Interview: Glory Sasikala

A FLIPCHAT IN BETWEEN GOUTAM KARMAKAR AND GLORY SASIKALA
Glory Sasikala
Goutam Karmakar: Hello Ma'am. How are you?

Glory Sasikala: I’m fine, Goutam. I hope you’re doing good too. A BIG thanks to you and Setu Magazine (Sunil Sharma and Anurag Sharma) for giving me this opportunity.

Goutam Karmakar: You are a poet and writer based in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. But your readers want to know something about your childhood days and educational background. So tell us a bit about these.

Glory Sasikala: Childhood: My family background is a bit strange in that while both my parents hail from the Tanjore district of Tamilnadu, my father is an immigrant from Burma who settled in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, and my mother is from Chennai. My father worked with the Civil Aviation Department, Airport, and so the family kept moving from one city to another. I was born in Kolkata. We then moved to Chennai, then to Hyderabad, and then, back to Kolkata, where, a year later, my father died, in 1974. I was 10 years old then, and we stayed on till my sister's marriage was fixed in Chennai in 1982. As such, most of my childhood memories are of the Airport area (Dum Dum), Kolkata. We had a big lake just behind our house, the plane hangars on the other side, and acres and acres of wilderness, with flowers blooming in profusion and butterflies dancing over them. It was all wild, sylvan beauty at its best. There was a huge peepul tree that used to light up with fireflies in the night.

People still recall me for the tomboy I was, climbing trees, a catapult permanently in my pocket, dancing in the rains. I also had six street dogs as pets that used to follow me everywhere and answer my whistling.

Educational Qualification: At school, I was always considered a brilliant child with a penchant for English. I was double-promoted from Class 3 to Class 5. However, my studies came to a standstill after I completed Class 10, when I faced some very personal emotional issues that even drove me to the point of suicide. I had no intention of continuing with my studies, but at my mother's request, joined some correspondence courses and completed my degree in English Literature, although I had started out as a science student. I also got selected to serve the Railways, but could not take up the job as I was married off that year (1985) when I was just 21 years old. My education – and indeed, my literary skills – lay dormant for years as I concentrated on taking care of my family. It was only in 2003 that I picked up on a career again when I joined medical transcription in Anna University.

Goutam Karmakar
Goutam Karmakar: Tell me what does poetry mean to you and who are your favourite poets?

Glory Sasikala: Poetry is my succour. I wrote my first poem when I was just 7 years old and I was known as the Poetess both in school and among family and friends. My father encouraged me to write not just poetry, but plays and stories as well. He made me carry a notebook with me all the time. More importantly, he made me recite poetry by heart, which habit has stood me in good stead in later years. I still know most of the poems that I learnt in school by heart. These will include Daffodils, Solitary Reaper, Incident in the French Camp, Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, etc. I can rattle them off. I also knew by heart the whole of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Even during the most stressful parts of my life, I would recall these poems in some quiet corner, like William Wordsworth, who wrote in Daffodils:

“I gazed—and gazed—but little thought/what wealth the show to me had brought/For oft, when on my couch I lie/In vacant or in pensive mood,/They flash upon that inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude;/And then my heart with pleasure fills,/And dances with the daffodils.”

After creating GloMag, I have become aware of the fact that to answer a question regarding who my favourite poets are with famous names like Tagore, Tennyson, etc. is an unjust and futile exercise. These poets and writers on GloMag have taught me that there is a whole new wave of brilliant writers. So, if you ask me who my favourite poets are, my answer would definitely be all the poets who write on GloMag. Amazing work they do.

Of the poets who have inspired me, the name ‘Kannadasan’ stands out. He is a famous poet who has written in Tamil, better known for the lyrics he wrote for Tamil movie songs, though his personal writings are equally brilliant. His is an unmatched versatility that I have consciously tried to emulate, although I write in English. I've done that less in recent times, with the advent of free verse. Among the English poets, I’ve been inspired by Lord Tennyson's writings (after whom my son is named). I also like all the classic poets like Keats, Wordsworth, Shelly, Robert Brown, etc. Tagore's Gitanjali brought in a new perspective, which has possibly developed into the current trend we see of writing haibuns and prose-poems. I am also a huge, huge fan of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Goutam Karmakar: You are obsessed with the very beauty of Moon and your 'MoonMania' proves that. So tell us how have you described Moon in your poems?

