The words she speaks can easily pass off as a whisper but those she pens have the power to transform. The 30-something GAYATRIBALA PANDA may not create a ripple in the social circuit, but she has rummaged through the past, sifted through the present and has come up with poems that speak about slices of life in its varied tastes. Known for her works like 'Ahata Pratisruti', 'Aspasta Iswara', 'Aunayatta', 'Dhoop Ke Rang' (Hindi) and 'Jetiki Dishuchi Akasha', more than 600 of her poems have appeared in various Odia magazines. As a mark of recognition, the Sahitya Akademi, India's highest literary body, conferred the Yuva Puraskar award on her for her book 'Gaan', a collection of poems, on Saturday. As the Akademi put it, her humanitarian approach is praiseworthy as she maintains a simple, chaste and appealing style in her poems. Gayatri spoke to DIANA SAHU about poetry, the various influences that impact her writing and life.
How does it feel being recognised by the Sahitya Akademi for contribution to Odia literature?
Incredible. I have been felicitated by a number of literary organisations for my poems and articles, but nothing can match up to the happiness that this award gives me. It feels nice to see your work being recognised.
Tell us something about 'Gaan'
'Gaan' is a long poem about rural Odisha narrating the vanishing values of life. It greatly relates to Odisha's culture and tradition. Besides people, the poem spins around the mythical deities, flowers, water bodies, greenery that represents village life and its folks.
What has influenced your work the most?
Life, I suppose. Writing is partly an effort to make sense of things and partly an attempt to remain sane. The absurdity of life, the inherent strangeness of whatever is considered normal, people and their byzantine reasons for doing what they do are the things that brings out my poems spontaneously.
What appeals to you in writing poetry?
I think there should be as many attempts as possible to reach out to the public. You will continue to write whether people read it or not because you have the inherent craving to express. If you reach out, there will be one anonymous person in that crowd who has been looking for this kind of thing and will come forward.
When did you start writing?
At the age of eight. I allowed myself to write as much as I could and now I've literally got drawers full of poems. It just depends on what you?re busy doing at a point in time. I often get busy in editing stories and articles for my monthly Odia magazine 'Anyaa', but I continue writing without worrying about what I would do with the material. And that spontaneity is an important part of how and why I write. My first poem was 'Chacha Authare Asa' which was published in a children?s magazine and also awarded at a State-level function.
Writers you admire? Any specific names who have inspired you?
There are so many wonderful writers; it's tough to name any one in particular.