No other website or publisher has got me as much love and admiration as a poet as Poemhunter.com. By frequently displaying my name as a ‘Popular Member’ and some of my poems as ‘Member Poem,’ PH continues to encourage me to submit more and more new poems to their site and acquire new admirers at a global level. All this without any expectations whatsoever, financially or otherwise.
See these pics below.
It has worked the other way round too. From a painfully shy, reclusive, highly introverted poet, I have transformed into a writer who loves to attend open Mike poetry sessions, thanks to PH. My very first invitation to an Open Mike came via PH from a fellow member poet Mr. R.K. Das who lives in Delhi and works in Rajya Sabha.
Here is the link to one of my latest poems ‘Matryoshka Poem.’ It was inspired by a pic of a sunset that I witnessed recently. It’s called ‘Matryoshka’ because, like a Matryoshka doll, each poem leads to another.
Purple Jarul Flowers near Hari Nagar Depot Red light
Pink Jarul flowers at AG-1, Vikaspuri
Around mid-April, a huge purple patch of purple Jarul flowers suddenly appeared near the Hari Depot red light. I noticed them while travelling in a bus on my way to work. They looked gorgeous and seemed to add a special touch to their drab surroundings. I tried to click their pictures that day, but I couldn’t; the bus was moving too fast. I tried again during the next few days, but all in vain. Sometimes the bus didn’t stop and when it did, it was too far from the spot. I promised myself that one of these days, I would come here specially to take their pics. But unfortunately, due to work pressure, I just couldn’t find the time.
And then one morning, I observed that the flowers were much fewer in number. Day by day, they kept decreasing and I wondered sadly if I would ever get the chance to take their pics before they disappeared. Compared to Gulmohur and Amaltas, Jarul trees are much fewer in Delhi. You don’t find them everywhere.
On 5 May 2016, I read Mayank Austen Soofi’s post on these flowers in his blog theDelhiwalla.com (http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2016/05/04/city-season-the-jarul-flowers-of-summer-jor-bagh/). That was sufficient to make me decide that it was now or never! I pushed my work aside as though it was a big emergency and I dashed out from my office that day to grab those shots before the flowers got trampled under the ruthless feet of Death. While I was on my way to that place, I had the same heady, tingling feeling of excitement that I had when I went out on my first date!
After reaching the spot, I clicked lots of pics of the Jarul flowers to my heart’s content and I plucked a few to keep in my poems diary. While returning, I took some pics of the plucked flowers too. I noticed that these flowers appeared to be of different color in different intensities of light.
And next evening, while walking from the bus stop to my home, I was pleasantly surprised to find another Jarul tree. Its flowers were of magenta color; some of them had fallen off and were lying on the ground just below the tree.
Here are all the pics. They give me a deep sense of fulfilment every time I look at them. Photos are, after all, one way of immortalizing special experiences.
Jarul flowers @ Hari Nagar
The images below are all of one particular Jarul flower. Amazing, isn’t it?
Jarul flowers @ Vikaspuri (AG-1)
And finally, here they are, those lovely Jarul flowers, resting in peace forever in my poems diary…
I met blogger/writer Mayank Austen Soofi for the first time in my life in my office on 24 December 2014. It was for a story he was writing about people engaged in writing stories and poems related to the Delhi Metro. While we chatted, he made notes. Somewhere during the conversation, he interrupted and said, “Ms. Chatterjee, please slow down a bit. I need to write everything that you are saying.”
I could not believe my good luck that day. It seemed to be too good to be true. I hadn’t won a Nobel or a Booker or a Pulitzer. I hadn’t won a national beauty contest. I had not topped in an IAS exam. I was not a politician. I had not won any election. I had not done anything that is normally considered extraordinary. Apart from toiling hard for survival, all I had done was write a handful of poems and stories; but that was for my own happiness and joy. And now right in front of me sat a well-known writer taking my interview for a story for his blog.
Mayank kept asking me questions about my poetry and my life as a writer in Delhi and I answered as tactfully as I could. During a brief pause, when I had to attend to an official phone call and refer to some report in my laptop, Mayank got up and clicked some photographs of me at work. I felt rather awkward. I still could not understand how my life could be of any interest to anyone.
I tried to keep myself grounded. I told myself that this was for a blog, not a big deal really, and soon this interview would be over. Not too many people in India read blogs anyway. Soon Mayank would be gone and I would be back to my usual routine, what it was like before he came in.
But when the interview was over, Mayank said, “Ms. Chatterjee, I will come once more some other time with another photographer for more photos. We will select the ones we find most suitable. “
In spite of myself, I was impressed with the conscientiousness and zeal he seemed to display in his work.
On our way out, I took him through our showroom. This time, Mayank stopped and clicked some more pics of me near the cars. I felt as though I was modelling. I was quite flattered, but I was also very amused with myself, modelling at age 48!
Later on, while I was walking back to my cabin in the basement, a few colleagues sitting in the front office asked me, “Who was that guy clicking photographs?” I tried to understate things. “Well, he is a writer. He is writing an article on the Delhi Metro. He saw my poem “The Delhi Metro” on the internet, so he came here to discuss it with me. I wrote that poem long ago, about 8 years back.”
