Do not hesitate to write if you have a thought in Mind: Malakshmi Borthakur, Poet and Author
Malakshmi Borthakur is an eminent poet and Author from Assam, presently settled in Lucknow. In an exclusive interview with News Kashmir, Malakshmi Borthakur talks to Rameez Makhdoomi.
A bit about your early days ?
I am the youngest of my siblings and my father’s pupil of the eye. I was considered the most talented child in my neighbourhood. When I was pursuing my junior school, I had almost finished reading epics, Puranas, Upanishads and all contents of Sanskrit literature that had been translated into my native language Assamese. I was the editor of my school journal, Mandakini, which was a bilingual journal in both Assamese and English. My teachers used to be impressed on reading the journal. That’s how the making of an author had started inside me.
After marriage, I came to the ‘City of Nawabs’, Lucknow, known for its sophisticated blend of two languages in their purest forms, Urdu and Hindi, popularly known as ‘Lakhnawi’. My fondness for it started growing and simultaneously got started the ‘taalim’ (education) of Indian Classical music. The ‘Guru’(the teacher) being my husband Dr. Biju Kumar Bhagawati, an eminent Classical vocalist in Lucknow.
Then, it was the year 2013, when my daughter Ananya was born. Her birth was a complicated delivery. During that period, I was undergoing lots of pain, physically and emotionally. I felt, those pain were gradually killing my enthusiasm for life. I was in a desperate search for healing myself from that mental trauma. So, as a relief system, I took up writing and started scribbling any kind of crazy thoughts that used to run through my mind. The gradual arrival of stability in my life also had brought with it maturity to my ink and in a certain point of time I could convince myself that those scribbles had turned into mature poetry. Thus, poetry became my therapy, the lone strategy of my survival.
In the year 2016, I started bringing my poems to public sight through Facebook. Those poems were all written in my native language, Assamese. There were some friends in Facebook, who used to read my poems regularly and sent me honest feedback. There were many non-Assamese friends too, whom I used to periodically explain the meanings of my Assamese poems in English. As they were enjoying those poems, they suggested that I should write poems in English also. I was so fascinated by the suggestion that I started writing in English too. Gradually I started being a multilingual poet who writes in three languages- English, Hindi and Assamese.
How was academic life like?
I am a Post-Graduate in English and Indian Classical (Vocal) Music, having an additional Bachelor degree of Education. Presently, I am pursuing PhD in English from Banasthali University, Rajasthan. My early education was in Assam, the north-eastern state of India I belong to. I was a brilliant student and was loved by all my teachers. They were very supportive and encouraging. Even today I am in close contact with many of my favourite teachers.
Your favourite writers ?
I am very fond of reading the poems of famous Assamese poet Hiren Bhattacharya, renowned Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Gulzar Sahab and Urdu Poet Kaifi Azmi and Faiz Ahmed Faiz Saheb. I am also an avid reader of fiction. The popular fictions of Hindi writer Munshi Premchand, Bengali writers Mahasweta Devi and Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Assamese writer Purabi Barmudoi have always been my favorite. In English, R.K Narayan’s imaginary village ‘Malgudi’ and the stories he wove around that village fascinate me still. Also, I love the poems and the writing style of Kamala Das, who’s poems have close resemblance with the confessional poems of famous American poet Sylvia Plath.
A bit about book you have authored?
The title of the book I have authored is ‘Splendid Signature: Rhythmic Strokes of a Quill’. It is a collection of 50 poems in English. These multi- thematic poems are selected from a bulk of poems written during the period 2016 to 2021. The book has been published by Black Eagle books, Dublin, USA. The doyen of contemporary Indian English poetry, K. Satchidanandan has written the blurb of the book and eminent critic and editor Anand Prakash has written an insightful introduction for the book. The book has been launched by eminent author, Jnanpith awardee and Padmabhusan Dr. Pratibha Ray.The book is available worldwide on merchant sites like Amazon and Flipkart. It has got its reach in USA, UK, Canada and France.
‘Splendid Signature – Rhythmic Strokes of a Quill’ falls primarily under the category of women’s writing and it tells you about the problems women face with respect to their right of equality, dignity and independence. Along with it, the book covers a diversity of subjects ranging from individuality, love, and mythology to economic deprivation, childhood, and social violence.
Many of my poems in the book are written in the first person. The readers may assume those are autobiographical: the life story of the narrator i.e. me. I have used this literary device with an experiment i.e. a blend of Confessional poetry in English and ‘Kotha Kobita’ in Assamese; which I consider a powerful device to craft a message, to get connected with my readers well.
Your current projects?
I have been editing a 110 years old Assamese popular children book, ‘Burhi Aair Sadhu’ written by the doyen of Assamese literature, Rasaraj Laxminath Bezbaroa, which I have translated from Assamese to Hindi. The translation work will come in the book form in 2023. The work of compiling poems for two poetry collections is also going on, one in Hindi and other in my native language, Assamese.
I am a solitary kind of person and I love to do things which connect me well with myself, like reading and listening to music. Also, I enjoy the company of my little daughter Ananya the most. We play together, enjoy cartoon shows and movies too. Cooking for the family and friends is also a hobby.
Tell us about your inspirations
My father Sarat Chandra Borthakur, who was a Professor in Sanskrit Literature, who is now in heaven, is my first inspiration. He is my friend, philosopher and guide even in his absence. He inculcated in me the reading habits during my early childhood days. Later on, these reading habits helped me a lot to start my own writing habits.
The advisor of the school journal Mandakini, of which I was the editor, was my English teacher Mrs. Umarani Bezborah. She was very fond of my editing and writing skills. Her words of appreciation and motivation during those days had encouraged me a lot to take up writing on a serious mode.
What I consider is, the journey of an author is the collaboration of himself /herself with his/her surroundings. I normally write what I observe around or what thoughts I derive from my surroundings. So, my surroundings also inspire me to write time to time.
Do not hesitate to write if you have a thought in your mind and never feel disappointed or discouraged if it does not take the shape of a good piece of writing in the first attempt. There’s a phrase, “Practice makes a man perfect!” And in that practice, you should give your 100 percent. As my father always used to say, “Scribble, scribble, keep on scribbling; until it turns out to be a perfect writing!”