In Conversation with Sanjukta Dasgupta by Dr. Jaydeep Sarangi SignUp
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In Conversation with Sanjukta Dasgupta
by Dr. Jaydeep Sarangi Bookmark and Share
 
{JS: Jaydeep Sarangi and SDG: Sanjukta Dasgupta}

About Sanjukta Dasgupta:
Scholar, poet, critic, translator and editor, Prof. Sanjukta Dasgupta was the Dean, Faculty of Arts of Calcutta University,Kolkata. She teaches English and American literature along with New Literatures in English. Her numerous fellowships and grants over the years have constantly engaged her in studies, research and teaching at several universities in UK, USA and Australia. She has served (2002-05) as co-judge and thereafter as Chairperson for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia region) and is now an e-member of the advisory committee of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, UK. She has been widely published in journals of distinction in India and abroad, and is the Managing Editor of FAMILIES: A Journal of Representations. Calcutta/Kolkata has an important role in the map of poetry in English. Sanjukta Dasgupta is a leading voice from the “City of Joy”. Her books of poems in English are SNAPSHOTS ( 1997 Writers Workshop), DILEMMA ( 2002 Anustup), FIRST LANGUAGE ( 2005 Dasgupta & Co) MORE LIGHT ( 2008 Dasgupta & Co). She is a Contributing Editor of Muse India, for Bengali Literature.
 
J.S.: When did you start writing poems and short stories?
 

SDG: As far as I can recall I began writing poems and short stories at around the age of seven or eight. Of course poems that I wrote then mostly were a series of rhyming lines and I think in prose, I began by writing short plays so that I could command my friends to act in them.  I was invariably the director and also a prime actor in my own plays. Short stories followed soon after, mostly inspired by the tales of Robin Hood and highway robbers and of course included the inevitable damsels in distress.
 
J.S.: Any mentor?
 

SDG: I was an avid reader of both English and Bengali fiction and poetry, and the poems of Tagore were a sort of chanting mantra to me. Reading books and learning from them I consider was the best mentoring, that I can acknowledge, apart from my father’s inspirational example. In fact, as both my parents were teachers I learnt a lot from their counselling, which of course I did not necessarily follow like a obedient,  dutiful daughter, but I did learn, all the same.
 
J.S.: Can writing poems be taught?
 

SDG: Teaching is more about creating motivation so that the person taught will go much beyond the instructions and innovate, ideate and aspire to discover the unknown. Writing a poem is a creative art, it requires inspiration as well as awareness. The best teacher for creative writing including poems is a book of poems. A engaged reader of poems may feel a sense of dissatisfaction that the poems that she reads does not address the ideas and imagination that churn in her mind. This sense of uneasiness is the virus that compels the poet to write, the teacher of poetry can at best be a guide about modes, structures and content of poetry. This exposure to poems written by others of course enriches the understanding of the aspiring poet, but like all creative writing, writing poetry is a lonely creative process, each word that is born on the page can be stillborn or a kinetic atom,  it can be a celebration of a creative challenge.
 
J.S.: You are a poet, storywriter , critic, editor  and translator.  You have also served as the Dean of Arts, CU. How do you manage so many facets of life?
 

SDG: As my lifelong inspiration has been Rabindranath Tagore I feel I am just a novice at multi-tasking. Remember Tagore was a poet , musician, painter, fictionist, essayist, dramatist,  critic et al,  who founded the most unique university in the world and also catered to its academic and financial needs.  The multi-tasking of his elder sister Swarnakumari Devi, writer, essayist, translator, activist in the National movement is another person I admire overwhelmingly. I feel more attention needs to be paid to her significant contribution to literature and culture.
 
J.S.: Is translation a trans-creation?
 

SDG:Any primer of translation studies sensitizes us about source and target language and about the merits and demerits of word for word and sense translation. Word for word translation is considered reliable translation if the material being translated is a text book, a document or some basic instruction sheet. Yet here too cultural awareness is crucial or else misinterpretation is very possible. Translation of creative writing is more challenging, for it calls for a skilled understanding and vocabulary in the target language so that the text, context and sub-text are all held in a fine balance as in the original. Translation is a creative craft of approximation, a fine craft that at times requires greater perseverance than the art of creative writing. Though translated literature is relegated to a peripheral position and the mainstream is dominated by the original versions, through the process of trans-creation, the translator becomes as much a creative artist of words and forms as the author, of course in varying degrees of competence.
 