On 29 December 2014, Mayank called me for the second time to fix up an appointment the following day for more pics. I agreed. But now I had to deal with a new problem. A photographer was going to come and take photos inside the showroom; I thought it would look very odd if I didn’t give prior information to my management about this visit. More importantly, this also meant revealing to them the fact that I am also a writer.
Based on past experience, I always feel apprehensive about discussing my habit of writing in office. Bosses in general feel uncomfortable while dealing with subordinates who double up as writers; I guess it is because writers think; they have minds of their own and they tend to be highly individualistic. Leading them ahead is like pulling a bullock cart laden with bricks.
I was lucky this time. Everything worked out perfectly without any hassles. During the photo-shoot, Mayank suggested that I look thoughtful and serene and wear a very serious expression on my face. When he gave me a demo, he looked like a theatre artist and I burst out laughing. He said sternly, “Why are you laughing?” I quickly controlled myself and the photo-shooting ended finally when both Mayank and Manoj (the other photographer) were satisfied that they had got the best possible shots. I felt really relieved when I returned to my seat that evening. For a shy and reserved person like me, being the centre of attraction can be very tiresome.
On 10 January 2015, I got a call from Mayank. He said that his article featuring me along with other writers is now in Mint Lounge as well, apart from his blog theDelhiwalla.com! (Mint Lounge is a business newspaper of the national daily Hindustan Times). Oh my God, I thought, my photo is in a national newspaper today! For an ordinary, middle class person like me, that’s a huge achievement and I was absolutely thrilled!
I was even more impressed when I read the article that day in the newspaper. It was beautifully written and it had given maximum coverage to me as a writer. The wealth of love and blessings I got from my friends, well-wishers, and office colleagues because of this article completely swept me off my feet!
The very next day, I showed the Mint Lounge article to my parents. My Mom kissed my photograph and hugged me. That was the proudest moment of my life. As far as I am concerned, I got my first Pulitzer Prize on 11 January 2015!
Given below are the links of the article and of course, the pics from my own Nokia camera.
Gradually, reality sank in and we all came back to the normal routine. But it did feel good for some time, about being able to open up to the whole world about something that I have always held very close to my heart. As the days went by, I kept reading more and more of Mayank’s works, in Mint Lounge, in his blog theDelhiwallah.com, and his book “Nobody Can Love You More.” From this book, I discovered that his real name is Mayank Singh. I found each one of his stories a beauty, a thing of joy. Each one of them seemed to have a piece of someone’s soul, a heart that throbbed and beat with the rhythm of life. Even the photos had a special touch of an artist.
Every writer is, I guess, entitled to a few idiosyncrasies. In Mayank’s case, I observed that he is absolutely crazy about the French writer Marcel Proust. He identifies himself so much with his character Charles Swann that even his email id has this as his display name and his email signature has these lines: “A doomed character in Proust’s novel, Charles Swann, is of Jewish extraction. He parties with princes and enjoys access to aristocratic salons. He has a discerning taste in buildings, poems, recipes, sonatas and paintings. He is engaged in a scholarly study of Vermeer. He is fond of reading railway timetables. He loves an unsuitable woman.”
At the time of writing this story, Mayank was in Venice to gather more knowledge about Proust and connect with more fellow Proustians. Going by what he wrote recently in “Letter from Venice” in his blog, it appears that he is toying with the idea of doing a crash course in French to be able to read Proust in original.
One day an idea came to me; of using my own pics to illustrate my poems in my blog https://jasbirchatterjee.wordpress.com/ in a style similar to Mayank’s. That’s how I caught the photography bug! As I watched my photos collection getting bigger and bigger, I found myself looking at the world around me with a completely different perspective. The world outside hadn’t changed much, but I had. It was like re-discovering the world all over again. Was I blind all this while, for the last 49 years of my life? Perhaps. I was now like Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot and i mean this in a happier sense…
I tried doing that with an older poem “The Withered Petals.” Link is http://www.poemhunter.com/jasbir-chatterjee/poems/?search=the+withered+petals&B1=SEARCH
On 19 February 2015, theDelhiwallah.com had a new story: City Life – Delhi Lovers, Lodhi Gardens. Link: http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2015/02/19/city-life-delhi-lovers-lodhi-gardens/ It was about the love birds in Lodhi Gardens. After I completed reading it, something very strange happened to me. I could feel something inside me dissolve and come to life. A stampede of words, frozen and locked earlier, followed and flowed out of me like a waterfall. I turned them into a short story with the title “Adam & Eve.” This story is now available in an e-book of Fictionmagazines.com published in USA. URLs: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WX1GAVC
My 2 other stories ‘Lost & Found’ and ‘The Rebellious Cat’ were similarly inspired from some of the posts in theDelhiwalla.com.
I am working on my next story these days, but my hands shake every time I return to it. It’s hard to relive memories that you’ve worked so hard to forget. Like ‘Adam & Eve’ this too is waiting for a spark to bring it to life.
Keep the torch burning, Delhi Walla! A lot of little flames depend on it.
Well, here is a latest update as on 14 October 2017. On Tuesday, 3 October 2017, my weekly off from work, I got a second chance to host MAS and this time, it was in my own house! Long after he was gone, I still could not believe that Mayank Austen Soofi had actually visited me.
Here are some pics clicked by my daughter Suroshri.