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Ink and Inspiration: an exclusive interview with Amol Redij

Q1. Congratulations on finishing your emotive trilogy. Could you tell us about the inspiration for this and what inspired you to go on this literary journey?

Thank you so much! Poetry came much later to me. What instantly charmed me was storytelling, the ability to express. I grew up watching cinema, lots of it. I exploited every single opportunity to watch a movie. I was naïve to understand the movie, the underlying story, and why are people (on- screen) behaving the way they are. But, that it used to keep me engaged, make me emote, make me a part of that story, are the few things that beguiled me. That developed an urge in me to do something similar, put my thoughts into an expression on canvas. Technically (and financially, of course), it wasn’t possible for me to make a movie then. A simple advice from an elderly journalist helped – ‘write what you want to show, let that writing decide where it wants to go.’ – it was my first mentorship class, of sorts, and in a poetic way. I wrote and I wrote, until I ended up writing a satire skit for my school function. So, perhaps there was always a rebel in me full of angst, and that had now found a medium to vent. It became a means of connecting with others through shared human experiences. The act of writing, for me, is a way to make sense of the world and navigate the complexities of our emotions. The world around us is constantly changing and evolving, and literature, including poetry, serves as a timeless reflection of our society and the human condition.

Q2. Your trilogy explores themes of existentialism, loss, and the search for meaning. What draws you to these profound subjects, and why do you feel they are essential to explore through your poetry?

Poetry is my natural form. It comes like a response to any stimuli – personal, social, observational or even abstract. I don’t have to think about words or lines that should come next. The theme for my poetry comes from my deep fascination with the complexities of human emotions, I think so. Humans are a simplified complex form; simplified because they can express. However, a human being is also a compound amalgamation of feelings ranging from joy & pride, from the darkest moments of loneliness, and brutalities of betrayal, to the sensuous longingness, and even narcissistic aspects, selfishness perhaps. Life is a profound and multifaceted journey, and with it came the belief that poetry has the power to capture and convey these emotions in a way that resonates with people on a profound level. As me, my thoughts, surroundings, and reflections matured, my writings took the form of poetry – more than simple, it came effortlessly. I want my poetry to be a part of this ongoing literary conversation, offering readers a chance to engage with and reflect on the nuances of human emotions.

Q3. Your poetry frequently encourages introspection and contemplation about oneself. Are there any particular events or experiences from your life that have influenced the subjects covered in your poems?

Exploring the entire spectrum of feelings we experience in our lives is something that has attracted me. Capturing this diverse continuum, for me, is orgasmic. There is nothing

personal about my poetry, albeit the emotional inferences I draw from my surroundings are. I am quickly able to, perhaps peculiarly, isolate myself in any social set-up – that of course does not make me a mean-solitary-depressed being – but it helps feel that sentiment without undergoing that feeling. Existentialism and introspection are born out of moments of deep contemplation about the meaning of life and the place where we belong. These ticks of philosophical questioning have led to poems that delve into the existential aspects of human existence. The questions of self-identity and pseudo-characterisation baffle me. From the messy chawls to a plush apartment now, I have witnessed every layer of human histrionics, and along the way, the core value of propensity seems lost. Exploration of narcissism and self-discovery in my poetry reflect upon a way to navigate and express those feelings. People-watching, reading about diverse perspectives, and engaging with different cultures have all contributed to the richness of my poetry.

Q4. Without a doubt, your writings have had a significant impact on your readers. Are there any specific instances or reader comments that have really stayed with you?

Absolutely, the feedback and comments from readers have been incredibly meaningful to me as a poet. Knowing that my words have resonated with others and made an impact on their lives is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a writer. I treasure all of those. I had received a message from a young reader, through social media, who shared personal stories and how my poetry helped the reader feel less alone at times of struggle, voicing out an independent daring choice – of being myself. It's deeply moving to hear that my words have provided a sense of connection and understanding to someone who may have felt isolated in their emotions. Several aspiring writers, with whom I had conducted creative writing workshops, have told me that my work inspired them to explore their own creativity and start writing. And it is incredibly gratifying for me! I wish to particularly name Dr. Alok Joshi here, a psychiatrist, an elderly friend and a gatekeeper of my thoughts. He once mentioned that my poetry reinforces his belief in the therapeutic power of poetry and the role it can play in our lives.

