Poet Arundhathi Subramaniam: For the third panel in the Women Writers Fest, renowned poet, writer, critic, curator, biographer and essayist, Arundhathi Subramaniam, spoke to moderator, Archana Pai Kulkarni, on various topics, including how the author’s life was affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lockdown, especially considering that she has been a traveller. She spoke about the new poetic voices that interest her, the book by her bedside, her new book on four women seekers who lead lives on their own terms, and her own journey as a poet and seeker.
Arundhathi Subramaniam is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Raza Award for Poetry, the Zee Women’s Award for Literature, the Mystic Kalinga Award, the Charles Wallace, Visiting Arts and Homi Bhabha Fellowships, and the International Piero Bigongiari Prize in Italy, among others.
Apart from being the Editor of the India domain of the Poetry International Web, she has also worked as Head of Dance and Chauraha (an inter-arts forum) at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.
Arundhathi Subramaniam in a conversation with @archcoolcarnee about poetry, her own spiritual journey, and the incredible women who wear only themselves at #WomenWritersFest powered by @ColorsTV. Watch now – https://t.co/nAX4FK9QB5 pic.twitter.com/hhG86r7FAI
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Travelling: A Kind of Homesickness That You Can’t Understand
Travelling has two dimensions – one can travel as a tourist and as a pilgrim. While tourism comes with its own glamorous sides, pilgriming feels like a conquest. Subramaniam describes the quest as something neither one can fix their finger on nor pinpoint exactly what they are looking for. She elaborates that the quest can be as basic as existential unease or it can also be a kind of homesickness that you can’t understand.
Being afflicted by some kind of restlessness caused by the urge to travel, Subramanian said that at times travel is just about going away in order to return and find you need to move your armchair just an inch away from the window just in order to have another angle or perspective of the world.
Arundhathi Subramaniam on Finding the Inspiration to Write When Confined within the Four Walls of One’s Home
The country as well as the world has been in a crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us to shut our doors and isolate ourselves from the physical world. But what would that mean for someone for whom travel is an essential part of creative inspiration?
The 48-year-old poet answered that the process was helpful for her, although she is a chronic traveller. She explained that the lockdown has allowed us to have self reclamation and connect with our inner being.
She was also able to turn in her most recent work, Women Who Wear Only Themselves, during this prolonged period of silence.
As A Spiritual Seeker, How Did Subramaniam Find The Motivation To Call Herself One?
Given the fact that a lot of people are closet seekers and terrified of coming out given the knee-jerk scorn and judgment that spirituality is met with, Subramaniam answered that it wasn’t her courage that made her come out as a seeker, but simply the process that made her do so. There was “no other way” for her. There was no question of her hiding it. It was evident.
“Any journey of self-discovery is about becoming a less divided being.”
However, it is important to divide your compartments as well. To divide your closet and your bedroom. To know the difference and boundaries.