Name - Rochelle Potkar
Position - Indian Poet / Author
DOB - 9th March 1990
Location - Mumbai
Born on 9th March, in Kalyan a satellite town to Mumbai that felt small in the 1990’s. Quaint, quiet, dreamy. I lived amid a catholic community and went to a church-school in a wider cosmopolitan orbit where Hindi was spoken so I think in English and Hindi, though I create work in English. This was an idyllic life with the simplicity of outdoor sports, best friends, Chitrahaar/Sunday movies and an extended and eager family of uncles, aunts and cousins. Most of my social absorption came from here where I came across as many interesting people in the neighborhood, as one can imagine.
My last degree certificate was an MBA in Marketing Communications & Project Management. But my fingers are into many pies of self-learning and organized learning courses all the while.
I learnt to have immense self-confidence as a school student owing to the good grades I earned, and the elocution and oratory competitions I participated in and won. Today when I look at those exams, I have forgotten all those mathematical or chemical equations, even the names of the Prime Ministers have changed, but the residue of this remains: that I can scale any mountain put in front of me – be they exams or life challenges. The reason to crack exams was to crack a path to the top of the mountain – any mountain.
I came to writing during my corporate days as content writer and reviewer in the e-learning industry. I would scribble stanzas on tissue paper and wondered what had gotten into me. I wrote poetry after writing short stories. I like the structure of stories, so I wrote poetry too, like lyrical short pieces.
I absorb human dynamics and behaviour, wondering not just about motives behind actions and words, but psychological needs that inform these motives. All of my work is an attempt at a conversation with the world. Basically, answering back.
Poetry is an innate organic subconscious organism for me. It filters through stream-of-conscious sieves. I write to reply to the world of affairs and events and people and their happenings.
Many poets have little by little to form a mixed-mosaic of experience. But not a single poet has influenced me in total. Hardly any poetry collection or anthology has fulfilled my quench in total. I have come to believe that each poet has a few masterpieces, and the rest is duh, the ancillary to the process: grist dust.
Since for me, poetry is organic, I don’t carve out time to write consciously. When attacked with an epiphany or a first-line or string of phrases, I leave behind everything and unspool that from my subconscious. I believe a poem boils and brims to the surface when its time is ripe.
I work on a clumpy, cushy recliner with adequate backrest for long hours. On the left, it faces a window of mango and coconut trees, parrots, yellow birds, squirrels and crows. I am addicted to this window. Most of my writing has happened in this nook of my 3rd floor residence in Bombay (Dashiar).
I was impatient, wanting to publish. After a few rounds of publisher-disinterest over the short story genre, I decided to self-publish. I learnt cover designing, layout, formatting for print-on-demand, pricing, marketing, fetching reviews, and social media promotions – all for the first time. The only thing that fell flat was distribution. This network is not accessible to a single author. I wouldn’t want to self-publish any book again, but this taught me a lot. And yes it was shortlisted by an eminent jury alongside Big-5 traditionally published books that year at Publishing Next, Goa, which was quite ego-boosting for me.
I can’t say I chose these. It’s more like recognizing one’s interest. At different time points, different themes have interested me. It’s like music. You may want to listen to one kind in the morning (say Hindustani ghazal or a raga) and by evening a disco-remix. Both tastes are valid. It’s the mood. Theme is mood. The mood in which you wish to seek and speak of life.
Rattle.com with its daily email of one good poem in the inbox. Other than that life, and people around that I already mentioned.
My speaking voice is the showmanship of noise, glitter, glimmer, good frame, voice modulation, intonations, the right pause, projections from the solar-plexus, and then a concentrated soulfulness of reading the piece.
Poets are prophets, philosophers, seekers, oracles, chroniclers, protestors, feminists, revolutionists, activists, and storytellers. Some of these or as many. I see modern-day poets as the same, in different degrees of each, with pieces of their work on a spectrum.
