IS a writer always a writer, or is a writer a writer only when ‘inspired?’ Priya Sarukkai-Chabria believes writers are forever. "One may not be writing anything at the moment, but being a writer reflects in your personality, how one understands life… One tunes one's self to hear what people what to say, what lies between the words… what people don't get to say."
For Priya, being a writer is a privilege. "When you write, you can assume multiple personalities, be it a tree or a bird, a man or a woman. Like the French novelist Gustave Flaubert said about the character he had written, Madame Bovery, "I'm her."
Then, are writers born or made? According to Priya, a course in creative writing or inspirations from past masters may help, but a strong desire, a burning determination to say something is the most important pre-requisite of being a writer. "Not only say," she adds quickly, "but to find out, find out about the self and find out about the world around. You cannot create art if you are comfortable with your situation. Unless you are curious, you wouldn't have anything to write about."
Her role as a writer apart, Priya Sarukkai-Chabria is multidimensional personality, who has never failed to find out about herself and the world around her creatively.
But she is a writer first. Her collection, Dialogue and Other Poems, was published by the Sahitya Akademi in 2005. Her novel, The Other Garden came out in 1995 and her latest novel, Generation 14 is in press. It's a dark political thriller and a science fiction, Priya informs.
She is not merely a writer, but also an activist for the cause of poetry. She has been involved with the city-based NGO Open Space, which hopes to foster change through the arts. She has not only conducted poetry workshops for Open Space and arrange poetry sessions, but also edits the poetry section of the Open Space website, Talking Poetry and edited a mini anthology All Poetry is Protest.
Writing poetry is a thankless job. And few read poetry anyway. Priya does not agree. "Poetry happens in that silence when you talks to yourself and the poetic potential is in everyone."
She agrees that poetry is personal. At the same time, she argues that poetry is to be shared because it helps one to live. Nobody is born poet. Everyone come to know and appreciate poetry some way or other. And Priya believes Talking Poetry is trying to introduce poetry to those who may be interested.
Priya doesn't agree that poetry is difficult. Poetry is not esoteric; instead, it's like the air we breathe, she argues.
But she agrees that people do not sufficiently buy poetry books, neither are they published often. This, however, doesn't unduly trouble her because poetry has found a new space in which to flourish: the web. "These days, many poets are read off the net. If you want poems, just google. That's a big help. It saves the hassles of publishing poetry and distribution."
As a writer Priya believes what a writer chooses to write stems from his or her immediate environment. "One is influenced by one's surrounding. Were I in New York, I would write in a different way than I write now," she explains. "Even if you use the same language, English, the difference would be visible in the choice of words, use of grammar and so on."
So, where does Priya find her inspiration? "The creative process is rather mysterious. You don't know where you find it. But there is always a search involved."
Priya does not believe in labelling a writer. "The largest prerequisite for being a writer is imagination. If you have imagination, you can assume any character, any role." She recounts how a mango tree inspired her to a series of poems called 'The Grove.' "If you have imagination, passion and the courage to experiment, you can write freely, yet righteously."
Priya has expressed herself both in prose and poetry. So, how important is form in creative expression? For Priya, the idea demands the form, and not vice versa. Besides, writing long narratives and poetry are two totally different experiences for her. She compares it with swimming. "In poetry you swim inward, towards memory. In prose, especially fiction, you swim out, toward the external world."
But what does the writing process actually demand? Priya explains the process of writing and the writer's relationship with the self and the world through the image of a person looking at her reflection in a pond.
To start with, the person observes herself. Then she sees her surroundings also being reflected in the water. Gradually, she begins to probe deeper, looks at the water, and tries to find out what lies beneath the water.
And, one book she cannot do is the dictionary. "How can you be away from words and their meanings," asks Priya.
Priya Sarukkai Chabria's world is full of words and their meanings. For, a writer is always a writer.