Friday, September 4, 2009

Feature: Nabina Das Day 6

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful creativity and culture with us this week, Nabina! We have enjoyed having you as a feature this week and getting to know you better.

And now for something a bit different for our readers on a 'Day 6' feature: a few words from Nabina and a set of interview questions specially selected by Tim Buck for Nabina to answer. Enjoy!

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I thank Jen and Christina for pampering me on Mnemosyne and in the process, introducing me to several good writers published on this site as well as those from outside the site. Some have commented here, some on my facebook page, and some even emailed me. Every word I gathered from this interaction is priceless. And I want to say, thank you for building this literary bridge. It will take me far, I know it! And the best thing is, we will all walk together.

10 Questions for Nabina

1) Does too much liquor help you get in the mood to begin writing down that poem already in your head?

The "too much liquor" state hasn't happened to me that often! Usually my writing time spans from the afternoon till about dinner time. I rarely raise myself a glass during this time period. I rarely drink alone, always with friends and family. I have to try this though ... too much liquor might be instrumental in putting down that poem inside the head in a tsunami of creativity, OR it might just make me forget what I had in mind and make another pop up! Usually, I find my poetry in a very un-influenced (liquor), un-tranced, or non-rapturous state of mind. As far as I can remember, one recent poem came out during a drive to Chicago, as our car was entering the city. There was another that took shape when I was trying to understand the tax forms. Mnemosyne has my "Moonlore from the East" that happened when I was leafing through the Farmers Almanac at the store! In this context, I like what Pablo Neruda wrote (it's for the readers to judge whether this illustrates my point):

"The Book of Questions, III"

Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?

Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots?

Who hears the regrets
of the thieving automobile?

Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?

2) When you sit down to write a poem, are you wearing a long, flowing Druid robe?

I really wish I had a Druid robe! Someone please gift me a Druid robe. I'm a fan of Asterix comics, and I so love the Druid character there. I'm sure when he is free from making the magic potions, he writes poetry (the other potion?)!

3) Who are your favorite dead-man and dead-woman Western poets? And why?

Dead-man - Many, especially from the modern and the post-modern literatures, but I'll name W B Yeats here. When I was a kid, my dad used to read us aloud Yeats' poems. They sort of grew all over me like old vines. The symbolism of Yeats heavily influences my very early writing in Assamese and Bengali. Perhaps I'll get to translate them some day. Even today, I am fond of drawing from myths and fables of all the cultures that I come in contact with. As an atheist, I don't say there is anything specifically mystical or theosophical in my writing, but I love playing with metaphors and imageries from the religions and mystic traditions.

Somewhere I cannot also ignore T S Eliot. But that's for later perhaps.

I read a lot of women poets/writers/essayists. As of now, I won't single out anyone.

4) How deeply has the culture of the USA spread into India?

If McDonald's, shopping malls and fast cars represent American culture, then there has been an invasion! My father's generation, who'd have none of those, interestingly grew up on classic Hollywood, John Steinbeck and the Woodstock movement. Apparently, Satyajit Ray, the internationally famous Indian film maker once admitted that throughout his youth, he would watch only Hollywood movies before he turned to film making in Bengali. American culture is pretty diverse. India has it's own humongous diversity. And Indians won't give up cricket for all of America handed on a platter!

5) Did you experience much culture shock we you came here to study?

I didn't study here. I followed my husband who came to do a PhD at Cornell University while I strated working as asstt. metro editor with The Ithaca Journal, the local newspaper. In terms of culture shocks, there weren't many. We came in 2002. In the post 9/11 era, we found the world was not starkly different elsewhere outside India. Of course, I learned to eat tofu, play foosball, and gained some bit of American accent! I have not yet understood baseball a whole lot. And when I say 'football', it means soccer. Till recently, I said 'loo', 'tin' (instead of can) and 'aluminum' for which I have got raps on my knuckles and yelled at as 'you anglophone'!

6) What are your goals as a writer? Or do you prefer letting inspiration organically and surprisingly take you into the future? Or whatever...?

As a writer, I want to be read, as widely as possible. A writer wants to share what she thinks, hears and imagines. A writer also wants to change. From my writer friends I also learn that life and writing can interact well to create balance, a much-needed commodity in today's world.

7) Do you do public mic readings of your poems?

In the US, I read once at a community reading event in the company of former poet laureate of Tompkins County (where Ithaca falls). It can't be called a public mic reading, it was more of a poetic exchange in a small group. While in the university, my friends and I spent hours reading our poems and discussing poetry in general, often attended by a huge number of non-reading participants. At that time, no one popularized the term public reading. I would love to do more such readings and I believe I would have a lot to learn from them.

8) I read where you loved school. Were you one of those irritating teacher-pet type girls who liked to show up the boys in class?

I was never the 'chou chou' of the class teacher! In school, my friends remember me to be a very quiet person, almost melting into the desk-at-the-back-type. Not so shy though. I loved school because I did well in my literature and language classes and all along I had fantastic teachers who were very good with teaching us poetry and other literature. Even my ruthless maths teacher in grade IV read Hindi poetry in a soulful bliss!

9) Do you think I'm crazy?

If the sleeper or the dreamer is madder than a madman, then you are not (I've twisted Descartes to suit my logic)! And if you are one of those, be happy. All of us are a little crazy, won't you say?

10) How much revision, in general, does it take for you to get a poem perfected? Or do they always come out flawless the first attempt?

I revise endlessly. Sometimes to the point of getting irritated and frustrated. Very rarely is my very first draft ready to rock on its own. Besides, I don't know when exactly a poem gets perfected. Perfection is not my friend. I usually stop revising when after reading aloud, I feel there is some music in the poem. Something tinkling and ringing. Not rhymes, but a melody.

Thank you for being a good sport, Nabina. Now sing us a song.

Tim, I'm singing no woman no cry right now, but that doesn't have to be posted, right?!

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Read Nabina's published work at these links:;;;;';;;;;;;;


  1. Really enjoyed your feature this week. And VERY much enjoyed Tim's interview questions for you and your answers. Nice way to actually get to know both of you especially you Nabina.

  2. This is one of the most enjoyable interviews I have read. A great way to get glimpses into your creativity, your poetic impulses, your journey as a writer. Thank you, Tim, for this marvelous way of getting to know a bit more of you and Nabina.