I am my first audience. That’s why I get impatient the next day with my own work, while editing, restructuring. Outside of me, that particular audience is the literate, curious, seeking world at large – no one particular face. Though sometimes readers who have appreciated my work and made it a point to communicate that to me come to mind – if fleetingly.
They say that you gain in translations. Also, like humour, poetry may not travel with the same metaphors between languages. So it’s more a transcreation where you take the liberty of throwing off a word to make it a smoother read. This is better, according to me, than sticking to the original language while stumbling upon translations of key words.
My book of short stories ‘Bombay Hangovers’ of 16 stories around the characters in Bombay across class, religion, and age is due. I am also completing my first novel.
Strive. Thrive. Challenge your craft. Status quo. Delve and investigate deep into your art.
These nominations happened a while ago. But even my most recent nomination of my book of haibun Paper Asylum being shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020 can cheer me maximally for a month. After that it’s back to the grind
This was a fascinating experience in the UNESCO city of literature – Iowa, where pothole covers and park benches have lyrics engraved on them, and everybody is a poet or writer there – I mean everybody. It was a literary dreamer’s vaikuntha for me. Too surreal to put in words. The charm of being selected for your writings – poetry and prose, bestowed with a scholarship and spending three months of pristine time working over your next book, along with meeting 35 international writers and poets – your fellow-participants from all corners and continents of the world, is an experience that can never be easily replicated. Probably at that phase of my writing life, it was needed to instil confidence in me. A ratification and eternal validation for your place under the sun, as a writer. This robust approval has let me be nonchalant about failures and setbacks on the journey. Two years later I was selected as a Charles Wallace India Trust Fund writing fellow at the University of Stirling, Scotland. Here I was a solo fellow. I loved both experiences of scholarship.
Being an MBA, I wasn’t sure where to begin. But I kept going every single day. There is no blueprint in the creative world. You have to map your own map to navigate a chaotic, random place, where everyone’s journey, by the measure of their oeuvre, is so different. It’s like finding your own thumbprint. That also means you have the freedom to write on any theme, genre, art form, even paid assignments, or by giving yourself different projects. You can, for the large part, follow your nose and instinct. It’s very self-driven. Self-discipline is something I learnt. Also managing ego vis-a-vis knowledge. The more knowledge you acquire, the more you need to shrink your ego. 100:0 is the ideal ratio. Managing your feelings around daily submissions, rejections, successes and failures. You have to define what success and failure mean to you. You can’t look at what others are doing, like constant consultation of glamour magazines will make you feel fat and ugly. Just look at the road ahead, accept the journey, and the sprint.
There are no two same pathways. But similar pathways, maybe. If they’d like to practise poetry and fiction, read up, write, edit, rewrite, invest in craft and writing skills, challenge the status quo, work as hard and smart as you can each day. Have faith in thyself, in life, in the ways of the universe, and the presence of good people – surround yourself with them. Ignore naysayers and they dim and fade after a while. I think it’s the same rusty-dusty key words: focus, determination, grit, clarity of intent and content, and karumi – a Japanese word for lightness with subtlety, learning to embrace and accommodate both the transience of successes and failures.
A poem/story/screenplay/novel/book/any and every piece of work well-completed. I don’t care much if it gets published or produced, because that is not in my control. So, to do things in my control to 100% or 500% of my ability is success to me. Of course having said that I will pitch and query to the best I can.
My family, my daughter, my friends, my kind colleagues and even my rough-and-envious colleagues who taught me to cherish kind colleagues and know the basic principle of enablers and disablers. Of course, a regular SWOT analysis of myself w.r.t. skill, craft, and ability for projects happen all the time.
First and foremost, pave the way for your own footsteps. Life is a balance between attaining and applying knowledge – like the acid and alkaline of the human body. A pH balance of the two are essential. Keep the faith. Do good work. Challenge the status quo and your craft-skills every inch of the way. Read widely. Trust the peaks and troughs of the journey. You win some, you lose some. Treat failures as lessons for your life-book not abject setbacks, but one step below success. This shift in mindset is essential for a good, long journey. Godspeed.