Paromita Bardoloi is a story teller. She believes in the power of words that can finally change the world. She writes on everything that matters to her and others, in the hope that things will change, one day at a time. She has been published in many national journals and periodicals. She has written short stories and poetry too. Gender equality is one of her constant topic.
When not writing, she is actively involved in theatre activism. She is a part of the theatre group Aatish and has performed in many places in the country, the last being in IIT Chennai.
Last but not the least she has been involved with many NGOs such as Aman Biradari, Manjil Aarohi & YourDost, and has been supporting the causes of child welfare and education. Teaching too is a passion with her.
She strongly believes that each one of us can change the world, one person at a time. For her belief she continues, telling one story at a time.
IWI caught up with her and she shared her thoughts with us in a candid online interview.
What defines you Paromita? What are you like?
Sometimes life defined me, in other times I turned back and defined it. In gist it’s a mutual co-operation between life and me.
I wear my heart on my sleeves. You get what you see. I live from within.
Tell us something about your childhood and growing up years, college days.
I was born and brought up in a very small town of Assam. My town lies very close to Arunachal border. It is a silent town tucked in the bosom of nature. We are the hub of tea gardens. Infact our town grew, because of tea gardens around. I grew amidst the lush green tea gardens and nature in abundance. I strongly feel that Assam or North East India is one of nature’s favourite children. She really took time to create us. Infact in my childhood I have run barefooted in fields, fished and played with bows and arrows too. Freedom was my breath. No one ever told me that girls did not play with bows. Under the free sky, I had grown a deep love for nature. That’s about growing up with nature, you don’t let anyone else dictate or define you. Nature is free. It nurtures and destroys the way you tend to it. And the wind blows, without your permission. I still have not let anyone define me. Though it’s long I have been writing, I still write what feels right in my heart. That what I think worked for me in the long run.
I did my higher studies from Miranda House, University of Delhi. I did my honours in English. Miranda House gave me a voice. It taught me to see the world in new ways. Assam gave me freedom; Miranda House gave that freedom a voice. And it taught me never to be afraid, to speak my mind. I am grateful, for those lessons from my Alma Mater. I am immensely indebted to my college. The best thing I learnt in my college is to question everything and keep pushing the envelope, one step at a time. And not to forget, the girls I met their-fiercely independent and fearless. I met my tribe. These girls are still very much a part of my life.
Any special achievements? Any memorable moments or incidents?
Past few years had been great. Winning the competition for Femina and Grapevine Publications were highs. Also getting published in National Geographic was an added feather.
The most special moments are when you receive mails/messages/comments from your readers. When someone you don’t know, says that something you wrote, changed something within them. Nothing beats that feeling, when you know you helped someone making a better choice, no matter how small it is. The best thing I have ever heard was, “When I feel low about life, I Google your name and read something written by you. Life feels better.” This I think is the best thing about being a writer, the ability to touch lives. And I am grateful for this.
When and how did the idea to be a writer first germinate?
Though I come from a very small town, literature was always in the air. A lot of people read and wrote. Infact, so many people who were writers or poets visited my home. So much of literature was discussed. My parents are very well read people. Infact my earliest memory of my parents is that they read together. So, that way books made a way to my life. And the way nature presented itself, fascinated me even as a kid. I remember that smell of the fresh Sunlight that fell on our desks, I must had been in first or second standard. Not sure, what the teacher taught, but the Sunlight, the Sky that changed its own colors according to whims stayed with me. It turned blue, sometimes orange and in other times purple. I was so much in love with that, I thought writing about it was the best way, to hold it closer. So, I wrote my first poem at 8 and next at 11, while travelling in a night bus to Guwahati. It was a 12 hours bus ride. I still remember that journey. I almost saw whole of Assam, and lord knows it was pristine. I remember those lone houses with a bulb burning in their front yard. I still wonder, what they would be like, if I ever meet them.
So, that was why I started writing poetry in local and state level newspapers and later I shifted to writing long pieces. Now, poetry has taken a backseat. Hope I revive it someday!
Was it easy or difficult to enter this field?
I always had a full time job and I still do. But I am one of those lucky ones, whose job entrails writing full-time. I am not sure, if I can survive without a full time job. I know many writers who still have a full time profession. So, if someone really wants to make writing full time career, where you can pay all your bills, go to a luxury break and still save for yourself, either you need to have a full time job or your book (if you have written one) brings a lot of royalty, or you need to have clients, whom you write for and they pay you very well and on time.
I prefer my full time job. It’s as easy and simple as this. This is my personal take on it. I am sure, to each one’s his/ her own.
You are a senior writer at women’s web, tell us a little bit about that, and what are the primary challenges you face writing for women?
I strongly feel, that with WW I have grown tremendously as a writer. It is a place where I am not pushed to write for SEO, I have every opportunity to write my heart out. The team is small, but extremely warm and open to new ideas. Aparna, the founder editor is a very calm person to work with. Very passionate and reasonable. If, right now, I strongly feel that I want to cover a topic, I can tell her and in all probabilities she will give me a thumbs up.
I write almost every day. So, that itself is a challenge. You have to have a new idea each day. That’s where your everyday reading comes handy. I read a lot on the Internet each day. And it’s strange how ideas pool in, when you need them.
People often say, that it might be a dream thing, where you just sit and write. Though it looks like I wake up in some mountains with peacocks around me and I sit to write (someone actually told me this), there goes a lot of planning with the whole team about the topics we are going to cover each day. But then Aparna lets me cheat sometimes, she knows when I have written enough, she lets me get away with a video or something that hardly needs much effort.
The best part is the interns. These young girls are super intelligent. Most are in their colleges, but so bright that the world seems to be a better place, when I talk to them. I feel honored that somewhere, I can shape their ideas and thoughts, because they are in a very impressionable age.
At the end of the day, I have to find a story, everyday. And my mind is wired that way. Human lives fascinate me. So, wherever I go, I try to pick a story and write with the only hope, that someone makes a better choice or lives a better choice because of my continuous efforts of trying to tell a new perspective of life.
Any painful incidents/experiences which made you stronger as a person?
Now we are talking (Winks and smiles). I give my heart to relationships. I won’t call you a friend until I am deeply involved with you. So, after college got over, a few things happened, that shattered my emotional being and self image. I just felt terribly betrayed. The lies and that absolute sense of back stabbing really hurt me. It was like, I was there when their days were low, but when I needed them, they shut the door, because things were rosy in their lives. Let me tell you a story here.
There is a Zen story about a woman who was a Zen monk. One very cold and wintry night, she needed a shelter. But in the village everyone shut the door to her. That night she spent under a tree. It was also snowing. But she saw the beauty of each snow flake, the moon between the trees and everything around. That night she had her Nirvana. She wrote beautiful poems about that night, which became very famous later. But she never forgot to thank everyone who shut the door on her face, because had they not shut her out, she would not have seen the beauty that the wintry night held.
That’s my favorite Zen story, I heard in a life class. And I can so relate to it. Because, people I thought will hold my back, left me, I began to find myself without trying to cling to anyone. It was almost like beginning to live life one more time.
I am grateful to them. I could see so many good things about myself which I undermined earlier. I met genuine people, made genuine friends and found my own voice. That is one gift I will not exchange for anything. Had it not been for them, today I would not have been doing this interview.
Eventually I forgave everyone for everything. Today, I am in a very happy space in life, where I know, who I am and where I am heading. All thanks to the shut doors!
Any career ups and downs you would like to share?
There was one time; I was laid off (actually the whole team) as the company was down-sizing. I cried a lot. But thanks to that company, I am in such a better space in life. There is a family joke, each time I get kicked; I stumble into a better place. So, my life turned out to be better, because I got kicked a lot!
Tell us something about Aatish, the theatre group you are part of and how do you think Theater Activism can help us change?
Aatish was formed by a few alumni of Miranda House, University of Delhi. They were all part of the Hindi Dramatic society, ‘Anukriti.’ I joined the team and it is five years hence. Ofcourse, the best part about theatre activism is that you can reach any part of the world with minimum or no props and talk to the audience through a play. It’s a great way to begin a conversation and spread awareness. So many times, the best response or solution has come from the audience. It is a great way, to bring in new ideas and form a new thought process.
You have been associated with quite a few NGO’s, share some field experiences with us.
I have always worked as a volunteer. Now at I look back at my volunteering journey, it shaped my life a lot. It’s more than ten years that I have volunteered. I have volunteered for, Aarohi, Manzil, Goonj, Make A Wish, Aman Biradari and at present I volunteer with YourDost.
It made me realize that human life can be very varied and it’s us, who need to give a meaning to it. Also, when I saw children fighting life threatening diseases, their parents and the emotions that run, I know something within me had changed forever. I understood why kindness and compassion is so important. Also, teaching children and young adults gave me a new perspective and understanding of our society, which now, I see have crept into my writing. I saw that teaching is another passion of mine. Last year, I taught a differently abled teenage boy, when I was in Gurgoan. It’s been 6 months, I have not done it, after I shifted to Delhi. I hope I start doing it, soon!
What do your next five years look like?
Beautiful. That’s all I can say as of now!
Any message for the readers of our blogazine?
Whoever you are and whatever you might be doing, you matter. Your life matters. Make the best out of it.
Know more about her work: http://paromitabardoloi.blogspot.in/
Please Note: Interview conducted online, co-ordinated for IWI by Rhiti Bose