I write… to understand myself.

A poet and an author. And a good thinker, too, I should add, Sanjiv Bhatla’s books have been great reads for me. His thoughts and ideas penned on paper makes you stop and look at issues and themes differently.

– Shana Susan Ninan

SSN: Let’s start with your latest book. How are the two long poems you’ve published different, in terms of plot, pace and poignancy?

Sanjiv Bhatla: A Sinner Says tries to postulate what basic ingredients went into the very creation of Human Nature. Why human beings behave and feel the way they do. What constitutes their emotions and aspirations. How God-created Human Nature prompted man to create human society.

Ninmah’s Lonely Man picks up from where A Sinner Says leaves off – its third and last sections presents the situation of “one such human being” embedded in the man-made society. First section of NLM extends this situation. It once again returns to it in the fourth and last section of NLM.

The running themes of these composite four parts are twofold: one, that God is omnipresent and all powerful, in full control of his entire creation, two, that God is in a love-hate relationship with his son – the living human being.

SSN: Did you experience some of the situations and events mentioned in ‘Ninmah’s Lonely Man’,  yourself?

SB: As said before, I try to understand myself through my writings. I may not have experienced EXACT SAME situations, but SIMILAR. In few cases I have also IMAGINED them, but in such a way that they This is a sleight of hand which a writer of Realism should be able to pull through.

SSN: God, or rather his absence, has a large presence in your works. Is that a conscious effort in the writing of the books? 

SB: I am a staunch believer, Shana. God’s omni-presence looms very large in my conscious mind. And therefore his omni-absence also looms very large in my conscious mind. The former causes elation and assurance, and the latter, desperation and dejection. Both these contra-set of emotions are more vividly espoused in Ninmah’s Lonely Man than in my other long poem, A Sinner Says. I won’t be surprised if you detect such tug of war of Belief-related contrasting emotions in my other books as well.

SSN: Three of the best books you’ve read so far.

SB: I have the entire set of P.G. Wodehouse books among my favourites, and also those of Somerset Maugham. Other than those, the three books that come to my mind are, D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, and Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.

SSN: Authors connect with their reader base via their style of writing, points of views, and even their unattached storytelling methods. How do you connect with yours?

SB:A good writer should have “points of view”. He should be able to espouse things which will help the readers understand a character better, and through him, perhaps also themselves. At the same time a good author should not present his points of view as sermons, but as an engrossing story. Because a story attracts attention, not sermons.

To present both these, the story and points of view, a good author would employ a style and language which are unobtrusive like air. The reader will breathe in that air but his attention will always be riveted on the story and author’s views. Style should be subservient to substance – a means to an end, and not try to become an end in itself.

As for the last part of the question, I will leave it to you Shana, to determine how I have been connecting with my readers. You have been one yourself, and a no-nonsense one at that; I would obviously like to believe that I have been trying to connect through points of view and storytelling, and not through shenanigans of style or language.

SSN: That I can vouch for! And how important is it for authors to connect with readers via social media?

SB: In today’s world it is very important for an author to link up through social media. It of course does not add to the worth of his work, but it makes more and more people aware of his work. It can also create a hoopla which might artificially magnify his worth, yes, this too is possible.

SSN: Do you write for yourself? To satisfy that writers’ urge? Or do you write for your readers?

SB: I would like to say in general that whatever I have written so far has been in a way an attempt to understand myself better. I remember way back I wrote a poem called AN AGEING SPINSTER, which had lines like … “to create or resolve themselves // under God’s onslaughts”, or something like that. Adil Jussawalla, in a private conversation with me, said, “the ageing spinster could have been you yourself”. I didn’t tell Adil that I was taken aback by his observation, but I did feel ‘exposed’; I did mumble to myself, ‘how did this guy know’!

At that time I took it as a failure of my poem, that I wasn’t able to camouflage my ‘ageing spinster’ well enough. This was nearly 25 years ago. But over the years I realised it wasn’t all that much of a shortcoming really; in fact it gave me a better control over what I was writing. Today I can say without hesitation or embarrassment, yes, I write for myself, and not for my readers.

I feel I understand my own emotions and thinking more clearly through the process of writing. And I am not alone in the Society – that’s a fact. When I say Society, I mean a continuum of society – as it exists today, and has existed in recent or distant past.

So when I try to unravel or understand myself, I by default unravel ten, twenty, or hundred other fellow human beings among my readers. That’s how a writer touches a chord in his readers. If he has been successful in “understanding” himself in his writing, he has helped many of his readers to understand themselves better.

That’s how great writing survives, Shana. I have voiced similar thoughts towards the end of first or second chapter of Mr J. Has Left Us, in which the protagonist wants to be a writer.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 at 2:17 am and is filed under Authors, Interview, Realism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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