Interview with His Excellency Ambassador Abhay K., Indian poet and diplomat
Arendt. Hallo again Abhay! How have you been since you left us and moved to Madagascar?
Abhay K. Hello Ana! It has already been over two years since I have been in Madagascar and I have tried to capture the extraordinary beauty of Madagascar through my Haiku, some of which you’ve already translated into Portuguese.
Arendt. Abhay, tell me about your experience in Africa, and the changes you experienced when you moved from Brazil to a whole new continent. Have you served before in Africa?
Abhay K. No, it is my first diplomatic assignment in Africa. It has been a very rewarding experience so far, waking up with bright sun and bird song, a lot of work to do and so much to learn about humanity’s home continent.
Abhay and the African baobabs.
Arendt. Did you manage to write any poetry during the pandemic?
Abhay K. I have translated two classics ‘Meghaduta-The Cloud Messenger’ and ‘Ritusamhara- The Six Seasons’ of Kalidasa from Sanskrit into English, edited an anthology of Great Indian Love Poems and wrote a book length poem titled ‘Monsoon- A Poem of Love and Longing’ and a collection of Haiku on Madagascar titled The Magic of Madagascar so far.
Arendt. Tell me about something. Do you think that liberty of expression for good purposes, in art, and literature, and poetry expanded during the pandemic, for they’re the few creative activities unaffected, since not relying upon mobility? Or did the pandemic release too much inconformity? Has its mood restrained somehow the willingness of keeping a dialogue?
Abhay K. I think during the pandemic, poets, artists and writers, who could not meet each other physically, found a way to connect with each other online, though meeting online is not the same as meeting physically.
Arendt. I saw lots of people disputing virtual spaces and attention. What do you think of writers who see writing, and life as a competition? I was wandering if poetry is underrated actually because of such competitive approach and poetry inconformity to it; since poetry is poetry, no matter who wins or lose. And what do you think it’s better poetry? If there is such a thing.
Abhay K. I don’t see writing poetry as a career where there is a competition for prizes and prospects and therefore I don’t participate in poetry competitions. I think each poem is a unique expression of a poet’s world view and inner state of being. Some poems are liked better than others, that’s another matter. I don’t think any one form of poetry is superior to another. It is just a matter of one’s personal taste.
Arendt. I’m sorry I’m late with this interview, and I’m a complete mess these months, but you know. The pandemic got people busy in finding problems where there was no problem. What do you do when someone annoys you and keeps making you take wrong steps that you do not want to take?
Abhay K. Albert Einstein said “Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent People Ignore.” I think it is wise to ignore such people and move on.
Arendt. You’re probably right, you know, Abhay. Now you made me visit my memories. Let me tell you I do remember when I was really a young kid, a colleague sitting next to me kindly asked what was my highest dream. I was so glad, I thought with myself, "I finally got a friend!" He was cool and smart, and he seemed to care about my dreams... So I told him my dream was having a sky-blue car. But then he started laughing and making fun of my dream in front of everybody else. He was trying to disturb and provoke me, I guess. And I didn’t tell anybody about it, although it made me really embarrassed, that he shared something I told him in confidence. We were in the 1980s by then, there was no such a thing as school campaigns against bullying; what to say in a military school. I was disappointed, but I was already a master in being alone. Anyway. Everyday he mocked me, and I experienced a bitter feeling, wishing I had never told him my dream as a kid. Some months later I received the most devastating news. He had died in a car crash. I got devastated. It really impacted me. I cried for years long, I got sad for years to come. I thought with myself then: my resentfulness made me suffer so much more pain than my other colleagues. I regreted not forgetting about it, that I had apologised him even if he hadn’t asked me to… He was just a kid being a kid, and I missed his joy so much. Then some time later, when another colleague, a much stronger, and taller girl had beaten me in my face, for not doing anything really important, I learned to instantly forgive. I apologised her for such brutality with myself, and I just got some distance, forgetting about it, so I chose to play with other friends. I guess I made it well then, for 30 years later I’ll just tell you: she found me at social networks, and she published a picture of our whole class, when we were young kids! It was such a nice and sweet, and unexpected surprise. She not only respected me now as a friend, as she was proud of me in front of all my old colleagues… I got touched with such beautiful gift of life. So you make me reason that perhaps still better than ignoring is forgiving. If I had to choose between being intelligent or strong, I would rather choose being strong. It brings such good results. But what is to be a human being for you, Abhay. When you meet people in the street, in your work, how do you see them, when you look beyond their faces? Do we listen to each other when we meet people? And what about the person who is before us, how can we reach the person that is before us, that one who is to be of priceless value?