Q5. Your poems talk about many philosophers. Are there any particular poets, writers, or artists who have influenced your style or approach to writing poetry? I draw inspiration from a diverse array of sources, notable and small. As you pointed out, philosophers have influenced my poetry writing. Writings of thinkers like Albert Camus, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre have had a continued ascendancy on my thoughts and writing process. Exploration of existential and philosophical themes in my writing is a flavour of their inspiration. The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi is a master of expressing spiritual and emotional depth through his poetry. His mystical and transcendent themes have encouraged me to explore the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of human existence in my work.

Plath's raw and confessional style, Neruda's passionate and sensual poetry, Rilke's introspective poetry, etc. have influenced my contemplative and philosophical approach. Eliot's "The Waste Land," has shown me the power of using multiple voices and perspectives to convey the intricacies of the human condition. Beyond poets and writers, Frida Kahlo’s work has inspired me; she was a daring woman who stood against gender bias to raise feminism. Kahlo’s surreal and emotive works have shaped my approach to creating vivid and evocative imagery in my poetry And of course, there are many others – Kiran Nagarkar, Kamal Das, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Grace (Marathi), Namdeo Dhasal (Marathi), Vasant Dahake (Marathi). All these years of readings and followings of complex and allusive styles have encouraged me to experiment with structure and symbolism in my writings.

Q6. The collection of poems is described as angst-filled, but it also contains rays of hope and the prospect of transcendence. How do you achieve a balance between exploring the darker facets of human existence while simultaneously offering your readers hope?

Balancing the exploration of darker facets of human existence with rays of hope and the prospect of preeminence in a poetry collection is a delicate and unintentionally-intentional process. It involves weaving together contrasting emotions and themes to create a nuanced and resonant narrative. The structure of the narrative arc takes a journey that might start with introspection into the depths of human despair and existential questions, but progresses to introduction of themes of resilience, and a potential for transformation. I include transition poems that act as bridges between contrasting themes. These poems can gradually shift the tone and mood, providing a sense of continuity while leading readers from despair towards hope. I use symbolism and metaphor to convey complex emotions. Dark and light imagery, carefully choosing and juxtaposing these symbols to create layers of meaning that invite readers to reflect on the interplay of emotions. Utilizing different narrative voices or perspectives in the poems allows me to explore multiple facets of the human experience. Some poems may speak directly to the pain and darkness, while others offer a more hopeful or transcendent perspective. One element of my writing is to invite reflection on the themes and emotions presented in the poems. This self-reflection can lead to a deeper understanding of their own experiences and a sense of hope that comes from confronting and grappling with the complexities of life. I do not have a closure in my writings. I don't necessarily mean to tie up all loose ends and provide a sense of acceptance or understanding. Rather, I leave it to the liberty of the reader.

Q7. You have successfully published three books that deal with profound themes. What advice would you give to prospective authors who also want to explore these kinds of genres and express themselves via writing?

Dare. Be Bold. Write. Stand by it. Writing is a craft that improves with practice. Dare to be yourself.

Read – Widely, Deeply, Madly, Sincerely. Fertilizers are required to yield a productive crop. Stay Vulnerable – Don't be afraid to explore every experience, emotion, and thought within yourself and around you. The most impactful writing often comes from an authentic and honest place – you. Say No to a NO – sometimes the most foolish-looking thoughts could turn into miraculous lines. Never say No to any thought that you feel should be written. Share Shamelessly – Don't be afraid to share your writing. It allows you to reach an audience and potentially make a meaningful impact. Everything that comes back – take it with a smile (let the abuses play monkey-chatter in your mind). Research is essential if you are exploring complex or profound themes. Ensure that your writing is well-informed and accurate, especially when addressing sensitive or controversial topics. Be Patient and True to your Vision – Don't compromise your artistic integrity for the sake of commercial success.

