We offer our first and exclusive Q&A Interview with Dr Santosh Bakaya, a writer whose multiple literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages as well as being Author of the Month of September/October 2017.
What does it mean to be selected as Septober’s Author of The Month?
Well, any recognition is a very edifying feeling, so was it with this selection as Septober’s Author of the Month. I have always loved writing for Spillwords.com, and a recognition from my favorite site meant a lot to me, but, honestly speaking, there was this lurking suspicion at the back of my mind: ‘Did the voters really read what I wrote or merely voted’.
How have your hometown/family/friends influenced your writing?
They have influenced my writing in a big way. The mesmerizing beauty of my home Kashmir, figures in many of my poems and essays, and my forthcoming novel has been written in the backdrop of Kashmir. My friends and family have encouraged me in my writing pursuits, and in fact, it was my dad, a professor of English Literature, who instilled the passion of writing in me by making me read all the books in the house, stringently criticizing what I wrote and giving suggestions to improve it. My elder brother, no mean writer himself and my husband and daughter are my greatest critics, and they have been very influential in improving my writing. My friends have supported me tremendously in my writing, by reading and reviewing whatever I have written.
What inspires you to write?
Any small thing can inspire me to write: the twittering bird, the majestic mountains, the chortling toddler, a mother suckling her young one, the glowing face of a rag picker, the babbling brook, the swaying breeze or the faces of a young couple in love and the faces of an old couple still in love.
I cannot bear violence or injustice in any form, and many a poem has written itself, the pen has just spilled words on paper, when confronted with the injustice of a topsy-turvy world.
What was your writing catalyst?
My writing catalyst was a new girl who joined my school, when I was studying in the sixth standard. She would always be scribbling something, and when I asked her what she was writing, with an arrogant toss of her head, she told me that she was writing a limerick. I did not know what a limerick was, but went home and asked dad. That very day, I wrote my first limerick, and thereafter, there was no stopping me! I went on to write ten limericks a day, which are still gathering dust somewhere. So much so, that my poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu was written in the aabba, rhyme scheme of a limerick.
So, it was in school itself that the writing bug gripped me good and proper, and from limericks I graduated to writing novels and essays, and poems and more poems.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process?
I write on the spur of the moment. If any scene catches my fancy during my morning walk, I stop in my tracks, and start writing then and there. When an idea strikes me in the middle of the night, I surreptitiously start jotting down my thoughts on a little notebook that I keep under my pillow. I have written many a piece in the kitchen, and many in trains, and buses.
What would you say is most fulfilling about writing?
The moment when an article or a poem is written by me, to my satisfaction, I feel absolutely fulfilled, and when the same poem resonates with the readers and they appreciate it, I feel fulfilled with renewed force. For a writer, just one word of appreciation can lift her\his sagging spirits, and put a never ending glow on the face.
Does the addition of imagery help to tell your story?
Yes, indeed it does. I use a lot of imagery in my writings, I feel it enhances one’s writing.
What is your favorite reading genre?
I love reading – be it prose, poetry, novels or essays. Our house is choc-a bloc with books, and I have the opportunity to grab any book that catches my fancy, at any time of the day.
What human being has inspired you the most?
My late father, as I repeatedly keep saying, has inspired me the most in my writing career. It is because of his nudges and shoves that I am where I am today. Had it not been for him flinging an essay back at me when I was in the Tenth standard, saying that it had no style, and the vocabulary was lack-lustre, I would not have delved deeper into books, trying to enrich my vocabulary and hone my writing skills.
What message would you have for the Spillwords Press community that voted for you?
I would take this opportunity to thank all those who read me and voted for me, and would also hope for their support in all my future endeavors, for, a writer is nothing, without the readers, as they alone can make or mar him\her .
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
I would want people to remember me as a small time writer, who tried to make a big difference (naively or otherwise) by writing about a violent-free world, which was splashed with the hues of peace, where there was no hatred or rancor, and only magnanimous splashes of unadulterated love.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Nothing much, except the hope that I continue to write till the last day of my life, and who knows, one word of appreciation from the readers might put a few more breaths in my last days, and I might/live a few more days, to write a little more.
SEPT/OCT 2017 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Santosh Bakaya, Ph.D. internationally acclaimed for my poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu, I am an academician, poet, essayist, novelist, and TEDx speaker, with more than twenty published books, my latest being Runcible Spoons and Peageen boats (2021). I run a weekly column MORNING MEANDERINGS on Learning and Creativity. My Ted talk on The Myth of Writer's Block is very popular in creative writing circles.