Neel Kamal is a Hindi poet, born in Varanasi, India on 15th August 1968. He graduated from Calcutta University in 1987 and then completed post-graduation from the University of Gorakhpur in 1991. His poems have appeared in the leading literary journals in Hindi including Pragatisheel Vasudha, Akshar Parv, Maadhyam, Vartaman Sahitya, Naya Gyanoday, Baya, Samakaleen Srijan, Janasatta, Vagarth, Setu etc. He has two books to his credit, both collection of his poems (Hath Sundar Lagte Hain & Yah Pedon Ke Kapde Badalne Ka Samay Hai) in Hindi. He also writes in Bengali and his poems have appeared in Bengali journals like Ebong Katha and Samanvay. Apart from being a poet he is a critic, a columnist and a fiction writer also.
What are you doing nowadays ?
As you are aware that I have been writing the weekly column ‘Akshar ghat’ in the Daily News Activist for quite sometimes. You know it is a literary column and focuses on the contemporary issues of Hindi poetry. I wish to write on all the promising and young Hindi poets and want to speak my mind on matters related to literature.
When did you start to write and which genere do you favour most ?
To be honest I started sending poems in the local daily news papers while still in the school. Most of them got published and won prizes. It felt very existing to see your name appearing in the news papers and the postman coming to your doorstep with the money orders carrying the prize money in those school days. It was 1983. But I took up serious writing sometime in 1988-89.
Poetry, of course, is the form of writing that I am most comfortable with.
What is poetry for you ? What is the purpose of your writing ?
Defining poetry is like defining life. There can’t be a general and unanimous view. To me, it is like the tit-bits of life, like the air that we breathe-in, like the love in our hearts, like the anger in us, like the protests that we make every time something wrong is done. It is the most beautiful way of expressing thoughts. It is an instrument of protest for a sensitive human being subjected to the various odds in the world.
The basic objective of poetry is making you a better human being. I want to connect to people through my writings and want to share their pain and anguish.
What should be the duty of an intelligent poet to protect the valule of poetry ? Would you also tell something about your process of creation ?
A poet has to live up to the values he creates in his words. His job is not merely writing something and getting it published for the sake of his urge and satisfaction. Poetry is not a tool to achieve glory.
Flashes of thoughts come to you. They are the raw materials. You have to work on it and give it an expression that people can corelate with. There is no formula or secret process. It is an art. With time and experience you do it with ease and develop a style of your own.
What was the background which inspired you for writing poetry ?
Literature was there all around. My grandfather Late Lal Bihari Singh had this thing. Ask him for a song for the Republic day functions or the Independence day celebrations and he would give you one instantly. He had a few versions of the great epics on his fingertips. He was conversant with many languages. His talent attracted me when I was just a kid. My father Shri Surendra Kumar Singh has a similar love for poetry and I listened from him stories of Jayashankar Prasad , Nirala , Bachchan and many more. I was a blessed child in this respect.
There is a group of writers who regects the role of writing for transforming the society, but they think writing is just for self-satisfaction. For you, what is the meaning of satisfaction which can be obtained from literature ?
Muktibodh, the great Hindi poet, said it would be foolish to rely too much on literature. This statement of his has been misrepresented by many. He never undermined the role of literature but only cautioned about the limitations of literature as a tool of social and political change. Literature transforms your inner world and makes you a better human being. That is precisely what they call ‘anand’. Literature can influence a movement but it’s the people who have to carry it out. You can’t sit back and expect literature to do wonders for you. There lies the limitation.
Some writers assume that the debate about the pro-people and anti-people literature is meaningless, because they say that literature itself is pro-people. Do you agree with this ?
Yes, I strongly believe that literature has to be pro-people. But before we discuss what is pro-people and what is anti-people let us find out what exactly literature is. Premchand has termed literature as the torch moving ahead of all political wisdom. When we talk about literature we attach to it certain values. Without those values it is nothing. But we can’t deny the fact that even the purest and the noblest ideas can be exploited for anti-people objectives by people with vested interests.
Except writing, are you also connected with other movements ?
Liberation is the ultimate goal of literature and I am doing whatever I can with all my limitations and abilities. I am privileged in having been part of the Co-operative Movement for almost two decades.
Can you tell anything about the writing of neighbour country Nepal ?
I don’t know much of the literary scenario in Nepal. I do occasionally read some of the young writers like Chandra Gurung, Sarita Tiwari, Astha and others on social media. I refrain myself from making any comment on Nepali literature.
In this time, market is becoming influential in every part of the society. It is also determining the value of the literature. What do you want to say about this ?
