“Poetry, at all times reflects the happenings in society and the resultant joy and sorrow in words expressed by the poet.”

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Born Gujarati and married to a Maharashtrian, Shilpa Sontakke is a polyglot whose poetic instincts have found a creative expression in an array of emotions though Hindi poetry. A published writer of six books, she earnestly believes that the appreciation of poetry is a complex affair and that the ecstasy and agony resonating from it could be spontaneous or incidental. With a throbbing, pulsating mind of her own, she finds elixir in poetry.

Here she chats with A. Radhakrishnan on matters poetic.

DDescribe yourself.

I am simple, straightforward, loving, and strive to spread positivity wherever I go. Since childhood, I was very keen to learn new skills to enhance my creativity.I also had a fondness for various languages.I can converse in ten Indian languages, though I can write only in six and can speak pretty fluently in most of them.
This has proved to be a great asset as when we converse with someone in their own language, it creates a quick strong bond.While travelling in different cities in India, especially in the South, it helped me and my family explore conveniently as the locals felt that we were one of them.

When did you start writing poetry? 

I wrote my first two liner poetry in 1998. The appreciation of friends encouraged me to pursue it further. A poem is like a friend to me. It lets me express my feelings and emotions freely. It is a joy since it gives me immense happiness. It is also a good instrument to express my thoughts in a few words on various subjects of society, human behaviour, etc.
  
What is the role of a poet in today’s society? Are poets made or mostly born?

Poetry, at all times reflects the happenings in society and the resultant joy and sorrow in words expressed by the poet. It is their responsibility to present the good and bad things prevailing in society and encourage youngsters create a better and responsible society.
Mostly born….with the instinct to write.

Has the writing style of any poet inspired you? 

Not exactly.I feel reading others’ creations might influence my thinking and writing. So I like to write/say/ convey my own message as much as possible through minimal words.
 
Does a poem have to have a message?

No, it is not necessary to have a message. It’s the poets’ prerogative to convey it according to his/her moods.
 
Are poems generally negative or can it be positive? Is poetry the wrath of a person sitting in loneliness?

Both. It may start with the pain and sorrow of loneliness but, a good poet brings out the positive vibes out of negativity, bringing hope for suffering souls. Personal pain and sorrow can be one of the aspects, but a sensitive person cannot remain aloof from the wrong things happening around him/her, and if he/she is a writer, either prose or poetry, the pain and agony will be reflected in his/her work.

Do you write poetry of protest?

Sometimes. I do express my protest, but that is in a constructive way for the betterment of the society and mankind. But I write more on human feelings, human behaviour and personal inner feelings, since I am pretty observant about people in their day to day lives and how they behave differently in a given situation. I have tremendous hatred for politics and against people who spread wrong messages to divide and rule the society /country.
 
Why are Hindi poems and poets underrated in India? What is the situation of female Hindi poets? 

Honestly, I do not feel that Hindi poems and poets are underrated in India. There was a time when literary creations such as poetry, musical and stage plays, etc., were looked down upon. However, the situation has improved a lot. Today, a lot of people have turned towards these creative fields and are putting in a lot of efforts in order to provide fame and glory to these forms of art.
Even some of the female poets are doing very well, earning name, fame and money. I myself have come across quite a few who have created effective poems and have been rewarded for their work.
Influential people earn good money here too. What is important is getting to the right people/opportunity at the right time.Some people are lucky enough to have good luck on their side, and they succeed. Nothing succeeds like success. 

Any yardsticks to help you define a ‘good’ poem from a ‘not so great one’? Can one understand poetry?

The poetry itself is the yardstick. Whether you can understand poetry is a debatable question. Many a times, a poem does not necessarily have a single meaning to it. Some poems have different meanings understood in different angles by different individuals depending on their individual perspectives. No wonder, poetries of Kaifi Azmi, Nida Fazli, Basheer Badr, and Gulzar are appreciated by one and all. 

What is your writing process like? Where do you get your ideas? How much rewriting, reworking, forgetting, retrieving is involved? Has there been a change in the way you write over time? 

There is no set process as such. Some ideas come naturally, or sometimes certain situations or incidents also give ideas; more or less it is an instinctive process. Yes, lot of rewriting and forgetting is involved since thought process keeps on changing and accordingly the wordings get changed, added, deleted etc. Yes, there is a change in writings with time. 