Glory Sasikala: My name is Glory Sasikala: . 'Sasikala' in Hindi means Moonlight. So I could be, you know, Glorious Moonlight. With both father and husband in transferable jobs, there's not been much permanency in my life as we travelled from one city to another. I look up to the sky for permanence. The Sun and Moon and stars have come with me wherever I've gone. And when I was so far from my loved ones, I knew that the same sky that was over me was over them too. I share a deep bond particularly with the night sky, when constellations show direction, season, show you how small and insignificant you and your problems really are! The Moon is a beautiful being whose poses are infinite – Rising Moon, Red Moon, Moon over the ocean, Blue Moon, Moon behind clouds...Peeping Moon… Moonlight is silvery, soothing. It can calm the most stressed out person. Like with Love, you can write infinite songs dedicated to the Moon, and you will still not be done.

Goutam Karmakar: Your Glomag is one of the popular magazines of India. So tell us why have you taken the initiative of bringing out this magazine monthly?

Glory Sasikala: GloMag is basically a dream come true, perhaps reiterating Rhonda Byrne’s theory in “The Secret”, which says that what you visualize will eventually come true. I've been dreaming poetry, music and pictures for as long as I can remember, and it's manifested so beautifully today as GloMag. It's a combination of that dream and a passion for the magazine format that eventually worked out. The first issue was published in July 2015, and the mag has only improved with time, with more and more writers contributing to it. I have wanted to be pro-active in many ways with regard to the writing scene, and GloMag allows me to do all that. I've wanted to be part of the launching of new books by first-time authors, I've wanted writers to get feedback for their work, I've wanted the work of contemporary writers to be saved and stored for future generations. These things have been possible with GloMag, where I feature a new book every month. I post writings on the facebook group and invite comments. The online versions are stored in various online libraries. I've also brought out one hard copy in February 2017, and will be bringing out two books per year – one in February and one in August – from this year on. These books are also stored in the major libraries in India.

Goutam Karmakar: Your 'A Promise to Destroy' is a Novel where you have presented the story of Anna Marie vividly. So can you tell us your motives behind bringing out a novel? And what are you trying to show through your protagonist Anna?

Glory Sasikala: Anna Marie’s story in ‘A Promise to Destroy’ is a mild version of what really goes on behind closed doors in families. Incest is the least talked about sexual abuse because it involves family members and either the victims themselves end up protecting the perpetrator or the family does. I would like to write some more about sexual abuse. However, I am restricted a bit by the fact that I'm not comfortable writing sexual content. There is an undefined but definite bar to my writing. Perhaps, someday, I shall get over my inhibitions as a writer and explore this topic further.

If ever I take up a cause to serve humanity as a whole, it will be either that of sexual abuse or abuse of children as a whole and in so many forms. The psychology behind sexual abuse interests me a lot because it is seemingly unconnected to upbringing and education. I feel that the education and information that is given and received is the wrong kind – the kind that teaches them to be 'good.' Whereas the goal is not to make one good or bad, but ensure that one has more control over one's baser drives.

Young men seem physiological programmed to be reckless. You find them jumping off trains and buses, taking up dares, driving too fast. This, combined with the fact that a normal male thinks so frequently about sex, possibly contributes to the rampant sexual abuse instances. The answer lies in educating them regularly, even at school level – not about being good boys but about the consequences of their actions: what could/will happen to them (not the victim) if they were to attack another person. How they cannot escape justice, how their life as they know it will be over at that point. Even graphically presenting to them the fate of their predecessors will be good. Self-preservation is a strong motive to walk the straight path.

That just might be a simplistic view of things. We will never know till we try it out.

Goutam Karmakar: Apart from being a poet and novelist you are a short story writer also. So tell us how do you channelize your energy and creativity in all directions?

Glory Sasikala: If you're asking how I write in all genres, well, I see writing as a whole as just one genre: Communication. To me, it's that simple. And I truly believe your writing should communicate clearly to your reader. So yup, abstract writing does not really appeal to me, I guess. I don't think abstract writing will prevail in the long run. Also, when I say 'communication,' I mean that to be a two-way thing: a subject that is interesting to the writer as well as the reader, which is again one of the reasons why some writings are so unappealing – or perhaps, catering to a wrong audience. With that definition in mind, yes, I am comfortable with all genres of writing, slipping into each one with ease.

If you're asking about my energy level, yes, that too is a puzzle. I hold an eight-hour job, take care of my grandson for a good seven hours, I'm on facebook, I bring out a magazine single-handedly, I write, I take care of myself, I sleep, and I have no housekeepers or helpers: I do all my cooking and cleaning, and I enjoy life, keep in touch with friends. So either it's a miracle or I'm just good at time management. The latter is true. I'm much influenced by the book “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day” by Arnold Bennett. Moments matter.

Most of what I do is a combination of things. If I'm walking, then that gets combined as time to catch up with my phone calls. If I'm feeding my grandson and he's watching TV, then that becomes also a time to sit with my computer and create GloMag. If I've worked for an hour, I'm entitled to exercise for a couple of minutes, perhaps go for a short walk or do some stretchies. If I'm eating, that's also time to plan my day. If I'm washing dishes, that's also time to think out a story. You could call me a compulsive multi-tasker, yes, and yet, when I'm doing something, it's all I have in mind. It has my complete, undivided attention.

