Hello Bhuvaneshwari, welcome to Incredible Women Of India, Thank you for being a part of Incredible Women Writers of India, Monsoon Edition, 2015 and sharing your journey as a writer with us
First of all tell us something about your growing up years, your school and college days, and your family.
I was born in Chennai and spent several years there. When I was very young, my maternal grandmother would often visit us. She had all of two years of schooling and a limited exposure to Indian mythology. Yet, she possessed the amazing talent to weave stories tirelessly. She was very friendly and I would spend every possible moment I could, with her, listening to her stories. All of them were mythological in nature but since she did not have her facts straight – she would invent characters and situations on the go and so I heard tales of Sita’s cousins and Ravana and Rama fought, not just with bows and arrows but also with logs of firewood and bottles of soda! In her stories animals behaved like humans, they talked, fought and danced. When I accompanied my mother to musical discourses on the Puranas, I slowly began to gain a better grasp of Indian mythology and I would smile as I recalled my grandmother’s versions. Years later, when I was at college, I was amused when I discovered that my grandmother’s ‘liberties’ with myth had complex names like Mythopoesy and Anthropomorphism.
Once I could read books on my own, I preferred spending all my time reading. There were different phases to it. There was an Enid Blyton phase, then a Wild West phase. I loved reading historical works in Tamizh like Ponniyil Selvan by Kalki and Kadal Pura by Sandilyan. Then there was a romantic novel phase too.
I joined a college in Chennai to study English Literature, but unfortunately my stint there was short lived as I got married. Post marriage, I moved to Hyderabad. It took me several years to resume studies as other events happened like the birth of my son. I finally returned to college with my family’s support, and made steady progress culminating in the award of a Ph.D in English Literature. The early exposure to Indian mythology had nurtured a lifelong fascination with myth and I ended up researching it in greater detail.
I had an early onset of knee arthritis, which has affected my lifestyle for sometime now.
I live in Saudi Arabia with my husband.
What makes you, You?
I enjoy being alone and giving wing to my thoughts.
My life’s journey has been an interesting and eventful one. I have had my share of pleasant and unpleasant experiences. I have endured much. When I was younger, I would bemoan my misfortune but as I got older, it dawned on me that life happens and experiences both good and bad are inevitable and play a role in shaping the individual. I am the sum of all my experiences, which have enriched me and have given me incredible strength and positivism.
How did your journey as a writer/poet begin?
I started writing poetry in Tamizh and English as a child. I had a Tamizh teacher in school, who would encourage us to write poetry and then read it out aloud in class. My first poems were written mostly to earn her approval. But I soon found that I actually enjoyed the exercise and began writing poems in English. I would first list out words that rhymed and then set about stringing them together as sensibly as I could. My father one day chanced upon them and thought that they were worthy. He sent them to different magazines and I can recall with great clarity, his excitement when my first poem was published in a local magazine (I was awarded a cash prize of INR 50). I continued writing poems and articles till the time I moved to Hyderabad.
What are your inspirations? Who is your muse, if any at all?
I grew up with the romantic poets reveling in Keats Wordsworth and Shelley. My initial poems were modeled after them. W B Yeats, TS Eliot and G M Hopkins were strong influences too.
Later I read some of the writings of Toru Dutt, Kamala Markandeya, and Kamala Das and I discovered a whole new world of writing that had themes closer to home. Feminist writers like Adrienne Rich also inspire me. I keep revisiting my favourite writers for inspiration.
Why do you write?
Life is the greatest mystery and as we make our way through it, we try to make sense of all that happens either to us or to close ones. We often ask the questions ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ Some times we get a dazzlingly brilliant answer. At other times all we get is a mundane realization. But whatever is the case- that moment of realization is very special and then there grows an urge to communicate and share with others what we just saw or we just realized. Writing it down helps preserve that realization.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
I can’t call myself a full time writer, but I do have a special time of day to write in – I prefer writing late at night when all of my work is done and it is really quiet. I don’t write systematically as I am against all systems- I write whenever I am driven.
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest thing about writing? Any writing rituals?
The process of writing is complex one. There is an initial thought or germ, which is followed by a jagged rush of ideas. It’s vital to record all the ideas. Organizing these thoughts into a meaningful and compelling narrative is the greatest challenge.
I am not sure if there’s an easy part to writing except of course when I am totally inspired and the words flow unbidden.
I try to listen to soft music as I write and this helps me concentrate better.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? Have you ever hated something you wrote?
I do have a broad outline when I begin, but I could easily end up somewhere else as the story or the poem usually writes itself. I think I am my worst critic, so I always find that there is much scope for improvement in everything that I write, despite multiple revisions.
Do you ever get writer’s Block? And how do you get over it?
Writer’s Block is inevitable. The demands of our extrinsic lives sometimes are so exhausting that it becomes difficult to gain the mental poise to think and write lucidly. I fight it by willing myself to sit down and actually begin writing. The output may be nonsensical but it is a start and it gets much easier from thereon.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I began blogging casually and I mostly wrote poetry because it is much easier and takes up very little time. I find writing longer pieces challenging, as they require more time and a lot of reflection. I can say with certainty that I no longer dread writing longer pieces.
What are you working on at the minute?
I am working on a few short stories and poems. A novel is also underway.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors and poets?
Honestly, ever since I took to writing, I haven’t been able to read much. I reserve all my free time to writing and editing my own work. I have become more of a casual reader these days. My favourite poets are John Keats, John Donne, W B Yeats, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, T S Eliot, GM Hopkins, Kamala Das, Adrienne Rich to name a few.
What are your favourite books?
Thomas Hardy’s Tess is a favourite, D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray. I have enjoyed reading Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have read and re read PG Wodehouse several times over.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing in India?
I think we are entering a golden age of writing in India. It’s gratifying to see that many people are entering the field everyday. But a cause for concern is the mediocrity in terms of content and the brazen liberties taken with grammar and usage by some of the young writers out there.
What are your other passions apart from writing?
I enjoy singing and listening to Indian classical, Indian film and Western music. . I am fascinated by Indian classical dance forms and enjoy attending Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi performances.
What is your message for the readers of our blogazine?
Life is beautiful and is made more so, with each retelling.
Poems written by Bhuvaneshwari Shivakumar Shankar:
Days fold into nights
Like a cigarette tightly rolled;
And Life trapped inside
And blends into the smog
Of inane nothingness…
If Feathers Grew on Trees
If peacock’s feathers grew on trees
Each thread a shimmering fibre–
The colours perfect
The green blue and the almost black
With flecks of sprayed gold.
What if the feathers were all leaves?
Soft and supple to touch and feel against the cheek,
Would children still lock them inside books?
And free brittle memories in later years?
Would fallen feathers feel trampling feet?
And would tuned ears miss the rustle of crunching leaves?
Would they line our walls?
Or fill our downy beds…
To read her poems, short stories and miscellaneous writing please visit her blog: http://ilakea.blogspot.com/
To know more about this INCREDIBLE WOMAN please visit her Facebook author page:
Please note that this interview was conducted online, via emails.
Interview conducted for Incredible Women of India : Rhiti Bose