Do you have any particular audience in mind? 

Not really, I write for my own pleasure and for friends who like and understand my writings. For me, being a poetess is not a job. It is more of a hobby or a passion for me. I am very passionate about my creations and it matters a lot to me as to who will be my audience; they should at least have a liking for poetry, no matter how good or bad they are in understanding the depths of it.
I believe, that a person with a liking for something, will definitely put in their honest efforts to understand it in detail. However I am very uncomfortable with the elite audience class.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? Can you work anywhere or is there a certain space and quietude required to write?

Yes, writing poetry certainly boosts my energy. Ideally my creativity is the source of all my positivity in life. I can write anywhere since creativity is never place specific. Writing can occur to someone at any given point and in any given situation. I remember a funny anecdote, where one of my friends offered her back to me for jotting down thoughts in a crowded local train. If I have to write on any particular subject, wherein I’ll need to think and write, then a quiet place is preferred.

Did you write under a pseudonym?

I generally write under my real name only, but I have a pseudonym ‘Deep’ which means a ‘Diya’ or a ‘Lamp’.

How long do you research before beginning a book? How long on average does it take you to write it?

No, I do not do any research, since my writings usually involve poems, shayaris and very rarely some short stories,as I am not much of a prosaic person. Now these creations usually do not require any market survey or any statistical data. I just write from my mind… in my own way.
There is no standard time taken for writing a book. It depends upon the quantity of poems written and other factors, financial feasibility being prime. My last book was published in the year 2011 and the next one I could be publishing in late 2021.

Can a translated work truly do justice to the original poem?

It depends on the person who is translating it, and how efficient he or she is in both the languages, since mere knowledge of language is not enough, but, they should be well versed with the art of writing poetry as well.

Can you earn money writing poetry? 

Many of them do that. However, that idea never came to my mind. I was a literature student and I never wanted to make poetry, the means for my livelihood. I always wanted to present my creativity to the world in its true form, easily understood and appreciated by everyone in simple language, for all to be able to comprehend. 

Talk about your published books of poetry. What are the themes involved? Also any other achievements.

I have published 6 poetry collections: Ahsason Ke Beech; Mrigtrishna; Mere Indradhnush; Shabdon Se Pare; Panchwan Mausam and Alav Par Zindagi.
There was no theme in particular but general poems (two liners, four liners, poems and songs).

Projects you are working on? 

I am working on one short story collection, one picture poetry collection, bhajnavali, articles on various social subjects and one Gujarati poetry collection.

Share a few lines of a poem of yours in Hindi you like most.

Here are a few:

Sirf Sadagi pe hoke nisar chuna tha maine safed rang
Kya ta pata ki usme bhi sat rang hote hai

Ye koi zindagi ka pehla haadsa nahi
Wo mujh jaisa hokar bhi mujhsa nahi,

Dil se sukoon aankhon se neend churayi jaati hai
Ye wo duniya hai jahan aasthayain bhunayi jati hai

Paas jakhar kabhi bharam hamne toda hi nahi
Wo door se hamme apna sa dikhayi deta tha.  
 
Your awards, and other achievements?

I have received the Mahadevi Varma Sahitya Ratna Samman, the Sahitya Saraswati Samman and the Agnisheekha Gaurav Ratna Samman.
My name has been endorsed in the World Record Book (London) for participating in Doha (verses of Tulsidas)
Marathon. During my Masters, I had submitted my dissertations on five novels of Himanshu Joshi, renowned Hindi writer /novelist/ journalist. I have done translation work for various books and a few documentaries by Discovery Channel. I have also broadcast poems and drama on Akashwani and Vividh Bharati.
As a cancer survivor, there are mixed feelings of joy and fear, as there are many side effects of the therapy. During that period, I learnt how tocreate decorated picture frames, named ‘Sajavat Kala’.

What advice or message do you have for new poets?

Be true to yourself, do not plagiarise, have patience, write responsibly and ensure that it does not convey any wrong messages to the society. Always remember to be positive and constructive.


A. Radhakrishnan

A.Radhakrishnan is a Pune based freelance journalist, poet and short story writer, who when not enjoying is favourite cup of kaapi, loves to make people happy.

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