You are right in saying that it is a market driven society. It is true. Market has replaced society and consumers have replaced the human component. Your place in the social hierarchy is determined by your purchasing power. The orientation of this market driven society is making profit at any cost. It has least respect to human values. It is the toughest of all times for the people. Market creates illusions and allures people. It is high time the writers dare to unmask the inhuman face of this market driven society.
There is a powerful influence of unnatural capitalist culture which is driving the society towards consumer culture. What can be our conscious effort in such situation and how the effort can be able to resist this influence ?
As I said, the writers have a challenging role in unmasking the ills of these consumerist forces. In a consumerist society people are valued on the basis of their purchasing power. They gradually become self-centered and have least concern about the sufferings of their fellow citizens. The capitalist economy encourages exploitation of working class and thrives on the profit it makes at the cost of their sweat and tears. As a writer one has to go to the readers and tell them what are the forces that make it difficult for the common people to survive.
In one side, the group of intellectuals and writers presenting capitalism and postmodernism as a infallible weapon of all the problems of society. And in next side, there is also an opponent group of this. What should be our role in this situation ?
A social structure based on inequality and discrimination can’t survive for long. In our society people are divided on the basis of caste and religion which is being exploited by the political system. We are a complex society. The new global economy has failed to deliver and has only worsened the social divide. Rabindranath Tagore had a clear vision on the alternative. To be precise, co-operative movement is the key to social and economic liberation if practiced in a free and fair manner.
In India, how the pro-people cultural and literary movement is going on ?
Where are the movements? Even the writers in India, particularly the Hindi writers are divided on political lines. It is unfortunate but true. The writers are cut off from masses. There is no such movement although some cosmetic exercises may appear here and there.
What would you like to say about the role of ideology and art in literature ?
Ideology and art are not antagonistic to each other. There can’t be a work of art without an ideology. Similarly there can’t be an ideology without art. Both are equally important in literature. It depends upon the writer how he or she mixes these components. To me they are like the body and soul of any literary work.
There can be found contradiction between work and word even in the writers who are active in the field of pro-people literary and cultural movement. How can be solved this problem ?
Contradiction is inevitable whenever a writer makes compromises for materialistic gains. Literature is not a hobby material. It requires one to be honest, straight and upright. Be honest to yourself and rest will be alright.
How are you looking the situation of Nepal as a conscious writer ?
Nepal has transformed from a monarchy to a democracy. People in Nepal, I believe, are peace loving. They are hard working and innocent people.
The Indian economic system is going to be defined as a emerging economic system of the world. The contradiction is also going to grow between communication industry, cosmopolitan civilization and deprived people of opportunities. How the progressive literature is reflecting it ?
The rural and urban divide is a fall out of the economic policies pursued by various governments through decades. Rural infrastructure has no job opportunities. Farming has been not economically viable. This forces the rural have-not’s to flee to the metros and there they become part of the unorganized workforce. The LPG phenomenon (liberalization-privatization-globalization) has lead to marginalization of the marginal. A good number of Hindi writers, both in the arena of fiction and poetry have depicted this rural-urban divide.
What do you think about the interrelation between the cultural and political movement ?
No cultural movement can be apolitical. There is a bit of politics in all the movements irrespective of their nature and dimension.
What should be learned and improved from opponent camp by progressive writers ?
There is always a room for improvement and there is no end to learning. So, one should be open to all good things that come in the way and act accordingly.
In the context of best writing, to which aspect do you want to give importance genius or practice ?
Practice makes a man perfect. That is an old saying. It’s true. But talent exactly gives you the wisdom to reach perfection without practicing too much.
What is the situation of reading and publishing culture in your society ?
Being in the land of Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Jeevananand Das, Sukanta Bhattacharya and Subhash Mukhopadhyay is one of the most beautiful things to happen in life. Bengal was the center of Renaissance. Calcutta (now Kolkata) has a rich cultural heritage. The city of joy is blessed with plenty of talented writers, sensible book lovers, and some of the finest publishers as well.
What is the plan about your new publication ?
Publication is a big issue. So far as Hindi literature is concerned, You see I took this decision of registering my protest in my own way and Ritwiz Prakashan came into existence. It is yet to be formally organized. I do have certain plans. I am working on a book that will have poems exclusively on the city that is Kolkata. A novel is also to be worked upon. Let us see whatever is possible.
What suggestions would you like to give those progressive young writers, who want to do meaningful interference against social, political and economic ugliness ?
I strongly believe that time has come when writers should denounce the luxury of air conditioned seminar rooms of the academic institutions. We need to connect to the people.
What is the most important education which taught your life ?
Be true to yourself.
At last, is there anything which would you like to say ?
A big thanks to Pramod for giving me a patient listening.