Abhay K. To be human is to be kind, to help one another in this journey called life. I see others as fellow human beings trying to find their way in the maze of life. Most of us hear what we want to hear. The only way to reach another person is through kindness.
Arendt. Still, if we choose do be kind. There are those in life who are not kind at all. I cannot understand why someone who received a proper education decides to annoy someone who's in his right of having his own opinion, instead of simply presenting a better argument. When someone goes beyond annoying you, and advances in judging you for worse, and threatening you for your opinion, instead of having a dialogue, what is your approach? And let's say that even if you'd rather prefer your own spot, and even if you choose to forgive, yet you can’t escape letting the other person trying to make a wrong impression of you. Do you care about what other people think about you? Or you couldn’t care less?
Abhay K. My approach is to give my best and leave the rest for others to decide as that’s not in my control. We can do what is within our control, and that is to perform to the best of our abilities honestly and with full dedication.
Arendt. Yeap. You know, now I got philosophical. I was watching some short movies at YouTube, of an old Brazilian interview program which had a superb director, Antonio Abujamra. At the end of each interview he asked a fabulous question: “What is life?”. He took a deep breath and made all the environment propitious, so that people could find amazing answers. First I noticed how people talked about themselves when they were trying to answer such fabulous question, and how they projected their own experience on their way of thinking. Do you think it’s possible to communicate with someone who is too deeply thrown into his own world view, with people who gather around their common world view? And what is life, for you?
Abhay K. Life is learning new things, travelling to new places, physically or mentally, helping others in their sufferings, falling in love again and again with the same person i.e. you, yourself, and others, rejoicing the beauty in ordinary things, watching sunrise and sunset, looking in awe at the stars and constellations, making friends, connecting with our beautiful Earth family consisting of millions of species and so on…
Arendt. What a nice cosmological perspective in which everything has already a sense, Abhay. You know, on the other hand. I love to throw a tennis ball at the wall for relaxing. I used to do it with my dad, and my uncle, sometimes making questions and throwing the tennis ball on the wall, if I couldn’t catch it, I would rethink my responses. Actually I’m really good at it, throwing the tennis ball at the wall, I catch with my left hand, with my right hand… Did you already do that, when you’re not up to a conversation, and you just want to see the time passing by?
Abhay K. I look at the clouds and the blue sky, go for a walk and listen to birdsong or catch up with an old friend, play or write poems and time passes by quickly.
Arendt. Well. Let’s hope our reader has a sense of humor, and that he’s already laughing enough. Let’s work a bit! Tell me about your most recent book, the Alphabets of Latin America.
Abhay K. The Alphabets of Latin America is a collection of poems I wrote during my stay and travels in Latin America between 2016-2019. It is alphabetically organized from A-Z, from Amazon to Zocalo. Poems in this collection take one on a roller-coaster ride across this culturally vibrant continent introducing the reader to its great poets, artists, political personalities, monuments, festivals and people.
Arendt. When you wrote about each country in Latin America, I suppose you knew there is a country for those who come to see it; and another country for those who live in it. As there is a poetry we write and see coming from the inside, and then its result; and as there is the poetry read by those who didn’t write it, or by those who weren’t in the place of the poet, therefore not in the same position of seeing everything the poet saw… As everything depends not only on intellect for reaching an understanding, but also on feelings, emotions, vibrations, the needs of the universe, and the timing and propitious opportunities…
Abhay K. That’s true. It is different to visit a country as a tourist and to live in it. As a tourist one comes, spends a few days and leaves. As a resident for a few years one gets to dive deep into the culture and psyche of the people and I think this gets reflected in the writing coming out of such lived experiences.
Arendt. Well. Abhay. Thanks a lot for the talking. Thank you for sharing your experience. And what about your next projects?
Abhay K. I plan to write more poems about Africa, its rich history and diverse culture, in the coming months.
Arendt. Thank you again, Abhay K., may you keep yourself, your family, and your friends in safety until we all have overcome such huge tragedy! I wish you all the best to keep writing your fabulous poems.