When I saw a foreigner with a hat placed perfectly on her head and a long stylish chain dangling from her neck, lipstick and eye liner in place, I least expected the person to be the one I was to be meeting along with Sivakami on 9th August, 2016 at Amdavadi, T.Nagar.
I had met innumerable writers and poets before so, it wasn’t that I was over-awed or something. It was just that she seemed to pop out from the pages of history, an old timer writer, poet, novelist and translator from every angle!
What stood out (for me at least) as a stereotype perception of well known writers transformed into a tale of thoughts and emotions which I shared along with Sivakami with Priya Sarukkai Chabria.
For the uninformed (like I was earlier), Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s books include translation The Autobiography of a Goddess Andal (2015, Zubaan university of Chicago Press, with Ravi Shankar) Bombay/Mumbai: Immersions (2013, Niyogi Books, non -fiction with photographer Christopher Taylor), Generation 14 (2009, Zubaan-Penguin, speculative fiction) Nor Springtime Yet: Poems (HarperCollins (India), 2009), Dialogue & Other Poems (2006, Indian Academy of Literature) and The Other Garden (1995, Rupa&Co., novel). Awarded by the Indian Government for her Outstanding Contribution to Literature her works’ translated into six languages. She edits Poetry at Sangam (www.sangamhouse.org) .
Exhausted after attending the Bangalore Poetry festival, she was still exhuming the poetry fumes carried over from there, a kind of hangover that seeped into her persona and into our conversation. It was no wonder then that we began discussing poetry and poems impromptu; what kind of poems appealed, which didn’t, why not and the like.
It was a pleasure interacting with her. Of course, quite unlike us, she seemed to belong to a different class altogether, constantly caught in the world of words, passion and the literary life, travelling from place to place, putting words on fire wherever she went.
I got to share my Sahitya Akademi poem, Wings Of Flight with her while Sivakami shared some of her poems like The Great Compound Wall and On A Strike Day. We had a good time reading poetry, reading thoughts, reading life itself. It was then, that we discovered that all of us, irrespective of our standing in society have this vulnerable self that is waiting to get healed; and writing poetry was a great way of doing it.
After a light lunch we had a long drive and Priya promised to remember and keep in touch. It was a day that went well. There is nothing like sharing creative thoughts and emotions with personalities in the same field who have seen it all, done it all. One really benefits talking to them.
Thank You Priya. We hit it off well. Hoping to meet you soon again. And this time when we meet, your reading of Andal is due!
Quoting from her book of poems, Not Springtime Yet, from the poem Ushas.
“My sister Nritti and I, Ushas, we
weave darkness and light. She’s The
Night who comforts through
darkness, lifting it, letting it run
through her fingers and I’m The
Dawn, smoothing brightness
across the bed of the sky, arching to
tuck it into the horizon, awakening
life to life. She’s said to turn reality
into dreams and nightmares. I
reverse her flow, I demand the other
terror: action. Between the two of us
goddesses there’s not much to choose…”