"People want poetry. But like fresh air and water - for free", lamented Prasoon Joshi at the 10th Jaipur Literature Festival. The celebrated poet, lyricist and screenwriter had two sessions at the festival where he took fans through his evolution as a writer for ads to films, and how he challenged the notion that one can’t earn a living through poetry.
Excerpts of our chat with him:
At your session you said that while growing up, the only distraction you had was the chirping of the birds. Now our phones ping all the time and we’re constantly checking social media. As a writer, do you find it harder to hold people’s attention?
Being from the world of communication, I do a lot of travelling and research. I go to Australia, Africa, US, and Latin America to take sessions in various forums and interact with youngsters. I think on one hand they're in a hurry, there is definitely an impatience, but our poetry cannot became impatient. Poetry is not an impatient art form. Yes, there could be various new kinds of poetry that will emerge - maybe a Twitter kind which is short and precise. But it’s not that long form will die. It’s like a dish - if it has to be cooked for a certain time, you can’t fast forward it. Jo dheemi aanch main pakne wali cheez hai, woh dheeme aanch main hi pakegi. So a new art form and style of writing will emerge, but that’s not going to be a substitute poetry. It’s an expansion and broadening of an art form rather than subsuming all its identities into one.
If you could empower writers, what’s the one thing you’d gift them?
Experience. In Hindi you call it anubhoot satya. That’s what you’ve seen - a tactile, first-hand, sensory experience which when you write about, your entire being is one with it. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, it will be a borrowed reality.
When is the last time you read something that made you envious?
Just a few days ago a friend of mine told me a beautiful sher. Farishtey aayenge poonchhenge paak baazo se (The angels will come and ask the puritans) Gunah kyun na kiya, kya khuda rahim na tha? (Why didn’t you commit a sin? Weren’t you confident about your God forgiving you?) It’s an ancient poem but it’s so beautiful. It says that you can go wrong in life as well because you know your God will forgive you.
Watch the final wrap video of Jaipur Literature Festival