Thursday, May 30, 2013

creative writing workshop with Anjum Hasan

and yes, while mentioning some of the "literary" and poetic highlights of the past few months, I simply cannot forget Anjum Hasan's visit to Delhi, her creative writing workshop in JNU with a select group of 15 participants, her readings and other events which I either attended or had short glimpses of :-), and last but not the least, a much prized one-on-one conversation between me and Anjum in the auto and in the metro! :D
and Anjum really liked my poems. yes, she must've told me that at least 3 times. now, isn't that splendid! Thrilling, rather! oooooo!! It is Anjum Hasan after all, you know.

so life at the personal level has sort of been in the doldrums and it has been painful and it hurts and you go all angsty and you dunno how to pick yourself up and what to do, but thank heavens, there is something called writing and something called poetry which can help you heal. So you see, I've been trying to do some of it these past few months. and I mean to keep up. :-)
and yes, some more! I had four poems published in Brown Critique, the journal run by the well known poet, Gayatri Majumdar. So it caused much happiness to hear from Gayatri that she "really liked my poems". well, so I'm putting these ones up here, cos it's been a while now since then.

and yes, I must mention that I participated in a competition Poetry Against caste which was organised by Caste Away- a Delhi initiative in partnership with a group from Delhi university as well as Kavi-the Poetry Art Project, and this competiution was judged by another young well known poet, our dearest Meena Kandasamy. There were 2 prizes, neither of which I won, but Meena was kind enough to make a third "special mention" for my poem 'Hypocrisy' which was later published in Brown Critique. It is the last one in the poems that follow below.

Shruti Sareen                                                                                                                          4 poems
My Heart Is a Poor Student

For perhaps the 50th time in two weeks
I pick up my heart. Open it. explain to it.
The same words I have repeated
the evening before, I have gone through
the same arguments, the same reasoning.
But my heart is stupid. It is a fool.
... It forgets it all, and I have to explain it
all over again. My heart is stubborn. It asks
too many questions. It disbelieves. It does not
accept. My heart is too soft. That is its biggest
failing. It whimpers with a scolding. It cries
when beaten with a stick. My heart
is a poor student. An easy teacher may have
felt sorry for it. But perhaps you need
to be strict with this heart to the point
of sadism. Or sadomasochism. Banish it
from the classroom. Imprison it within walls.
Sting-slap it. Make it submit. Scream at it
until it is ready to learn. Until it is
pliable. Until it admits its faults. Until
it is willing to work hard. Until it learns
strength. Then the heart will be re-admitted
back into the classroom. With weak students
like my heart, you may sometimes
have to use force.


It is dialogic like a debate. It has
two sets of choruses. They present opposing
points of view with great melodrama and
emotion. The stage of the theatre is me.
Chorus one is Guilt and Chrous two is
Desire. Chrous two speaks first, it is more
... impatient. It begins with you, it ends
with you, it seems to like talking about you
in the middle too somehow. It seems to think
it the most natural thing. It does not realise
that something is wrong. Chorus two desires
and desires and rails against its punishment,
it cannot wait for it to end. Then,
Over to Guilt, Chorus One. This one
eats into you slowly like a worm does
into an apple. It chastises and
castigates the self, it labels you wicked,
evil, criminal- and leaves you squirming
like the vile worm. It makes you regret
who you are. That is its biggest weapon.
and everything you've ever done.
It makes you rot in hell. This
is the moment of anagnorisis. This
is where the hamartia turns into
peripeteia. Without the fatal flaw,
there would be no play, no hero,
no epiphany either. This is the end
of Act 4. The curtain drops.

Some day, there will be an Act 5
of peace, resolution and hope.


A tender newborn green
they emerge from knotted nodes
and nodules that protrude a trifle
crooked from the tall, straight bark
their crown tops high in the sky. The barks,
by and large, are weathered old
... bare browns, except for the birthings.
The new from the old. It must be
so painful. It must hurt so much,
I think, for the green to emerge
from the brown. And for the green
to grow, covering the brown.
The brown would have this concealed
grief, and this submerged heartache
and so much courage, to give
birth to spring.


