“If we could paint the history
That, with us, began, in that classroom –
we should try and capture with our colours
the motion of swinging feet beneath old wooden desks,
just like our ankle-length socks and ballerina shoes
hold fourteen years of footprints in them.”
– A verse from Madhura Banerjee’s poem ‘The Room At The End Of The Hall’.
Meet 22 year old Madhura Banerjee from Kolkata who is not only a poet, but also a Computer Science Student from St.Xavier’s College, Kolkata. At this very young age she is already a published author of the book of poetry ‘A Tenant Of The World‘ which got published in March 2017. On the same year she had also delivered a poetry reading on ‘All India Radio’. She has also been invited to a number of institutes such as NITR, IISER etc as a speaker and workshop instructor due to her great knowledge in poetry. Other than that she has also been a judge in various poetry and writing competitions all around. Presently Madhura is a member of ‘Srijan’ , an exclusive poetry club based in Calcutta. She has been awarded as the Best Slammer, at Papercup’s Poetry Slam 0.7 (2016) and voted best poetry performer at Airplane Poetry Movement and Papercup present Poetry Slam 0.8 (2017).
To know more about Madhura let us get into a conversation with her:
1. Can you describe the time when you first realised that thiswas something you absolutely had to do?
I honestly cannot pinpoint to a certain time when I I remember, when I was seven years old, I had written my very first poem, which drove my parents mad with excitement. No one told me that I could, someday, make a career out of it, and so, as unconditionally as poetry came into my life, it settled into something as natural as breathing.
2. Tell us about your book of poetry “A Tenant of the World “, how did you come up with it at the first place!
I had been planning on compiling a book of my poems ever since I was in school. The title of my book, ‘A Tenant of the World’ essentially refers to someone who chalked out their home in various places across the world, as though the world itself were, in totality, their home. So, the idea of dedicating my theme to travel came to me, most probably, in the autumn of 2015, when I was travelling Kashmir for the first time. I had experienced an unearthly sunrise beyond the apple orchards, over the kesar fields, while taking the bus from Pahalgam to Srinagar at 3 AM in the morning. The highway was just coming to life in the heart of the Pir Panjal mountains, and perhaps, at that moment, I knew. Also, the theme of travel serves as a tribute to my parents, especially my father, without whom my travel adventures would never have been possible.
3. What are your poetry mainly based on? And how do you get the ideas to start off with a poetry?
I derive my inspiration from travel – not just the impressionistic view of the landscapes and such, but also the people. I write about the lives I encounter in the mountains, by the sea, in the villages. Nature and the appreciation of the same is a big part of my muse. Lately, I am also writing more about my city, its lost afternoons and alleyways, and how, in moments of solitude, it becomes a living, breathing form gliding by my side.
4. At this very young age you’ve got a number of achievements already, so how do you feel about it and what is the ultimate point that you want to reach?
I am severely grateful for the amount of acceptance my work has received already. While I did plan on publishing my own book while I was still in college, I didn’t foresee how well people would appreciate it. Similarly, I foresaw neither getting a call from All India Radio nor getting invited to speak at all those institutions around the country. So, all I can say is, I am grateful to all my readers and supporters, and, at this point in my life, I couldn’t be happier.
Eventually, I wish to release my second volume of poetry, which I am currently working on. I also hope to get a novel published before I’m 30.
5. You have been invited in a number of workshops and as a speaker and judge, tell us your experience regarding it!
Overwhelming. The workshops, seminars and interactions get better and better every time. My first poetry workshop was at Calcutta Medical College, where I acted as a poetry instructor on behalf of The Bombay Review. The mere fact, that so many students were, in the first place, interested, fuelled me for the future. My workshops at IISER Kolkata and NIT Rourkela will always hold a special place in my heart. In both places, even after we talked about, wrote and discussed each other’s poetry for the allotted time, they wouldn’t let the conversations stop, and we walked out together, still dissolved in the topics of composition, the written word, the spoken word and all that come with them.
6. Since when are you a member of ‘Srijan’. Tell us about more about the poetry club of Calcutta!
Srijan is a poetry club based in Kolkata, which hosts exclusive, invite-only poetry readings every month. Many eminent poets, authors and scholars like Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Srijato and Chinmoy Guha have presented readings and discussions there. One of the heads of the club, author Anjana Basu, had made my acquaintance when she came to judge an event at a literary festival at Presidency University. She invited me to read my works at Srijan, which, back in January 2015, happened to be my first public poetry performance. It was also at Srijan that I met the author and professor of Literature, Julie Mehta, who, till date, happens to be the best critic I have ever had.
7. Who’s writings inspire you the most and why?
That is a rather difficult question, but, if I had to choose someone whose style, themes and muses provided immediate inspiration to my work, it would be Agha Shahid Ali. Of course, growing up in a traditional Bengali household, I have always beheld Rabindranath Tagore as more of a religion than a human inspiration. Apart from them, for poetry, I am often inspired by the works of Sunil Ganguly and, for prose, Toni Morrison and Arundhati Roy.
8. What do you try to communicate through your writings ?
I want my writing to be somewhat like an express train, with each flitting scene by your window a new metaphor, or a new poem in itself. I want to collect stories from the places I travel to and showcase the corners of the world and the people, that are often submerged in shadows. I wish to tell stories of my city, which, in our busy lives, often slip past us. In many instances, I try and convey these larger messages through a personal narrative of memories, family histories and the people I have come to know.
9. Do you think social media plays an important role in a career of a writer or a poet to get established? Reasons!
It is true that social media has been able to showcase works of new and upcoming writers from different corners of the world. Every new writer knows how difficult it is to get your first book published, and, if an audience is what they need, social media, to some extent, provides that for them. If not more, it instills faith in their own work, and makes them believe, that, yes, if I choose to publish my own book someday, there are people out there who will read it.
10. Any message you would like to give to others?
If you are passionate about writing, I would ask you to go ahead and do it. You know what I’m talking about. Start your book, open your blog, create a Facebook page. It is true, that you can never ensure if something will work out or not, but, once you get the ball rolling, it shall never stop, and it ultimately curves out its own miraculous path, if you believe and work hard enough. Also, if you are a writer, the world needs you. We can never set a limit for the number of things to read and think about.