J.S.: Your co-authored book, “Radical Rabindranath: Nation, Family, Gender Post-colonial Readings of Tagore’s Fiction and Film” is out.How is this book different from other books on Tagore? Why is it named as ‘Radical Rabindranath’? Is it simply an alliteration?
 

SDG: Well my co-authors and I were rather pleased with the alliterative resonance of our inspired title. But yes, we strongly believe that Tagore was the most radical figure of his times, he traversed, deconstructed and transcended singular borders and boundaries. Tagore’s universal humanism, his internationalism, his enthusiasm for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies, his inter-textuality, his intellectual curiosity, his ability to work with competence in multiple genres, are truly extraordinary. In fact Tagore can be regarded as one of the first fusion music artists of India, for the music of the bauls of Bengal , Scottish ballads, church music, Carnatic music, North Indian classical music had all been appropriated and fashioned with creative felicity by him.  Moreover, his responses to nationalist politics, conservative social norms and tradition, his representation of gender issues, his emphasis on the need for evolving an alternative education system rejecting learning by rote and fragmented knowledge are some of the aspects in which we feel his radical approach is quite overwhelming.
 
J.S.: You are the Managing Editor of FAMILIES: A Journal of Representations. How is it going?
 
SDG: Families a Journal of Representation began as a Fulbright project in 2002 after I was selected for the Fulbright Alumni Initiatives Award. The journal is ten years old now, and for a decade contributors from both India and the world have submitted their creative and critical insights of the family system that binds us in bonds of trust and emotion. Sometimes I receive requests for back issues from young researchers both in India and abroad, as they seem to be interested in working on narratives of  Indian families.
 
J.S.: You visited Nepal and Bangladesh as a member of the SAARC Writers Delegation. We don’t have SAARC writing as such in our prescribed syllabus in Universities. Who are important voices you recommend to include when the syllabus will be redesigned?
 

SDG: There have been certain efforts in publishing anthologies of South Asian literature, but universities in West Bengal are yet to include Asian writing or for that matter SAARC writing as a component in the literature syllabi of English departments. Just a few sample inclusions, does not help, one needs to expose the students to a literary tradition as well as contextualize, historicize, in fact introduce a holistic understanding of a creative artefact, as a representation of a culture with strong Asian bonding.
 
J.S.: Can a  bilingual poet ‘think in English’ where English is L 2?
 

SDG: Actually, the definitions of mother tongue, medium of instruction, home language, acquired language need some revision. A child may have a Bengali father and a Vietnamese mother, here she is being exposed to two parental mother tongues. But the language of communication between the Bengali father and Vietnamese mother is English!, and in a sense this makes the issue of home language/mother tongue even more problematic. Again a child may have a Tamilian father and a Marathi mother, and a Bengali grandmother. The issue is not about thinking in English, the issue is about having the freedom to use the language in which one feels one can express one’s ideas and creative imagination without any linguistic constraint.
 
J.S.: Would you please share with us  the titles of your collections of poems?
 
SDG: I have published four volumes of poems so far. I am planning to put together the next one soon and it should be out by early 2014. The titles of my books of poems are SNAPSHOTS ( 1997 Writers Workshop), DILEMMA ( 2002 Anustup), FIRST LANGUAGE ( 2005 Dasgupta & Co) More Light ( 2008 Dasgupta & Co)
 
J.S.: Is there a specific reason behind the title, FIRST LANGUAGE?
 

SDG: Definitely. That’s not just the title of my third book of poems but the title poem is First Language. In this poem I have tried to share with my readers the reason why I feel more confident about writing in English, in fact the words which form in my mind before they spill on the page are English words, not Bengali words that I have translate into English mentally, before I write them down. This has not been a tricky issue but a liberating one, as my skills in handling the English language have been honed through my school and college days. Moreover in the missionary school where I studied most of my friends were from other parts of India and our language of communication in the class, the playground, over the phone or during social events had invariably been English. I may even confess I preferred English speaking boyfriends and I checked whether my husband was fluent in spoken English before I agreed to the marriage proposal which was arranged. 

J.S.: Do you think that a poet should gloss or use end notes if he uses native expressions?
 
