You never know why people bump into each other but, life is full of unexpected moments strung together in the most interesting manner, unravelling a new story each moment.
Vishwas and I took a long time to become friends, in spite of living in the same city. But, even the few meetings that we had were precious and time flew by so fast in his company. Our conversations revolved around poetry, authors and books. This sharing and discussing about poetry and literature added a zing to our friendship. Probably our passion for poetry made us want to meet again and again. I got a bit curious about how an engineer involved in automobile research started writing poems?
So I requested Vishwas to unravel his life journey and he graciously agreed. So this time when we met, Vishwas unfolded his story about how he started exploring the world of poetry and believe me it was the best evening of my life.
As a voracious reader and innovator, Vishwas is always in search of interesting literature and new authors. When he first read Tagore he was totally mesmerized. He says Rabindranath Tagore amazes him; he savours all his poems and considers him to be a huge inspiration. As he read through various poems written by Tagore, he started sharing them on Facebook. One of his avid followers challenged him to pen and share his own poems. Vishwas loves challenges and wanted to give a befitting answer to his challenger. So he started penning poems and shared them on Facebook. Well, within a short period of time he had a collection of them, and each poem that he wrote got appreciated by people all around the world.
By this time I was curious to know more about Vishwas’s life and writings. So we decided to extend our meeting and this is what he shared with me.
How have you been inspired by Tagore?
To quote you “we never know why people bump into each other”! Around a decade ago I was going through an article in a Marathi health magazine. The article authored by a paediatrician opened with Tagore’s poem “Coloured Toys”. This poem took my breath away right from the opening line up to long after I read and re-read the poem a several times.
It was a discovery of a life-time. Being an engineer who loves to juggle with numbers my interest in poetry till then was nil. But, reading this mesmerizing poem was a life-turning event. It made me sit up and take notice of every single word Tagore has written. It is the kind of poetry that moves your inner soul and decks it into an utterly beautiful work of art! Here the poet is like an interior artist and YOU the reader becomes a lasting work of art, finding yourself eternally enriched word by word, moment by moment!
Your education and career has always been in the field of automobile engineering. What fascinates you about poetry?
My education is not really in automobile engineering. My background is embedded electronics with a Masters in control engineering. Undoubtedly, these are a potent set of skills for somebody who wants to get into designing automotive control solutions. For first ten years of my career I was into embedded control and communications related to office automation and motion control applications. When Tata ventured into first Indian car ‘Indica’, they needed many automation engineers. I joined them gradually migrating to core automotive control system design.
When I read Tagore (and subsequently discovered others in same class like Kahlil Gibran, Chekov etc.) I could sense that all these legends have their own logic and formulae to win a reader’s mind through their art. I could immediately liken this to the craft of an engineer. An engineer has a problem to be cracked, winning the heart of a difficult situation. Every engineer has his/her own style to crack a problem. I decided to treat poetry writing to be an engineering/logic problem to “crack” a lay reader’s heart. Many of my readers are not really routine poetry enthusiasts! But, when they read my poems they ask for more, confessing that my words touch their hearts.
In short for me math/engineering problems and poetry writing are two sides of the same coin where you have a goal to be cracked through a carefully crafted road-map.
How has poetry helped you unravel your creative juices/ innovate in the field of research? How do research and poetry complement each other?
Poetry teaches you to think out-of-the-box. It also teaches you to create a box where there is none and then build-up upon the same. Engineering is no different than poetry. Particularly in automotive world you have to come up with a miracle solution when all roads appear to be blocked.
I had just entered the field of vehicle electronics when I started writing poetry. Good poetry needs to deliver a rich message capturing reader’s heart in a few words . On the other hand good automotive control as an engineering solution, needs similar approach. In a frugal foot print (hardware and software) we need to deliver a feature-rich solution. Cost/ value benefit ratio in both situation needs to be very low to produce a winning solution.
My poetry and patents/innovations formed a potent couple accompanying me along my life-path, learning from each-other. I have won quite a few prestigious innovation awards in our company after I started writing poems and when my poetry book was under publication/editing. In 2013 when my book ‘Symphony of Night Flower’ was published, I won an employee award for successfully filing maximum number of patents in a year.
While composing a poem we need to ponder over every word and come up with novel alternatives. The target is to rivet a reader’s attention and deliver a rich message laced with a potent craftsmanship (of the word-art). Mind you, a lay reader is a very tough customer! She will throw away your poem after reading first two lines unless your craft rivets her attention making her eager to explore line after line! In automotive case, we come-up with the most optimum hardware, occupying less space yet delivering maximum performance. For software it boils down to minimal code foot-print delivering a rich feature-set , consuming optimal CPU resources. An automotive customer is equally tough like a poetry reader. As you see, a good poet has the potential to become a good automotive designer and vice versa.
Some of your poems are inspired from famous Hindi Bollywood songs. Can you tell us how this idea struck you?
When I was analysing international readers’ response to Tagore’s poems that I posted on Facebook, it became clear why Tagore’s poems touch their hearts in way a traditional English poetry of many great poets does not. These are some of the reasons:
- Rich imagery dotted with twists and surprises
- Personification of nature, destiny and even emotions
- Every few lines aim at gratifying diverse senses of the reader
- Language of eyes
These qualities are also present in old Bollywood song.
The difference between our kind of poetry and traditional English poetry is similar to spicy Indian meal (full of colour , aroma and diverse tests) and a traditional western meal.
