and it has actually expanded the boundaries of human perception and communication. We must also refer to the post covid times of online communication. Previously, you had to physically go to a country like Italy or Tunisia to deliver a lecture, or attend a Festival. Now, it is not required. While sitting in your bed-room, you can connect with far away people. Information Technology has really helped the authors. It may have its disadvantages also, but it seems they are negligible as of now, although tomorrow, things may deteriorate when AI takes over our normal intelligence.
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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: No author can deny the earth he has sprung from. Nationality is a sacred feeling which binds a man to a certain piece of the land. However, too much insistence on nationality hampers our movement in global spheres. A writer belongs less to a particular society and more to the world community. He, therefore, must cultivate a cosmopolitan outlook. Nationalism is a good creed but only in war time. In peace time, it has its retrograde character, which instigates people to consider themselves superior to other nations. Can we forget Hitler’s misadventure riding the wave of nationalism? In fact, not only a writer, even an ordinary person must have the power to balance the two feelings of belonging to his country and to the world outside. It is a jumbled world, with Indians living in Canada and Australia. Everything needs to be within certain limits. In my book, ‘The Master: the Return of the Prophet’, there is mention of the idea of Un-identity, which transcends national identities. As human beings, and world citizens, we must not allow any conflict between nationalism and internationalism.
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 peoples are the first victims. Your response.
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: A poet cannot be a prophet of doom. For him, life is sacrosanct. As a man, and as a poet, we reject all these killings in the name of religion, politics and one-upmanship. I have advocated that the bullets should not kill, they should at the most make a person faint. These are the symptoms of human insanity which sometimes takes the center stage. At the same time, I believe that if there is any agitation, if we analyze it objectively, the most obvious reason for any uprising, or massacre is a feeling of injustice. At the root of social disturbances, there are always injustice and insecurity. If we look at all these issues from this angle, it is not difficult to address these outrageous activities before they actually take place. Poets are men of peace, and if we start teaching literature, to our youth, it can have a good impact on their minds. I also believe that abuse of religion to excite violence needs to be checked. Syria and Iraq are victims of religioneering and vaulting ambitions of western politicians. Poets are not politicians, but if politicians have poets among them, things will definitely be entirely different.
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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: The cut down on individual liberties and human rights are done by regimes which feel insecure and do not possess the power of the word. It is said that where words end, wars begin. So, I l0ok upon such a state of affairs in which liberties of the people are compromised and human rights abridged, as state of soft-war. And it indicates that the powers believe neither in democracy, nor in debate, but in suppression of individual voices. If people lose their faces and turn mobs, and if they lose their voice, and turn echoes, we are looking for a second edition of the human world which is ‘second’ in every sense of the word. Perhaps, we have scaled down from the first world position. A wag has written that the greatest danger to the constitution is not from people, but from the govt. In America, we have seen attempts to subvert the system. Power corrupts human mind, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Every Constitution makes a provision for checks and balances. But they can be subverted with cheques and balances.
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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: Are we better than we were a hundred years back? The answer will be a big Yes and a bigger No. I have great faith in the powers of humanity that they will retrieve their steps from this fast movement into intellectual anarchy and save the day for the future of this world. Take the case of ecology. There is so much of awareness, yet the movement of the world civilization is towards ecological disaster. The dependence on computers and artificial intelligence is increasing, imperiling human faculties of memory and imagination. But we are not in a position to channelize these things so that essential functions of humanity are not jeopardized. I think that day is far away in the distance, and entirely invisible at the present, when people will turn wise, and start loving their neighbor. It is not easy to transcend ethnicity, religion, nationality and racism. I wonder if we can check this emotional anarchy and retrace our goodness that we have left behind.
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?
JERNAIL SINGH ANAND: Thanks a lot for inviting me for the interview. My answer to your first question is yes. I have been able to create around 80 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, spirituality and philosophy, authored around 50 papers, around 20 papers have been written on my books, I have developed the theory of Biotext, and tried to give new ideas to the literary world. I am not unsatisfied. However, there is no plan to take rest. I feel there is still a lot of poetry in my blood, which can be shared. So far as my contemporaries are concerned, I do feel there is a ring of really gifted poets. I am blessed with a family of highly attuned minds. And what I see around is a whole world of poets who are working day and night, competing, and winning awards. I see the queue behind me is fairly large and it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Here is a poem which encapsulates my feelings at this juncture of my poetic career:
Dr JERNAIL SINGH ANAND
What poetry has given me?