SDG: Why not? It can help the reader unfamiliar with the language, rather than create circumstances where the reader feels frustrated as she may not have in her possession the required lexicon for the meaning of the word. Even the Internet cannot help much if home grown vernacular expressions are used.
 
J.S.: You have travelled a lot; read and reviewed  poems from several sources. Do you think an Indian writer thinks differently than Keats, Yeats or Eliot?
 

SDG:I strongly feel race, location, culture, class, caste, religion, gender, sexuality and formal education have a role to play in the construction of the voice of the poet. Yet having said that, despite all the sameness and difference and the dynamic diversity of approaches poets do seem to tacitly agree about the need to recognize an inclusive spirit of universal humanism and assert the need for a non-violent world free from the destructive games played for profit and power. So yes, though Keats, Yeats or Eliot can inspire me, at the end of the day, my poems do not replicate theirs, I feel they open a new window to this mesmerizing world of ours.
 
J.S.: Is there an anxiety to portray Indianness  in your writings?
 

SDG: As I am an Indian citizen, brought up by Indian parents, and have had my education in my country, Indianness as you call it, is integral to my psyche and cannot be a superimposition on my creative writing. It is Indian writing, unabashedly without anxiety, though I have never consciously tried to represent ethnic exotica.
 
J.S.: How do you see the role of a poet in the age of cyber technology and facebook?
 

SDG:Well, isn’t that the way to go now? Cyber technology is so enabling- it destroys distances, alienation and isolation. If a poet can create an impact on FB, with its diverse readers, introducing poetry to non-typical readers it cab be regarded as a matter of great advancement, for we must admit that poetry is still considered to be to be abtract, abstruse and esoteric, though poets make conscious efforts to decode their strategies, so the poems are easily comprehensible. Yet, reading a poem is not like reading a news item on the NET- appreciation of poetry demands an informed mind.
 
J.S.: Is it a shift from Wordsworth and Shelley as they defined the role of a poet?
 

SDG: I think the world has changed a lot since the 19th century. Yet there are factors which have remained unchanged. As stated earlier barbarism, brutality, unscrupulous pursuit of power and profit, militarism, production of military hardware and buying and selling of the same, terrorism and gender violence are some of the factors that vitiate the 21st century. We can learn from Wordsworth and Shelley but we have moved on too, and that is why we write our own poetry.
 
J.S: Who according to you, is the first important Indian English poet of signal contribution?

SDG: Colonial- Toru Dutt; Post-colonial- Kamala Das
 
J.S.: Is it necessary to know the biography of the poet to comprehend a poem?
 

SDG: Not necessarily, unless the poem is a sort of poetic memoir.
 
J.S.: Did you read poets from the North East India?
 
SDG: I enjoy reading the poems of Temsula Ao, Mamang Di, Robin and Anjum Hasan
 
J.S.: Do you like it if someone  calls you as a Kolkata poet?
 

SDG: Well, my poetry is city-centric, and as a resident of Kolkata for decades calling me a Kolkata poet may not be inappropriate.
 
J.S.: Who are the important voices from the ‘city of joy’?
 

SDG: I think the contributions of Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Mallika Sengupta, Krishna Bose, Subodh Sarkar and of course Sunil Gangopadhyay are very important, though there are many other voices who are important too in their own way.
 
J.S.: Why do you write poems?
 

SDG:Catharsis, I guess and I am restless till I see the words born on the page
 
J.S.: What are the projects you are working with now?
 

SDG: I recently translated all 46 poems included under the title SWADES in Tagore’s Rabindra Rachanavali, vol 4. This volume was published by Visva Bharati and it was released by the Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharati University on August 8th 2013 , that is on Tagore’s death anniversary. I have a few translation projects in the pipe line right now.
 
J.S.: Didi , would you share with us one of your recent poems?
 
