Kiriti Sengupta in conversation with Gopal Lahiri

Kiriti Sengupta
Kajal Deeghi
By Kiriti Sengupta

Leisure around the water
It was named Kajal Deeghi.

I was inquisitive,
Water here didn’t look black,
Nor would I call green
The lake seemed deep
I quickly remembered Banalata Sen
Her profound eyes resembled
The nest of a bird
Those eyes,
The water in the lake
They house, and reflect

Kiriti Sengupta is a very essential and powerful voice of our time. He writes on a gentler sublime potency of life and his clear eyed attention brings each topic into dizzying focus. He makes his write all that easy yet his wit and analytical mind creating the immediacy. Kiriti once remarked, ‘Poetry is an occasion for rejoicing….celebrating the earth, birth and exit through the earthen flute. After all, poets are not beggars, but seekers of the truth.’ This sums up all.
Gopal Lahiri

Gopal Lahiri: You are a versatile writer and already authored nine books at such a young age. What started you writing poetry, non-fiction or memoir? Which one you like most?

Kiriti Sengupta: Thank you! I’ll turn forty-two on April 29 this year. I’ve grey hair … my skin shows signs of aging; I’m an old soul, you see! You were right when you said I’ve authored nine books, but then, I’ve two full-length collections of translated poems as well. My life — experiences I gain on a day-to-day basis and, the observations that either support or challenge my experiences — they inspire me to write. Be it poetry, nonfiction or memoir, the life has been the great teacher and I’m one of its unruly students. I’m particularly fond of free verse; do you know why?  It allows me to challenge a set of rules which often restrict the flow of my creative juices.

Lahiri: Are there any themes which particularly attract you as a writer?

Sengupta: Water attracts me more than the mountains! Water symbolizes life. When you feel restless look at the water, they say. It calms your mind. Poetry crystallizes best in tranquility. Poetry is one unique stress-buster available to mankind.

Lahiri: Tell us about yourself, your profession, your spirituality and of course about your readers?

Sengupta: I believe I’m a reliable dental surgeon to my patients. My only son, Aishikk, rarely finds me in the house as I mostly stay away due to my work. Trust me, my wife, Bhaswati, has no complaint, and I’m grateful to her for allowing me the needed space to pamper my pen! I’m planning to buy a studio where people can read their favorite books while munching cheese sandwiches. You know, cheese and smile are inter-related for ages. I can assess and design smile from being a trained cosmetic dentist. I’ve a few dedicated readers; they are my strength. 

Lahiri: Who are our favorite authors? 

Sengupta: A long list that starts with Tagore; I consider myself a big fan of Wordsworth. I love to read Sharmila Ray, Sunil Sharma, Sanjeev Sethi, Ananya S Guha, Atreya Sarma Uppaluri, Chandra Shekhar Dubey, among others. Seshu Chamarty’s Haikus are astounding. Did I name you? I’m a proud owner of Living Inside, which is your book. Of late Raghavendra Madhu’s debut book, Make Me Some Love to Eat, has been a great reading experience! Among young American poets I’ll name Dustin Pickering and Scott Thomas Outlar.

Lahiri: Tell us about the writers who have influenced you.

Sengupta: Don Martin [Arizona, USA] has hugely influenced my writing style. It’s his ease of expression that made me a conscious writer. And then, Vibha Malhotra. Vibha is a perfectionist. I think she can immaculately reciprocate her mind whenever she writes. This is a commendable take. I can tell you Vibha is very particular about punctuation — all in all, an enviable creative writer!

Lahiri: You are an accomplished poet and clarity is the hallmark of your write. How do you approach poetry?

Sengupta: When you say ‘clarity’ I remember the poem, “Clarity,” I wrote a few years ago. Clarity is like making clarified butter (ghee) from milk. You boil milk for hours, let it cool and separate the yellow froth that forms on its surface. You accumulate the froth in a container and boil it to produce fresh and pure ghee. Achieving clarity in writing asks for simple living. Accepting life as it arrives and how quickly one absorbs the challenges to survive — you live in several productive ways, yet remain free of ambitions … the entire theory may sound interesting, however it is difficult to follow and attain. But, as soon as you secure patience and simplicity, you will certainly show distinct signs of clarity in your work. My poems elicit the facets of my philosophy, especially the life I chose to live.

Lahiri: In your last book Reflections on Salvation, you mentioned, “Scripture does not allow one to be judgmental. Scriptural verses deserve contemplation.” Can you elaborate to the tune of the context of the book?

Sengupta: One of the chief objectives of studying the scriptures is to live a restrained and disciplined life. Scriptural studies can make you a pundit, scholar and, even a knowledgeable human, but you will require ‘practice’ to become a truly wise being. Real wisdom opens one’s heart and makes one earthy, compassionate and generous. Scriptures should make men sensible. You see, the scriptures have been written in verses which often mask the real meaning of them. Exploring them through austere practice is called for. There are several commentaries available on the scriptures, but they create confusion and the commentators should be held responsible if the resultant confusion generates division and lack of integrity in mankind. The Gita says: sarva-dharman parityajya/ mam ekam saranam vraja (chapter 18, verse 66). If we go by its literal translation, we have been advised to abandon all varieties of religion and surrender ourselves unto the God. The same verse has been explained in more than one way in the commentaries, and one must keep a note of the fact that the so-called religions like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc. were not in existence during the making of The Gita which essentially belongs to the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion). I’ll say it again, “Scriptural verses deserve contemplation!”

Lahiri: Once you said, “I believe when life can be random, why would I possibly plan to order and smoothen the transitions? Let them remain as-it-is.” Do you think that this is an essential gradient of good write?

Sengupta: Life is random, you see! You come across numerous transitions which are utterly rough, unexpected and disturbing. You don’t have an option to decline them; you have to traverse the avenues the life has planned for you. You have no choice, but to face the seemingly unpleasant obstacles. You stumble upon, and then decide to walk further. Your muscles absorb the shock and adjust themselves to receive more. The brain instructs you to be careful in future. Similarly, if you “plan to order and smoothen the transitions” from one chapter of your writing to another, you would perhaps fail to stir the minds of your readers. A good write should hit and boggle the mind.

Lahiri: Share your learning experiences from being an editor, publisher and also a critic as well.

Sengupta: I’m still learning from being an editor. As publisher I’ve released several important titles over the last few years. I often ask the young authors, “Why would one buy your book? I can understand that your friends and family will buy your book; they can appreciate and even critique your work. But, how would you reach out to someone whom you don’t know at all?” The authors try to explain, but lack reasoning.  I’ve seen many young talents dream of being successful and sought-after overnight with the release of their debut books, irrespective of the genre they prefer to write. My work schedule rarely allows me to write reviews of books, but then, I do write a review or two as and when I read something that taps my mind.

Lahiri: You are an accomplished translator. If I put it that way, on which side your weight fall, the translator or a writer of your own?

Sengupta: Writers (be poet/ novelist/ nonfiction writer/ essayist) are essentially translators of their thoughts. But translating others’ lines of thought is extremely tedious and exhaustive. But then, I love to be marked as the translator of a few celebrated Bengali poets whom I look up to. At all events I’ll prefer to be remembered as a writer or poet in connection with the books I’ve authored.