Five Minutes With is a series of interviews with contemporary poets from India. 

Tushar Dhawal was born in a village in the state of Bihar and brought up in an industrial city called Bokaro Steel City. After completing school, he joined Hindu College in Delhi University and graduated in Sociology. Thereafter, Dhawal did his Masters in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics. During this period, he took the Indian Civil Services and qualified with high ranks and was offered a position in the Indian Police Service. He opted for the Indian Revenue Service and presently works as Commissioner of Income Tax at Kolkata. Ever since he was a small child, he had taken a fancy for painting and later on, for writing poems. Dhawal has published more than 200 poems and two of his anthologies have been published.He is considered to be an important voice in contemporary Hindi poetry. Tushar Dhawal’s name means ‘as immaculate as dew or snow’.

Photo of Tushar Dhawal

What prompted your interest in poetry?
I do not really know. As far as I remember, poetry came to me as my language ever since I was a child of 7 or 8. My mother says, I had started painting using her nail paint brush at the age of around 4. I used to draw some lines and paint it with the different shades of her nail paint and that I always had a story to tell about what I painted. Similarly, by the time I had learnt writing, I had started writing in rhymes, though in a very inchoate and a nascent form. Each time I read any poem, something within me compelled me to write my ‘own poem’. Perhaps this is how the journey began.

What are you reading?
I read anything and everything that comes to me. I generally read 3-4 very different books simultaneously as it gives me a wide cognitive field to explore and understand my own world. These days I’m reading the Shiva Sutra which deals with the Hindu/Indian philosophy about the cosmos. It talks of Shiva as the essence of all the creation and how Shakti, the feminine energy turns the ‘non-functional’ all pervasive and masculine Shiva into an active force that starts manifesting itself into different forms of subtle and material creations. I started reading this after having read Gyaneshwari by the Saint-poet Gyaneshwar,who has described in a high-class poetry, the creation of the world through Shiva and Shakti. Apart from this, I am also reading a book titled Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita, which deals with the exodus of Hindu Brahmins from Kashmir in the wake of terrorism. Other than this, I’m also reading Empires of the Mind, a book related to management.

How do you find inspiration?
There is nothing fixed or predictable about this. For me, it all starts at a very deep emotional level. And this is beyond my control. It happens anywhere and is just unpredictable. I sight, word, smell, taste, touch, anything at odd times ignites the ‘gun powder’ within and sets me in a trance-like mood. At this moment, an image appears on my mind. Depending on my reception of that image, either it starts sublimating into words (a poem) or into forms and colour (painting). This is how it happens to me. I cannot choose or set up anything. It rather comes as force and ‘possesses’ me like a ‘spirit’. I try to write, ‘possessed’ on my cell phone, then and there. If I miss it, I have missed it forever. It is many days or months later that I get back to what I had written, when I ‘write’ that poem once again.

Where do you write?
There is no fixed place. As I stated above, it depends on how and when I get ‘possessed’. I have to write it right then, in that very moment on my cell phone itself. Once that is done and once the ‘raw footage’ of the ‘possessed state’ is ‘recorded’ I get back to it sitting on a self-designed chair in my study.

Why do you write?
I write just because I have an innate urge to write. If I don’t write or paint, I feel sick and claustrophobic.

What is your advice for emerging poets?
Be honest. Be true to yourself. Do not copy anyone. Read anything and everything, analyse it and reject it as someone else’s point of view. Look for your point of view. Explore your own emotions and thoughts and find the exact expression for what lies within you. Do not bother about what critics say. If your expressions have caught the force within you, they are bound to make an impact. Anything that makes an impact, cannot be ignored.

What is the role of poets in shaping the future?
The poets have an important role in shaping the future of humanity as they are the frontiers of human conscience. At this point, I would rather take a detour. With the advent and onslaught of technology, written words may lose relevance and, who knows, the poetry of future maybe written in algorithms, or maybe we will return to the primitive form of oral poetry saved and ‘used’ variously through different softwares. But, the essence of being a poet or an artist or a philosopher or the ‘seer’ will remain intact. A poet deciphers the unheard and the unseen in the worldly life, pits himself/herself against the powers or forces that try to subjugate, control and stifle the natural human expression of being for their self-interests and tries to communicate with the co-humans about what is happening to them. If people are ‘aware’ they can carve their future. The poet tries to make them ‘aware’.

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