Poet-lyricist Gulzar in his conversation with Shantanu Roy Chaudhuri talks about riyaz for writers and why poetry should capture the essence of the times.

He held the audience in raptures. “Itne noujawan hai yahan. Acha lag raha hai,” Gulzar said. (It’s nice to see so many young people here interested in poetry). In a session that lasted about 40 minutes, Gulzar spoke about the importance of discipline and riyaz for writers. “I don’t have to report to anyone and yet every day I sit with my pen and paper as if I am a clerk,” he joked.

In conversation with his editor Shantanu Roy Chaudhuri, the poet spoke about his objections to remixing old music. “When we read something, we look for clues about the way people lived at the time the piece was written. So while I write I say things like bob-cut or email and computer. Our poetry today should capture the essence of our lives, just the way we should leave an old song alone and not remix it. Create your own music now,” he said.

Moderator Ziya Us Salam asked Gulzar if writing was his mistress or master even as the audience broke into laughter. “There is a difference between inspiration and creation. It is a process and you have to put aside your knowledge to create something unique,” he added. He also spoke about the fact that he was first published in Pakistan and not India and about his translations. “I wanted to translate Tagore because I wanted young people to know him. You know he was not always a bearded old man? And there’s more to him than Gitanjali?” he asked the audience. “He too was young and has written beautiful poems in his youth and I wanted to translate them.” He also spoke about how he uses translation to learn. “I am now doing a collection of 365 poems in which I am translating poems from different languages!” Gulzar also believes that at this point in our country some of the best poetry comes from the North East. Before the end of the session Gulzar also read from his work called Triveni, three-line poems on things as varied as women and the Partition of India.