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“I will write as long as I still care about people”



Oriya poet Bharat Majhi talks to Rabindra K Swain about inspiration, irony and the old man at the Junagarh block office.

Rabindra K Swain: How did your fascination with words begin?
Bharat Majhi: I fell in love with the poetry by our medieval masters – like Dinakrishna, Upendra Bhanja and Abhimanyu – at an early age. I could not understand very much, but even as a child, I insisted on hearing their work again and again. I also used to visit the yatra (the traditional open theatre) night after night. When I grew up, I thought maybe I could also try my hand at writing poems.

RKS: Does your poetry rely on inspiration or do you feel you have to work for it?
BM: I cannot imagine someone writing without inspiration. Inspiration doesn’t mean that someone dictates something to you. Some insignificant object that’s fallen by the roadside could be a source of inspiration. But the traditional stimuli for the poetic imagination – sky, moon, rivers and flowers – have never excited me.

RKS: You frequently use the ‘I’ in your poems. How much of you is there in the poetry?
BM: It’s mainly I who reside in the ‘I’s in my poems! Most of my poems centre round my incapability to do anything redemptive for my people. Getting into the skin of my ‘I’s is only one way of getting out of the protective layers in which we often find ourselves conveniently covered.

RKS: In your ‘Junagarh’ poem you say that the poor old man waiting in the administrative corridor for justice is your father, the struggling young man is your brother. Your empathy seems very strong. Could you explain this process of creative empathy?
BM: Six months before writing the ‘Junagarh’ poem I actually talked with an old man there. For me he represents our failed democracy. My father, my brother could just as well have been characters in those events. My poems are not just about empathy, though. They involve that and something more.

RKS: Your poems have a strong political orientation. Has your being a journalist something to do with it?
BM: Man is a political rather than a social animal. Politics begins at home. It is not just about governments and electoral franchise. It is about the human condition. I find myself moving deeper and deeper into this dimension in my poetry.

RKS: There is a satirical vein in your poetry. Is satire a means of alleviating one’s own pain?
BM: Our writers and intellectuals do not raise their voices against injustice. They remain silent. I believe there is no other way but to adopt a satirical mode to write about the elements which have silenced them.

RKS: How do you extract poetry from the daily business of living?
BM: I certainly gather experience from my day-to-day life for my poetry. I keenly observe the people and events I come across. The seeds of my poems lie there.

RKS: What motivates you to keep writing?
BM: I will write as long as I find I love people – as long as I still care about them.

© Rabindra K Swain  
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