Goutam Karmakar: Through fifteen stories of ' Madi Maami and Other Stories' what have you tried to show before your readers?

Glory Sasikala: The stories in Madi Maami and Other Stories are actually caricatures of people I've met at various points in my life who have taught me life lessons through their behavior and lifestyle, and they've been influenced by me as well. For example, I learnt from Madi Maami who lived next door that Love is the only power that can transcend religious and caste barriers. I learnt from "This Old Man" that passion for what you sell is the best marketing tool at your disposal. The Indian-style Apartheid taught me that people can have right and balanced global opinions but be mean to the people in their own vicinity. It also taught me that Love, again, is the only power that can overcome all barriers. I learnt from a small cat (Fur Ball) that animals are intelligent and thinking, and that they have souls.

Goutam Karmakar: Some deliberate exaggeration and expansions of momentary observations within your hearing find expression in your ' To The Ocean and Other Stories'. Can you tell us what are those momentary observations and deliberate exeggaration?

Glory Sasikala: Yes, “To The Ocean and Other Stories” is supposed to work as moments captured in time pretty much the way a photograph is. However, I haven’t continued the project. December and January are festive months, and family time takes precedence over everything else. I have also shifted to a new job this month. Once I settled down, I will pick up on my projects again.

Goutam Karmakar: What are your future projects? And what type of selling market do you find for emerging and regional writers in India?

Glory Sasikala: For this year, I intend concentrating a lot on GloMag, and I will be publishing two hard copies apart from the online versions. I need to place these magazines, and I hope to get some media coverage for it too. Regards my own poetry, I’m not very keen on selling them for monetary benefits. I would prefer to share them as far and wide as possible. I intend bringing out as many e-books as I can and sharing them for free. I also intend concentrating some more on blogging.

With regard to my prose, I intend to go completely into writing novels, a genre I am very comfortable with. Something has held me back from writing novels, perhaps the magnitude of the projects, but this year, I intend becoming a “professional” novelist, by which I mean I shall be making time to write novels on a daily basis.

The Indian publishing scenario continues to give out mixed signals. You read about the so-called ‘booming’ publishing industry, but when you want to send out your work, you’re wondering where to send it. There are several publishers, however, who are doing a great job. I do wish publishers would re-define the term 'publishing' as 'getting the author publicity' because that's what authors wants, pseudo-humility and elitism notwithstanding. Bringing out the book should not be end of the process, but the beginning. It's my request to publishers to arrange book launches and press conferences for the authors.

It is also a sad fact that a lot of corrupt companies are taking advantage of eager, aspiring writers and fleecing them, knowing full well that unless the author knows how to market his/her book well, they're going to sink without a trace, and probably go broke in the process too.

On the other hand, it's never been so easy to bring out a book, what with Kindle laying out a welcoming platform to everyone without having to shell out a penny, and desktop publishing making it possible to bring out as little as 25 to 30 copies.  You also have the option of e-publishing. What more can one ask for?


CONCLUSION
Goutam Karmakar: Thank you ma'am for this conversation.

Glory Sasikala: Dear Goutam, going through the questions that you've set for me, I could not help but notice that you’ve done your research quite thoroughly, regarding both my personal work and GloMag. I am deeply touched that you've actually taken the pains to do that, to read my work and phrase your questions so carefully based on them. Thank you so much!

It's been a pleasure answering your questions. The first one took me back on a nostalgic trip to my childhood, the others made me analyse and think deeply, and even voice some opinions that I have wanted to for a long time. For example, I've always wanted to tell the world that education of a different kind is the way out of sexual abuse. I've always wanted to ask publishers to define publishing as publicity. I'm delighted that I got to do it here.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you, and to Sunil Sharma and Anurag Sharma, and to Setu Magazine, for having thought me important enough a person whose thoughts and viewpoints matter. This means a lot to me. Thank You so much!

About the Interviewer:Goutam Karmakar is currently working as a PhD Research Scholar at the Department of Humanities and Social Science, National Institute of Technology Durgapur (NITD), India.

2 comments :

  1. It's a great delight to know a person like you ma'am, yes, you are a glorious moonlight. Truly inspired by your amazing view about your childhood to present time. Congratulations to you.

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  2. Enjoyed every bit of the conversation would not want to call it an interview. Interview sounds so formal and serious. this is a relaxed chat between two people only difference is one is doing most of the chatting while the other listens attentively and ask questions without interrupting the thought process of the other.

    ReplyDelete

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