Tell us about the new book — Raindrops Chasing Raindrops.
Raindrops Chasing Raindrops is a labour of love. It took me three years to write but was waiting to be written all my life. The book is a collection of 61 Haibun and Hybrid poems, where I dwell on love, memory, family, pain, war, rebellion, dreams, mutiny and mundanity, exploring and attempting to capture the unknown. Together, these works are the jigsaw pieces of my life; some lived with people and situations that may have existed only in my head, but why should it mean they are any less real.
Haibun, is my one true love. Simply put, it is a combination of prose and Haiku, both woven together in a rich tapestry of restraint and abandon. It’s a form that’s mutating and evolving at a very rapid pace. I for one, like to set up the stage for stories. I paint the scene for the reader, take them right where the action is and then leave them alone to provide it with the closure it deserves. For the time-crunched, voyeuristic world that we find ourselves living in, Haibun is the genre waiting to happen.
How did your journey with Haiku and Haibun begin?
Five years ago, I was going through one of the worst periods in my life. I was not painting because I wanted to write and I was not writing as I would end up abandoning every idea, every project at some stage or the other. On a personal front too, it was a trying time. It is during this period of strife and pain that I discovered Haiku, languishing in an anthology of poetry. I was smitten. I was in love. It gave me peace. It helped me reflect on my life and find answers that seemed out of my reach until then. Four months later, Dr Angelee Deodhar, one of the most experienced poets in the genre, took me under her wings. She shared scholarly articles, rapped my knuckles, edited my works and taught me all I know about the form. She also recognised that I had a flair for prose and suggested that I try Haibun. It took me two years to understand the form. From there, the journey has been about developing my own unique style.
What drove you to write Raindrops Chasing Raindrops now, three years after An Inch of Sky?
An inch of Sky is a book that conforms to the norms of Haiku and Haibun. It is a classic volume and has been used as resource material at Indiana Writers Centre, USA. This book was written when I was still working within the defined boundaries of the form. Ergo, it will be read and discussed only in the circles that love as well as practise these delicate and meditative Japanese forms of writing. Raindrops Chasing Raindrops, on the other hand is a book that is enjoyable for anyone interested in literary fiction and poetry. I believe this book makes Haibun and Hybrid poems accessible without compromising their integrity. This book, I believe will be a rewarding journey for any reader willing to move beyond pulp fiction. It is me breaking free of the constraints that the genre brings.
A painter and poet — how did this come about — from a career in the Indian Navy?
I began my life as an artist. The day I could hold a pencil, I expressed myself in lines and doodles. Writing too happened sporadically from a very early age.
Joining the Navy was a conscious decision - the allure of the uniform, the unblemished patriotism, the honour. At a young and unsullied age, this seemed like the only way to repay my country. For me, Navy is to pride what writing and painting is to self-actualisation. They had to go hand-in-hand.
Having won a number of awards and recognition for your poetry, what do you think of this Japanese form of poetry? It is still not so known in this part of the world. Why, according to you, is this the case?
The Japanese form of poetry might be the most ill-understood form out there. Haiku continues to be widely misunderstood. Even the most accomplished poets tend to look away from Haiku. Its brevity often being misunderstood as being too easy or not capable of saying enough. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Same goes for Haibun. All these forms of writing are unique in the way they pull the reader in to complete the story. As a poet, I only compose half a circle, the reader is the one who completes that circle based on his/her unique experiences and cultural predispositions.
I believe the time for this form has come and we will soon see a lot more unique voices in the genre. I believe anyone wishing to write a novel someday, should start with Haibun. It teaches you the value of each word, composition, every comma, every full stop. You learn to make it count and that’s important. You learn the importance of editing your own work. In an atmosphere where we come across substandard works garbed as the next bestseller, Haibun tells us to take a step back and understand what good, heart-wrenching writing is.
When you speak at fests and in colleges, and conduct workshops, what is the kind of response you get?
I recently conducted a Haibun workshop at Lamakaan, Hyderabad. The event was attended by more than 40 upcoming writers and poets. The whole atmosphere was charged and we ended up talking about this form and writing as a whole for more than five and half hours instead of the stipulated three hours. Even after we were politely told that our time slot is over, we moved to a café and continued there.
At the SIES College in Mumbai, a young student came up to me after the workshop and said, ‘I wish to write like you one day.’ I live for moments like these. They fuel me to write again and keep writing.
What is in the pipeline next?
A lot. I wish to write a book on the lost trades of the country. I want to talk about the kite-makers, the warak-beaters, the bhishti-wallahs, and the rickshaw-pullers. I also wish to work on another book of Haibun; a sort of character sketch of the many colourful people from Lucknow — the city I grew up in.
In the pipeline is also a novel about the trials and tribulations of being a man stuck in past. There are a few more ideas; elusive wisps of smoke still trying to find a foothold in my heart and mind. I hope some of these see the light of the day.