SDG: Ok, here it is -

 
Divide

Suddenly
Message in my Mailbox last night-
For Books, Cds, DVDs,
Rudrakshas, Crystal idols,
Silk Sarees etc.,
 Please visit our website
http://www.paradise et al
 
The exotic platter of goodies
Soulfood, ego boosters
Moral crutches, safety chains
Texts and textiles
To stop brain
Let things rain
 
Her five-year old frame
Pasted tight against the see-through glass
She stared longingly
At the fairy world of things inside
Her careworn mother
Stood with her tired back resting
On the sexy mall’s glass wall
Begging bowl in her gnarled hand
 
Oh, why can’t we all
Go global, my India?-
The rock band sang
Strumming guitars
Strumming the ektara
Fusion and frisson
Drums rumbled like distant thunder
The spellbound gorgeous goddess
In the spectacular pandals
Rivalled the Monalisa smile

J.S.:Thank you! You are the inspiration for many young talents as well as veteran writers. Wishes for all your future projects.
 
9-Oct-2013
More by :  Dr. Jaydeep Sarangi
 
Views: 974
Article Comment
In Conversation with Sanjukta Dasgupta... - boloji.com - Edit Remove
[DR.SANJUKTA DASGUPTA’S INTERVIEW ON LITERARY ISSUES IS ALWAYS ENGROSSING AND REWARDING. BEING HER STUDENT ONCE, I CAME TO KNOW HER FORTE IN EXPLORATION OF WORLD LITERATURE THAT IS AN INTERPRETATION OF LIFE AND THE WORLD. HER DYNAMISM AND METIER ARE VERY LITERALLY VERY STRONG AND PURPOSIVE. SELDOM SHE FAILS IN HER VISION TO CANDLE THE RIGHT DIRECTION. FOR ME SANJUKTADI IS A DAPPER MENTOR AND STILL INSPIRES ME TO ENRICH MY TEACHING IN THE DEPT OF ENGLISH AT RBU. LET HER DIRECT OR INDIRECT GUIDANCE BE ON ME.

DR.ANUSHNA BISWAS, PROF, ENGLISH, COMMENTS. I]
DR.ANUSHNA BISWAS
03/10/2015
Article Comment DR. ANUSHNA BISWAS


DR ANUSHNA BISWAS IS A PROF. IN ENGLISH AND HOLDS A STRONG RESERVOIRS OF WORLD LITERATURE THAT HELPS UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AS WELL AS CONTEMPORARY TEACHERS IN THE SAME STREAM

DR.BISWAS HAS AUTHORED FOUR BOOKS SO FAR AND REAPED GOOD ACCLAIMS FOR HER CONTRIBUTION TO ENGLISH LITERATURE. HER INTEREST LIES IN FICTION AND ITS DISCOURSE, RARE IN THE FIELD. SHE IS NOW WITH RABINDRA BHARATI UNIVERSITY, THE DISTANCE EDUCATION AS ITS HEAD. MANY SENIOR PROFESSORS ARE IN TOUCH WITH HER FOR CONTRIBUTING TO TEACHING THE SUBJECT WITH SURE PERFECTION. IN THIS THE PROFESSORS OPERATIC IN THE FIELD OF ACADEMIA ARE IN PRAISE OF DR.BISWAS AS SHE MAINTAINS THE DISCIPLINE OF ACADEMIA. HER ENGILH IS OF HIGH STANDARD AND REWARDING FOR THE STUDENTS IN THE DEPT. OF ENGLISH.

APART FROM THIS, DR.ANUSHNA BISWAS IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO THE IMPORTANT WEB JOURNAL `THE SCAPE’ ALSO WRITE FOR GOOGLES FREQUENTLY. HER WRITINGS OFTEN DRAW LARGE ATTENTION AS SHE STUDIES IN TERMS OF POST STRUCTURALISM AND DECONSTRUCTION.

HER MAJOR BOOKS INCLUDE WOMEN WRITERS: A STUDY, WOMEN NOVELISTS:READINGS OF DIASPORIC EXPEFRIENCE AND JUDITH WRIGHT IN SEARCH OF LIGHT HOUSE. HER NEW BOOK BASED ON CONTEMPORARY WRITERS, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN IS IN THE PIPELINE. SAYS DR.BISWAS: “THOSE WHO AVOID BUYING BOOKS AND READING THEM ARE A PACK OF PHILISTINES. FOR THEM A NEW WORLD IS WAITING AND THEY SHOULD EXPLORE IT WITH PANACHE
DR.ANUSHNA BISWAS
03/10/2015
Article Comment A wonderful interview. I enjoyed finding more out about Sanjukta, a truly amazing person and wonderful poet. Thanks so much to you both for sharing your literary insights and work.
Rob Harle
10/14/2013
 
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