A release from emotions
A mind that can bring to life thoughts
And converse with them
I am never lonely
I am in constant conversation
With ideas, with words,
With meanings, which interact with me
Poetry has washed my mind
Of all inconvenient thoughts,
There is peace,
There is love,
And a feeling of gratitude.
I feel I am blessed that I am alive.
I get so much unasked for.
I have friends
Who love and trust me
And some common cause with humanity.
The terrain that I have traversed
Was not easy,
At times it bruised my psyche.
I still see the scars
But it is all over.
I am in a state of bliss.
I am in the best company.
Birds, trees, grass, and a lonely trek,
A clear sky, and a clear mind
Passions have subsided.
I am back to simple joys.
Was it Wordsworth
Who believed nature
Brings us in touch with the
Still sad music of humanity
And helps us in small acts of goodness?
Sobered, silenced, and sedated
I am alive to my calling
As a human being
To spread love for life
And add to the store of being.
Dr Jernail Singh Anand, Ph.D (P.U.Chd) , MBA, D.Litt. and Ph.D ,(Honoris Causa), [born: 1955, Punjab, India], is one of the leading world poets and scholars. Author of 75 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, spirituality and philosophy, he was appointed Professor Emeritus in Indian Literature (Hony) at Institute for European Roma Studies and Research, Crimes against Humanity and International Law, Belgrade, Serbia. His reputation as a poet rests mainly on his scintillating work in critical theory: 21st century Critical Thought Vol. 1 and Vol 2, and epics: ‘The Plague: The Metaphor is Dead,’ ‘ The Master: The Return of the Prophet’, ‘Geet: The Unsung Song of Eternity’[a sequel to John Milton’s ‘The Paradise Lost’ and ‘The Satanic Empire’[a sequel to Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’. His work ‘The Ganturbury Tales’ also edges past Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and tries to recreate the old magic. Anand acquired his Ph.D degree from Panjab University, Chandigarh, and was honoured with D.Litt. degree by Univ. of South America and Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Mysticism by Institute of European Roma Studies, Belgrade. He has to his credit and 50 research papers whereas 20 research papers were published on his works by Dr Roghayeh Farsi, an Iranian scholar. He has innovated the theory of BIOTEXT (along with Iranian scholar Dr Roghayeh Farsi) and CLOUD SYNDROME in Critical theory and is a refereed author. His works of spirituality ‘Bliss:The Ultimate Magic’ and ‘I Belong to You’ and ‘The Broken Narrative’ [novel] have been translated into Persian. Bliss has been compared with Khalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’ and his work of poetry, ‘Beyond Life Beyond Death’ to T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’. Vishwabharati Research Centre has brought out a Companion on Dr J.S. Anand’s work. Anand has been Secretary General of World Parliament of Literature and Ambassador, World Union of Poets, and President, Galaxy International Foundation for Arts, Philosophy and Social Activism, Honorary Ambassador to Science Fiction Academy of Macedonia for India and Director, World Institute of Peace, Nigeria. He is also founding President of World Literature India, an organization promoting literary values. Dr. Anand has been honoured with various awards: such as Lord of World Peace and Literature, Award of Supreme Excellence [Vishwabharati], Cross of Peace, Cross of Literature, [World Union of Poets Italy], World Icon of Peace [Nigeria], Dr. Mohinder Singh Randhawa Award for Promotion of Art and Culture, Art4Peace Foundation California, Lifetime Achievement Award, World Laureate of Literature, Lifetime Achievement Award by Literati Cosmos Council, Mathura, and most recently African International Poetry Award and Gold Medal of Creativity from International Literary Union, America. He was appointed Ambassador of several organizations, and conferred Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Leader in Public Service and Human Rights by World Literary Forum for Peace and Humanity. Dr Anand organized World Poetry Conference at Bathinda Punjab India in Oct 2019.