We are the bhadralog. We
the middle class. We, the marxists
we the elite, we the educated.
We are the leftists-ah!
We sit in AC seminar rooms and have
dalit conferences. with biscuits and cakes
and endless streaming cups of coffee.
Sitting in our armchairs, we
denounce the corporates and valourise
the proletariat. We clap, we
back-pat, we volunteer too.
We also take out time for our classic look-
my kajal, my kurta- hey, I'm not your
lip-gloss wearing girl, no way! and he?
His beard is a sign of intellect, can't you see?
The conference ends at 5pm and on our way
back home we see: a woman cleaning a toilet,
a beggar counting coins, some newspaper
flashing some dalit suicide. and we
retreat into bhadralog respectability.
We return to our cleansed and comfortable worlds
'Oh dear, oh dear, so terrible', we say
but what can we do after all? We are tired.
We have done so much all day.

Poems published in Our Private Literature and accepted for North East Review

So, it gives me much pleasure to say that 'Flowers for your Hair' has been accepted for publication by North East Review. For obvious reasons, I cannot put this up here until they have actually published it and some time has elapsed before that, but put it I will. So watch this space!

In the meantime, 'Sad Ootin' was published in another newbie journal that is published from North east India. This issue centred around "Protest". Okay, so I'll leave you with Sad Ootin!

Sad Ootin

Ootin is an elf
With a Piglet face
Pixie ears, needle
Eyes and nose.
A flick of my wand
And Ootin appears
Bowing low to the ground
From his waist. Thy wish,
He says, is my command.
Ootin has a fractured soul
A split face, and creaky arms
That need oiling. He also has
A cracked tongue.
Ootin slaves hard night
And day, catering to my whims
He cleans, cooks, washes, sweeps
And sometimes, he brings stolen
Honey from bees, or nectar
From butterflies. Ootin
Does my shopping
So I stay home. He also
Does my work.
I need to keep Ootin busy,
Very busy. Ootin, you see
Is under a curse
When he finishes work
He does mischief, he sticks things.
Yes, he sticks doors and windows
So I can’t open them. He sticks holes
In clothes, so I can’t wear them.
He sticks pots and pans,makes
A mountain of them. He once stuck
A child’s mouth, so it wouldn’t open.
For this, he is punished, yes
of course he is punished.
He is burnt in the fireplace
And beaten with a stick.
Poor Ootin. Sad Ootin.
His is a sad life. Ootin,you see,
Can stick things, but he cannot
Stick his fractured soul, his cracked
Tongue, or his creaking arms.
He could have been free. 

Hello folks! It has been a long break, which is shameful and unforgiveable considering that I promised around New Year's to be regular. Well, so this is a week well past the 23rd of May, when this blog turned 5. Heck, whatever. Not in a very celebratory mood. The blog is hardly alive anymore. anyway, we'll keep you running for a couple of years more, Heartstrings, I promise.Then errrm well, we have become sorta ambitious here and we have other plans from life, so we might make Heartstrings a bit more professional and give it a new name, a new look, and a new home. :-)

hmmm... here's a few short updates:

I am now enrolled in Delhi University for a PhD on "Emerging Feminist Trends in Indian Poetry in English". Looking at mostly all the delightful women who have been writing poetry around gender issues in the past 15 years. :-) 

I presented a paper in JNU in the Indian World(s) of Indian English Literature seminar on the topic- "Frontiers- Dividing and Connecting Places: in the poetry of Arundhathi Subramaniam, Anjum Hasan, CP Surendran, and Tabish Khair" (14-15 March 2013)

Presented another paper at Jamia Millia Islamia in the seminar 'Food for Thought' on 18th April 2013  entitled " Food, Love, and Self in Indian Women's Poetry in English" This one will probably be published a little way down the line as well.

and yes, besides presenting papers for the first time in my life in places besides IP College (oh heck, Indraprastha college for Women, there you go!) and Mphil seminars, I have also begun proper formal teaching for the first time in my life. :D
oh well, we start small, it's not a fairytale world, so I taught in 3 different Delhi University colleges all within 3-4 months, filling up for other teachers who were on leave! well, may the job hunt continue and may more opportunities reveal themselves!

and yes, the "real" poetry bit comes up in another post rightaway. :-)