Tikuli Dogra is an Indian poet, fiction writer and blogger. Her first collection, Collection of Chaos, was published in 2014.
What is your earliest reading memory?
I found solace in books as a child. The characters were the imaginary friends around whom I would spin tales. My first memories are of my mother telling bed time stories and then later a wonderful world of thin paperbacks and children's magazines opened, magazines like Chandamama, Nandan, Parag, Children's World, books from Children's Book Trust, Amar Chitra katha, Panchtantra, Jatak Kathayen etc. and soon I was drawn to Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, a magazine called 'Liliput', The Children’s Encyclopedia and One Thousand Beautiful Things- chosen from The Life and Literature of the World, both by British Author Arthur Mee . There was also an excellent collection of Soviet literature for children translated in both English and Hindi. I absolutely adored a beautiful hardcover of a Russian Fairytale 'Firebird'. It had a phoenix on the cover which fascinated me no end.
Has writing been a conscious choice or a natural thing for you?
Perhaps a compulsion and a pure necessity to fill the empty spaces inside me. I was going through a very rough phase in my life and writing proved to be cathartic. It also helped me find my stilled voice. Social constraints and issues that I faced in personal life were and still are my biggest challenges. I had to fight for my freedom and dignity at many levels. Many of my poems and memoirs are intensely personal. Writing helped change an old order and carve a path for myself. It is an ongoing journey.
Do you have any special habits or rituals when you write?
Yes, I need some soft music to play in the background, a mug of hot coffee and quiet. If I get those things I do not mind where I write.
Do you choose your stories/poems or do the stories/poems choose you?
Most of my work that got recognition chose me. Sometimes a dream, a thought, a snippet of overheard conversation, a piece of music or my inner chaos or for that matter the outer chaos became a poem or a story.
What national books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
I love to read Manto, Kamla Das, Jayant Mahapatra, Keki Daruwala, Ismat Chugtai, Mahashweta Devi, Arun Kolatkar, Amrita Pritam, Ruskin Bond, Keki Daruwala, Nissim Ezekiel to name a few. Some I love for their wit and humor or technique, the others for their plot and characterization or strong narrative or a particular political/social stance. each one has inspired me in some way or the other but my actual learning came from poets/writers I read through Facebook or other online journals. Goirick Brahmchari, Nabina Das, Praneta Jha, Tabish Khair, Jeet Thayil, Uma Gowrishakar, Akhil Katyal, Meena Kandasamy, Nabanita Kanungo, Sumana Roy, Sujit Prasad are some writers I love to re-read. Reading their work broadened my perspective.
What foreign books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
E.E. Cummings, Neruda, Octavio Paz, Longfellow Walt Whitman, Emily Dickenson, Garcia Marquez, Lorca, Charles Bukowski, Lawrence Durrell (The Alexandria Quartet), D. H. Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Virginia Woolf to name a few. Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is one of my favorites and so is Paulo Coelho's The Witch Of Portobello.
The authors I found through social network channels and enjoy re-reading are Kris Saknussemm, James Goddard, Tim Buck and a few others.
I re-read them for the same reasons I read the national authors. Writing is an individual craft, I have never been influenced by any particular author or their style but yes, their work helps in opening up windows inside you.
What is so important about fiction/poetry?
I think both fiction and poetry are socially relevant projects just like any other art, a form of protest. I am essentially a poet and feel that poetry gives strength to ideas and thoughts. I also feel poetry is a unique form which coveys sentiments and ideas like no other form.
Flaubert says he was physically sick when he wrote Emma Bovary’s death. Are you empathetic with your characters?
A bit too much I think. Sometime I really have to make an effort to disconnect myself from them maybe because they are largely drawn from my personal life. Most of the time I love my schizophrenia.
Can you cry writing your own poem?
Yes, I'm moved by my own poems many times. Turning the life experiences into verses and to speak about one’s hurts is always difficult. There were times I left the poems halfway to collect myself and then later returned to them with a fresh approach. I have learned to make vulnerability my strength. It helps me to connect with myself, my writing, my readers. I think if you don't feel a poem in your pulse then it is not worth publishing or even writing for that matter.
Who is your ideal reader?
Anyone who reads with an open mind, has good imagination and thinks and connects with the writing at some level.
Should writers be embraced by society or should they be exiled?
Does it matter as long as we keep writing. Sometimes inclusion can be very regressive and on other occasions isolation can limit your creativity. The opposite is also true. I think if good writing is appreciated more than the writers we will have a better scenario.
Is there a God or are there gods for writers?
I believe in universal energies, spirit guides, inner demons and ghosts. They are the force behind my writing.
What makes a writer a writer?
Being observant and curious apart from an unfailing love for language. Read. Write. Revise. Discard. Read. Write. Repeat. That's what makes a writer a writer.
Tell us about your fiction/poetry.
I am a poet by heart and my debut poetry book, Collection Of Chaos was published by Leaky Boot Press, England, in 2014. Most of the poems in this collection are very personal and drawn from my life experiences such as my concern for women’s rights; my experience of unsatisfactory and troubled marriage; the love for my children and the difficulties we all face in everyday life.
A lot of my other fiction and poetry is published in international and national online magazines and journals. Apart from these I have some print publications to my credit. Some of my work is also published in poetry and short story anthologies.
Currently I am working on a few writing projects like a novel, a book of short stories and my second book of poems among other things. I regularly blog at ‘Spinning A Yarn Of Life’ which has a mix of travelogues, fiction, poetry, articles on social issues, recipes and memoirs mainly.
What is the purpose of your writing?
To evolve and grow, as a human being and as a writer. For a writer it is very important to develop their sense of their literary journey. I am a student for life and writing is education for me. I feel it is a challenge to write in any voice and excites me when I am able to do it convincingly.
How do you really feel about recognition and fame? Are you a satisfied mind or always craving for more?
I am a student learning the art. Let’s see what the universe unfolds as we go along. As a writer, I just want to enjoy the process.
I am not so sure about fame but recognition does matter. One gets noticed for good writing and I would consider both online and print recognition of my work desirable.