I decided to amply use my cultural back-ground to emulate this Bollywood formula used in old hit song. My title poem ‘Symphony of Night Flower’ is styled on a famous Amol Palekar song ‘Rajanigandha’. Some of my readers still suggest me their favourite Hindi song to use as a theme of my upcoming poem. The trick is to acquire the knack of moulding English language to express Indian soul. My poetry is like a western beauty attired in a finely draped saree greeting you with her eyes saying “Namaste”!
Share with our readers about the journey of your first book ‘Symphony of Night Flower’. Each poem is a gem, how did you choose poems for this book?
When my poems started attracting many people of Facebook, they would enquire if I had already published a book. They would then strongly advise me on publishing one. I would respond saying that if my poems were worthy, a publisher would automatically come along. In one of the poetry groups I posted a poem “Softly Singing Tear”. Ms. Pam Conlon Sandhu liked the poem so much that she emailed me a contract for publishing my book. She is a US publisher who encourages upcoming authors like me. She was planning to publish an anthology of a few poets as her next publication. But, after reading my first poem she was convinced to devote an entire book to me. I emailed all my poems to her. She deputed three editors belonging to various target readers across all age spectrums. They were requested to carefully rate all my poems. Luckily none of my poems qualified for rejection. Perhaps this is so, since I never posted a poem unless it complied with certain quality criterion:
- A catchy title
- A magnetic opening stanza attracting even a lay reader
- Building-up the theme with a spicy cocktail of words foaming with diverse imagery
- Delivering the message in a few punches leading to an artful end with a high repeat read.
I would write and re-write a poem until I met most of the above criteria. However in hindsight I admit that many of my poems could have been better written. If you compare my recent poems, they score much higher in all above counts compared to those in my book.
The initial title of the book I suggested was “Softly Singing Tear”, since that poem won me my publisher. You can note that a singing tear is generally not present in a traditional English poetry. It is an Indian concept. Also when it softly sings as the poem traces its journey starting from a woman’s eye ending on her lover’s lips, the poem meets all my quality criteria winning the heart of even a discerning reader like Pam who is a fine poetess herself.
But, the cover art suitable to such a tearful title was not liked by my wife and daughter. They wanted me to include a flower in my title so that a pleasant cover art could be woven around the same. So I zeroed on “Symphony of the Night Flower”. My daughter’s name is Swarali means “Symphony” in English. Swarali (who is an accomplished poetess herself), remains the best ever poetic creation of mine as a gift from God!
This led to a more attractive cover for the published edition. I am deeply grateful to Pam Sandhu for spotting my talent and giving me a chance to reach readers across the world.
Who are the writers or people who inspire you and why?
I like Kahlil Gibran’s poetic essays since they deliver an extremely potent and deep life message packaged in a finely artistic craftsmanship. His poem on “Marriage” remains my all time favourite. Chekov’s short-stories paint a scene before you without any personal comment from him. They leave you eternally wondering about the sequel as well as the events he describes. They make you think and read him over and over again. Each iteration makes you a different human being!
Bernard Shaw sandwiches his plays between long thoughtful essays. To me this becomes an altogether different recipe of a literary form! His drama “Apple Cart” impressed me a lot.
Premchand’s stories analyse life around him peppered with his trenchant wit, making a critical commentary on the ethos of the society at his times (quite so relevant even today), his “Shatranj Ke Khiladi” (Chess Players) is a case in point.
Urdu poetry by Ghalib, Iqbaal and many others had a deep influence on me. This also explains why many Bollywood songs influenced by Urdu poetry have captured my attention for borrowing their themes.
Many Marathi author’s/poets like C.T. Khanolkar, G.A. Kulkarni and Mangesh Padgaonkar (and many more) have deeply impressed me (having studied in a vernacular school). There will be an entire article on such authors if I describe further.
What does poetry mean to you and how has it changed your life. There was a time when you weren’t inclined towards poetry. How did you transition to poetry and how has this transition changed your life?
For me poetry is moulding a slice of your life into a lasting work of art.
It is like Origami of words and feelings, fashioning various artefacts.
My transition to poetry has already been described above. However even before I met Tagore, I had grown to love Urdu couplets and ghazals, because they have a tremendous power even to enchant the heart of any common man on the street. That is how we find even an Urdu speaking labourer quoting Ghalib and Iqbal! Poetry has made me a more complete human being apart from sharpening my engineering innovations. Also many readers have become my friends creating a richly diverse mix of friends from all walks of life. My book has reached all five continents and my readers across the globe are in frequent touch with me. I became a popular personality among all my readers. One of my poems , “Young at Heart” has been pasted on the entrance of a US school by their lady principal. She had asked me to share my best poem on the eve of their anniversary.
Image courtesy: http://www.buddybyte.com/
From where/whom do you draw inspiration and who do you dedicate your poems to?
I am inspired by all the great authors which I have already mentioned. My first book is dedicated to Tagore. I have now developed a “poet’s eye”, hunting for a theme of my next poem every moment by observing life around me. A common question overheard, “We are meeting after ages what should I wear?”, and this has led to a recent poem, “ A Blue Eyed Fashion Tip” where the poet answers the question by asking his friend to wear his memories so that the evening together will turn into a “blue eyed page in the chapter of their golden togetherness”
Have you started writing your second book?
I have already accumulated a “bookful” of poems written for my next publication. Somewhere in next few months I want to write the second book, which will be accompanied by short prose comments before and after the poem, borrowing a leaf from Bernard Shaw’s dramas.
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