Q8. How do you think your writing has changed as an author throughout the course of the trilogy? What were some of the challenges you faced and breakthroughs you encountered while writing?

Completing a trilogy, especially one that explores profound and complex themes, is a transformative journey for any author. I experimented with different techniques, refined my use of language, and developed a more nuanced voice. Plucking 270 odd poems from the 500+, grouping them, and structuring them had been a mystifying journey, however, with time I got adept at building a narrative structure for the collection. The interplay of dark, light, and grey became a central aspect of my writing style. With more refinement, I learnt the art of striking a balance between exploring the darker facets of existence and offering glimpses of hope and transcendence. No expedition can be worthy without the milestones of challenges in it. With the accomplishment of adversities comes a sense of achievement. I think the obscurities that consumed me largely were managing consistency and the emotive clangour. Upholding evenness in theme, style, and voice across three separate books required careful planning, and even revisiting earlier works to ensure coherence. Writing about profound and intense human aspects can be arduous; there were moments when I had to step back and take a hiatus from the writing process. While I am usually not worried about where my writing lands, I do make myself responsible towards my readers. I had to take care to meet their expectations while also staying true to my artistic vision. With the 3rd book, I was overwhelmed with the thought of getting published after a long gap of 9 years. In terms of advancement, I have matured with more resilience and dedication. Completing a trilogy with significant gaps in between is a testament to it. It reinforced my commitment to the craft of writing and the importance of persevering through the challenges that arise during the creative process.

Q9. Writing for me, as for many, is a healing outlet. What does writing mean to you personally, and how does it help you understand yourself and the world around you?

Writing is my compass! In essence, writing helps me navigate through the panoramas of my essence and the surroundings at large. The act of the pen gently pecking at the blank paper becomes a restorative release, welcoming me into clarity and succour. It's an ecstasy of discovery, growth, and connection—a journey I cherish deeply. Writing allows me to observe, question, and interpret the complexities of our society and the human condition. Writing is my sanctuary, a playground where I confront my susceptibilities, angsts, and hopes. It's a cathartic discharge, a method to process and heal from inadequacies in and around. Through the written word, I give shape to chaos, transforming raw emotions into tangible narratives. Writing also serves as a pledge concerning me with others, as my words resound with readers who reflect upon their own feelings and experiences within. It nurtures empathy and understanding that open diverse perspectives and cultures for me, as a writer.

Q10. What is ahead for you as an author now that you've completed such an emotionally charged trilogy? Do you intend to continue exploring similar subjects or branch out into new areas with your future projects?

I still have plenty to accomplish. There are around 300 poems with mixed themes, though mostly in line with the existing topics, that I intend to publish in the coming year. I have completed a collection of short stories. The collection is a bit of a diversion from the themes that my poetry follows. The stories are more humane and have narratives of compassion expressed through fond human relationships. However, the stories do have a garnishing of rebellion and angst. I see a hopeful 2024 with my novel getting published. The narrative follows a genre of nihilism. It is a nonlinear dark tale cruising through the landscapes of Bombay of the 90s and early 2000s. The novel is titled “HEADBURST”, a chronicle of an existentialist leading a life of nothingness, yet meaningful and satisfactory. He neither has anything triumphant nor anything to lose. Though he has answers to many things about life, it is his desire to dig in deeper that makes him drag his survival. And there is cinema, of course. I am working on scripts for two short films that I have scheduled to complete this year. Unlike my poetry, I adopt a different approach to my films, where narratives are definite, optimistic, and hopeful. The lead character of films is typically a female protagonist who is aspirational and inspiring.

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