M: After Shanta and Shrijana ji, did you have any other trusted reader? How necessary is it for writers to share their work for feedback?
P: Writers need feedback, yes. But we should also be careful about who is giving us the feedback and how that lands on us. When I was completing my Master degree at Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus (RR), I frequented a bookstore outside RR. One day, the bookseller and I got to talking and he asked if I wrote. I showed him some of my poems. He read them and said, How is this considered poetry? This is not how you write imagery. This is not good. I was completely crushed but I thanked him and walked away.
M: We have to learn who to entrust with our work and when. We are lucky that you were already pretty established as a poet, then. If it had been someone who was just starting out, to be shut down like that would have been dangerous.
P: Exactly. Also, people can only give you the kind of feedback that they are capable of defined by time, space, their histories, knowledge –– it does not mean what they are saying is what you need or should want to hear. But I have also had some really great experiences with sharing work, too. A few years back, I used to be a part of a circle of friends who met regularly. We were all women and we all wrote. In the group, there were five of us: Nibha Shah, Gauri Dahal, Sobha Dulal, Chandra Thane and me. We met in one person’s house, shared our work and received feedback. Then we would go to another person’s house the next time.
M: I love that the five of your carved out this space for yourselves, and what a healthy way to write in this crazy city.
P: But we stopped! I do not even remember how or why … we met 3-4 times, and then I guess life happened. We have husbands, families, and children. I mean look at me now. I used to write 3-4 poems a day, but now I have let 3-4 years to pass by without having written a single new poem.
I have suffered some terrible physical ailments, and just life after marriage has become uneasy. My husband is Bahun, you see, and I am not really accepted in the family. And on top of that, now that I have an 8-month-old child, I don’t have any time. I wake up with him, and spend my entire day caring for him, then I fall asleep next to him. My life reminds me of that poem that Sulochana Manandhar didi wrote… what was it –– something about naniko thangna…
M: Yes, I love that poem, it’s called Grihiniko Kabita (Housewife’s Poem) and goes, ghaintokopanima / nanikothangna ma pani / kabitaharu jhuljhulgari janminchan… About how poems are born in kitchen corners, in water containers, in baby’s rags…
P: Yes, that one. I feel like that poem was written for me. I fully live in that poem these days. The hours I would have otherwise given to poetry, I spend on my child and family now. But I try to stay positive. I tell myself that if I used to be the mother of my poems, I am now a mother of an actual human I created. (Laughs)
M: That is such a beautiful thought. And also to remember that you come from a long line of artists and creators.
P: Yes, I have always believed that Dalits are one of the most artistic groups of people. We are divided into sub-groups with specifically artistic jobs assigned to us at birth: we are singers, musicians, tailors, cobblers… We have always been creators and engineers, and we have always created in the name of serving others. (Pauses). Maybe it is time to serve ourselves.