"We as Indians have never frankly confessed our ways of lovemaking": Pitambar Naik

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"We as Indians have never frankly confessed our ways of lovemaking": Pitambar Naik

Poornima Laxmeshwar’s Tete-a-tete with Pitambar Naik on his debut book of poetry “The Anatomy of Solitude.”

Pitambar Naik is a well-known poetic voice from India. He grew up in Odisha, and is currently a poetry editor for Minute Magazine. His work has been featured in journals across 13 countries. His collection of poetry, The Anatomy of Solitude, was recently published by Hawakal.

In an interview with Poornima Laxmeshwar, Bengaluru Review's editor, Pitambar discusses his writings and thought-process.

PL: Tell us about the poem 'Tishani Doshi's Girls'. What prompted this poem? I see a lot of references of strong women here and certain sarcasm at modernity?

PN: At the outset I thank you, Poornima Laxmeshwar for this talk. Let me come to the question straightaway. Women are perennially strong, vibrant, and potential. It’s needless to say that they have the same zeitgeist to produce and create wonders vis-à-vis to their male counterparts. Tishani Doshi has been one of my favourite poets. Her astounding writing caliber, linguistic skills and creative thought process have really swooned me. What propelled me to write this particular poem was nothing but her much acclaimed book “Girls Are Coming out of the Woods.” Here in this poem, I’ve simply tried to portray the prowess and power of women in the light of the persona of Tishni Doshi herself. Moreover, a bit of feminism can also be emphasized; I believe that feminism is not only the sole property of women; a male can equally be a partner in sharing this identity. That was what the motivation behind writing this poem. I’ve been sarcastic here about modernity as it has miserably failed to give its due to women especially in Indian context.

PL: There’re poems where the women you refer to have lipsticks and makeup. Do you find using of cosmetics amusing or that it can be a good camouflage to the real expressions?

PN: Wearing a makeup of any kind has never been objectionable to me rather as always it’s amusing and intriguing. Why question someone’s freedom of choice and right to one’s own way of living. It’s in fact, a part of life in modernity and that can’t be shunned away. However, it’s also a good means of escaping from the originality of life and sheltering in the camouflage. But, yes, if it goes adding extra points to dazzle the beauty of someone then why not they/she go/es with it, there’s nothing wrong. I’ve used it aesthetically as an imagery to fundamentally make things appear hearty, amazing, and catchy. To be honest women’s bric-a-brac is fascinating as always. Hence, who can be aloof and insensible without portraying them and their world of fascination?

PL: 105 degrees of silence - reads like a poem where one is trying to resurrect a lost relationship. Can a relationship once lost be revived at all? What do you think?

PN: In fact, both. Sustaining a relation is so fragile a task these days. While living a relation if something blisters it’s hard to rejig. However, sometimes it heals like a wound in a slow pace. A relation is really a sensible human feeling with a big heart to handle. Hence, that needs a lot of care, empathy, support and mutual commonality. We live in a chaotic time where everything is encompassed by havoc and hysteria. Many a time, a relation is also fostered by various socio-cultural backgrounds. In this scenario relating to someone and nourishing the relation is not so an easy task. Sometimes many of us fail in this psychological phenomenon. This poem is simply a reflection of a short of relation with so many fissures and potholes yet that hopes and dreams to outlive the storm in between.

PL: Mother said they'd meet in heaven - is there a place called heaven? Would you like to reunite with someone in heaven, if that ever happens?

PN: Heaven is a notion and idea we were made believe in repeatedly. My father got converted to Christianity when I was may be a 10-year-old boy and I was in class 5th since then in Sunday schools and churches we have been indoctrinated and taught about the ideas like hell and heaven, apocalypse, doom’s day etc. This particular poem I penned some five years back when I lost my father. While writing this I was flooded with the conversations my parents used to have over the years. I’ve tried to reminisce the same in this piece. Poetry is something what we live, ultimately that mirrors or sneaks into us.

PL: Don't you think the entire bodies have traces of brewed loneliness? What can they offer apart from that?

PN: Well, that’s intriguingly true and today that has been aggravatingly taking a toll on us. I as a poet particularly point out here about the commoners, the deprived and the marginalized. Yes, you can see loneliness engulf almost everyone of us, the whole world is reeling in it but the people I’ve quoted here are the victims of the worst form of loneliness. I have tried to elucidate loneliness from caste, class and deprivation point of view. They are doubly alienated and strategically ostracized and systematically marginalized. That’s the level of loneliness they are grilled in. We’ve humans of two different bodies’ caste body and outcaste body and they live in two different worlds. For the later, loneliness is a systematic deprivation. The people with the outcaste body are hard-pressed and pushed to live as sub-humans. In this piece of poem, I’ve tried to expose this vital issue.

PL: The poem Dilemma talks about what we had and what we expect. Deprivation lingers you say. What deprivation are you referring to?

PN: We need to go beyond the line you are referring to—

We’re purposefully under the bondage of an old circa,
of innocence, anachronism, and of poignancy;
in the stockpile a deprivation lingers, others hardly notice it.

Here the protagonist is a rebel to condemn societal taboos, stereotypes and biases which exist along with the so called cultural heritage in the guise of caste in Indian society. If you deeply delve into this phrase like (the bondage of an old circa) it’s crystal clear. And the protagonist ventures to throw light on the social sin in his life that is hardly depicted as a voice of protest in the poetic arts in the country.

PL: Are you trying to point out the hypocrisy that exists in the poem First Kiss?

PN: A relation is fast being commoditized in other words in today’s context, it’s a slick commercial product packed in fantasy and frivolity. Is the human feeling of love just a bodily desire? It loses its originality in the context of market economy as most of us translate love in this format. Down the centuries, we as Indians have never frankly confessed our ways of lovemaking and made a lot of hue and cry blaming on the west for coercing or influencing us. What a hypocritical society we are! The poem, First Kiss is a satirical exposition of the contextual relationship in general in Indian context.

PL: Who have been and are your favourite poets?

PN: Emily Dickenson, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Pablo Neruda and James Baldwin are my all time favourite poets. I started reading them some 20 years back though I started writing in English only in 2013. Now the list has a lot many poets, some of them are Danez Smith, Jericho Brown, Kaveh Akbar, Leila Chatti, Jane Wong, Vijay Sheshadri, Jeet Thayil, Tishani Doshi and Nina Sudhakar etc.

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