Apart from being a critic, translator, reviewer and creative writer, Naina has authored several books of critical essays, and her writings have been published in newspapers, anthologies and academic journals.
She is the winner of the “Excellence in World Poetry Award, 2009” by the International Poets Academy in Chennai and has been a member of a team of young Indian writers to be felicitated jointly by Sahitya Akademi and Visva-Bharati University on the occasion of the 150th birth centenary of Rabindranath Tagore in 2010.
Not only that, she has twice won the Heart-Bytes international poetry contest conducted by Sacred Heart College in Kochi. She has been anthologized in Roots and Wings: An Anthology of Indian Women Writing in English, Kerala and The Dance of the Peacock, Hidden Brook Press, Canada. Snapshots from Space and other poems is her first book of poems.
The Lifestyle Portal talked to her about her latest book a compilation of some of the most beautiful and heart rendering poems – Snapshots from Space and Other Poems; you can pick up a copy from Amazon.in.
1) You don many hats that of a ‘critic, translator, reviewer, a creative writer and an English professor’ – how do you mange to balance it all?
Seems quite a handful isn’t it. But again many people are doing it. But all this would not have happened without the encouragement of my mentor Sanjukta Dasgupta who herself is juggling with a lot of things. It was she who first suggested that I write for The Statesman and I began as a freelancing literary critic and reviewer for their ‘Features’ page. My vocation as an English teacher was rather preordained and I never thought of becoming anything else (though my first preference was to become an animation artist and filmmaker) since high school. The rest of it fell into place as one thing followed another.
Well, once you start writing I think you begin to get the idea to try out various things, though becoming a translator happened by chance when Sanjuktadi asked me to translate Ashapurna Devi’s short story ‘Chinnamasta’ for her newly launched literary journal Families in 2006. And that was that.
3) What inspired you to write these poems? Were these written at a certain time, space or based on an event?
I first tried my hand at writing poetry at a very young age. I recollect making my own ‘book’ by stitching together unused pages from old exercise books. The poems perhaps were titled ‘A Cow’, ‘A Crow’ etc. and even carried my own illustrations. Then I left off. Poetry writing in high school became a business of other people. I didn’t consider myself clever enough for the feat. It was in 2006 that I seriously began to think of taking up poetry writing when Muse India published three of my poems online. Later on, I started writing for anthologies or to participate in poetry contests. Snapshots is a compilation of poems written during the last 7-8 years covering personal and political events, tacit observations of things happening around me.
4) What makes your book ‘Snapshots from Space and other poems’ – so unique? What is its USP(s)?
Well, what can I say? I really did not think of producing anything ‘unique’ when I started compiling the poems. They were sporadic outbursts of thoughts and emotions felt over years, that had to find a quick outlet. I was only trying to express things on paper that I couldn’t to people. The poems are just an earnest attempt to communicate with the hope that at least a few of them would have a cathartic effect on the reader, that he/she will be able to identify with them, and be able to say ‘Hey, those are my lines!’
There is no target audience. The language is easy and anybody can read it. ‘The Three Budgerigars’ is meant for children and adults alike to make them aware of the senseless cruelty meted out to caged birds. ‘The Cockatoo’ is likewise. Also in the poems under ‘Past, Present and Future’ there is an attempt to make people aware of the ignorance, callousness and corruption in our day to day life that is destroying society and the environment at large.
6) ‘In these poems, myriad emotions come together – fear, anger, frustration, cruelty, insensitivity, disillusionment, shame, loss – with the underlying current of hope, the desire to live, to love and be loved…’ – how difficult/ easy was it to pen down emotions such as fear, anger, cruelty?
Writing at first wasn’t easy because you need the right words for a particular thought or emotion. Later on, I found myself getting out of bed and madly scribbling away sometimes even in the middle of the night. The poems under ‘Dreams’ are indeed fragments of dreams seen during a bout of high fever.
The poems are never didactic. They are glimpses of what we all see and encounter in our daily lives but tend to soon forget. Little acts of kindness go unnoticed as do the occasional cruelty. We tend to forget that all this is getting accumulated somewhere. Our acts, however, insignificant, amount to something by the end of it all. Greater good can only come from individual goodness and selfishness can only lead to evil and destruction. There is also the awareness that there is beauty in all things, that all things exist in their own right.
8) What would be the best time or the best way to read these poems?
I have never thought about this. I guess anybody can read them anywhere though I would personally recommend that you read them at night.
9) What are your favourite poems out of the list from your book?
All poems are special for me one way or the other. ‘The Seer’, and ‘The Cockatoo’ were among my first published poems. ‘Shantipura’ and ‘Solitude’ were winners in the Heart-Bytes poetry contest. The poems falling under ‘Dreams’ were desperate outbursts of the unbearable pain of losing my father.
Do not be afraid of censorship. Write from your heart.
11) Are you currently working on a new book of short stories or poems? If yes, can we have a little peek into it?
Just now I am in a sort of hiatus during which I hope to finish a couple of literary essays my friends/ colleagues are expecting from me for their anthologies. After that, I intend to bring out a compilation of translated short stories of noted Bengali writers. Of course, that will require time and a lot of patience. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
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