Hello Monica, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer.
How would you define yourself?
How does one define oneself? To define is to limit. I believe I am me. My shortcomings, my will, my resilience, my virtues, my strengths, my failures, my uniqueness yet my simplicity makes me.
What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?
My childhood was like any others. Comfortable and without any major incidents, but it did lay a foundation of what I am today.
When did your journey as a writer/poet began?
My journey as a poet began about 4 years ago. Though I used to scribble while in school but wasn’t serious about my writings. Slowly I started sharing on Facebook poetry groups. The response has been encouraging and heart-warming and haven’t looked back since
Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?
Without a muse, one cannot write. Yes, I believe I have been blessed with a muse though it appears at different times in different shapes. Sometimes there is an incident, a word, a feeling or even a sentence that triggers off the need to pen down my verses.
Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?
I have never planned my work, though I enjoy poetry prompts. I usually keep myself open to the wiles of the muse. As and when it knocks, I surrender. I usually go with the flow and not get under any pressure to write anything.
For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?
Funny incidents… oh yes! Have been bitten by the writing bug in the middle of conversations, while preparing for go to sleep, while in the middle of a business meeting and have woken up from sleep late into the night to write down the poem that just won’t wait till the morning to be written.
Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?
Writer’s block, I have learnt, are inescapable and yes, I too, occasionally get it but then I have learnt not to fret too much about it. When I can’t write, I read or simply wait for the muse to come calling again.
How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be? What are you working on now?
I believe that I have evolved as a poet over the years. I write on a wide variety of topics now and have recently started experimenting with different styles and topics. One advice I have always adhered to myself is not to try too hard, simply go with the flow and to be honest in your writings. Another thing that I feel strongly is the social responsibility that poets and writers have. Pen, after all, is mightier than sword and all great changes once start as an idea that someone chose to write down.
I manage a couple of poetry groups on Facebook, Poets Artists Unplugged and Wordsmiths where we encourage sharing and constructive criticism. Earlier this year, we at Unplugged group bought out an anthology Colors of Refuge whose proceeds have been donated to I am also in the process of compiling my first solo collection.
What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?
I feel that the Indian writers have evolved much in recent times. They are so versatile and they are writing some great poetry on some great new subjects and topics. Mythology has always been a popular subject in India but its popularity has touched a new height. Poets and writers are more realistic, more original and sensitive too. It’s saddening to see the decline in reduced attention span of new generation. Kids are hooked to internet for longer hours where social media and Youtube offers quick entertainment. In such cases, reading takes a back seat. Personally I don’t relish the idea of reading a book on net or the idea of audio books. Sadly there is a decline in Hindi poetry. Readers are more comfortable in reading and writing in English and somehow I believe that Hindi poets and writers are frowned upon
As far as publishing is concerned, lot of new publishing houses have sprung up but still the old publishing houses enjoy a better audience owing to their experience. But getting your work published is so much a hassle and one needs to be completely aware or risk being taken for a ride. Reading is one thing which can never go out of fashion so these publishing houses will keep mushrooming but only the fittest shall survive. Self-publishing is also becoming very common and so are online magazines and books.
I am a foodie ! I love any cuisine be it Mexican or Japanese. Currently I am hooked on to sushi and being a vegetarian, I haven’t experienced my taste buds complaining!
Forty rules of love by ELIF SAFAK .I am in love with this book. Somehow it talks to me and I never fail to recommend it to anyone who wants a good read
Somehow I prefer Indian writers. I seem to connect more with them. Haven’t missed a book by CHITRA BANERJEE DIVAKARUNI
What are you afraid of…
Nothing scares me now
What makes you angry…
Anger is something I have learnt to control. But injustice and low self-esteem angers me. Everyone is worth something. We realise it too late though
Aaha!.. hard to believe, but I never had one! Nobody interested me but for my books and my solitude!
Things that you can’t leave without…
My smile and a positive attitude!
Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?
My only advice to them is to read as much as they can to go with the flow, to have courage to let their ink talk freely but with responsibility and to follow your heart.
Sharing some of my work here is a matter of pride for me. Hope you all will enjoy what my muse whispers
I am lucky
to have two separate homes to come back to
if I want to
‘if’ is the word I have begun to loathe
‘Lucky’ is an another which
I do not understand at all
‘want’ sounds alien to me
Quietly, I sit and wait
at the dining table
waiting for what I know not
chew my nails till the skin.
My heart knows,
my head doesn’t want to
‘No ‘, is a word that I am well familiar with
But ‘yes’ is the word I mouth
as I clear away used plates
and wipe the table clean
I refuse to wipe the window panes of my eyes
‘Let them flow ‘
This is the sum total of my rebellion
with a house, no ….make that two
I call myself ‘homeless’
I am a woman
मेज़ पर खाना रखा है
बिखरे काँच देख कर थरथर काँप रही है वो
आज फिर खाना ठंडा हो गया शायद
हाँ! एक हिम्मत की चाबी ही तो चाहिए
दरवाज़ा में तो अंदर से भी ताला लगा रहता है
दफ्तर से शायद आता ही होगा
कॉफ़ी के पैसे जल्दी से मेज़ पर रख रही है!
छुट्टे भी नही वापिस चाहिए, क्योंकि समय नही है
बहुत देर बाद अपने मन की की है
पानी गर्म भर दिया है बाल्टी में
ठंडे पानी से चेहरे पर छींटे मार रही है
सूजन ठंडे पानी से ही जाती है न
अलमारी साफ़ कर रही है
बेल्ट छिपा देने का मन है
क्या करेगी पर पाँव में पहने जूतों का?
आईने झूठ भी बोलते हैं
मुस्कुराहट यही कहती है
काँपते होंठ किसने पढ़े हैं?
साधारण स्त्री ठहरी
पूजनीय न कहो
दान दे दो अब मुक्ति का
खींच लो धागा
तोड़ दो माला
अब ये दायित्व
एक पाषाण सा
अटक गया है
“ पाँव और रीढ़”
अरबों खरबों जिस्म फिर भी उम्मीद की मशाल थामे
टिमटिमाते रहते हैं जाने कितने ही अंधियारे आकाशो पर
कई रातें बुलाने पर ही आती हैं…
“Feet and Spine”
millions and billions bodies aglow with flaming torches
sparkle with hope countless darkened skies
some nights come only when beckoned…
And a stanza from a English poem
“The Minds Plays A Thousand Tricks”
the houses call out to their own,
right in the midst of summer,
the lake freezes its tears.
only the barbed wires
piercing its eyes and tongue in winter.
dejected, the shikara hangs its head,
its oars armless..
For More on Monica, check out her Radio interview or reading on Youtube.
Listen to Monica Oswal’s feature on Ludhiana FM Gold by Parveen Sethi #np on #SoundCloud
Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI.