Thoughts might be abstract but they come with a definite flow of emotions for Sridala Swami.
“Whole heartedly, that’s what I enjoy the most. As no one can influence my thoughts and no one can dictate a deadline to me about when I want to finish that thought,” says this film editor from the FTII, Pune, who has edited documentaries, short features and commercials. Sridala’s poems and fiction have been published in various journals and features in several anthologies including The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets; in Not A Muse Anthology and in First Proof: 4 . Poetry occurred to Sridala 12 years ago; when she was expecting her baby and there was plenty of time to give her thought process a definite flow. However, she says that “ The gestation period was long. To me poetry is how art cinema looks at the abstract.”
Her cosy home in Jubilee Hills is where she mostly pens her thoughts and when she isn’t writing much, she is reading or letting the greenery around her lure her into a conversation for more poems. “I cannot say that I write about one particular thought, just when I thought I write pretty much on everything, during one of my poetry reading a few years back Meenakshi Mukherjee said ‘trees make frequent appearances in her phrases.’ It isn’t a conscious thought but I feel the world around me does the influence,” she reasons.
Her first collection of poems, A Reluctant Survivor (India: Sahitya Akademi, 2007, rp 2008), was short-listed for The Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2008. She has written three books for very young children, which were published by Pratham in 2009.
As a poet Sridala loves being in spaces which let her be a passive watcher of the activities around her. The passive bystander is what ignites the thoughts and moods for her work. “It could be a busy bus stop, a railway platform or even a hospital. The actions of people and the emotions on their faces bring many thoughts to me. I also love the way people treat the car as their own private space when sitting inside,” says Sridala.
Sridala has just completed the manuscript of her new collection and is now waiting to hear from publishers. “Publishers only publish one book of poetry in a year, so it is a game of wait and watch. Otherwise I am busy preparing for the 10 week long International Writer’s Programme which is to be held in Iowa. ” explains this jittery traveller.
Her tryst with the movies happened when she was all of 14 years and the project week in school enabled her to choose films. “That was the time I laid my hands on any movie material I could get. It was definitely not just watching films but also reading up a lot about it and my curiosity turned into an interest,” she gets nostalgic.
Books were however not a diversion like films. Reading for her was a childhood practise, thanks her parents and school who did not demarcate what to read and what to avoid. “That increased my curiosity about literature and before I could realise it, I was reading a wide section of material which varied from Enid Blyton to Margaret Mitchell,” she recollects.
As for poetry, she thinks poetry doesn’t find takers in school because of the way it is taught. And she feels opening a discussion on poems can help a lot in appreciating the works of great poets. She also quotes one of her favourite poets Vivek Narayanan ‘lack of availability’ also is a problem. “And by that he meant: singles are easily available but difficult to find volumes of one poet,” she explains
Like all children, she too began poetry in school with T. S. Eliot and now she has a whole list of names to reckon; her favourites being Keki N. Daruwalla, Jayanta Mahapatra, the Polish poet Zbigniew Herber, and Elizabeth Bishop.