Debasish Parashar is a Multilingual Poet, Creative Entrepreneur, Singer/Musician, Lyricist based in New Delhi, India. He is an Assistant Professor of English literature at the University of Delhi. Parashar is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Advaitam Speaks Literary journal and is associated with the World Poetry Movement. With his debut song ‘Pamaru Mana’ (2018), Debasish became one of the first Indian singer/composers who dared to experiment with the idea of fusing 500-year-old Borgeets of Assam with Western Orchestral music (with layered violins, pianos, snares & vocals), challenging the religious and ritualistic conventions of the Satras. His debut Music Video ‘Shillong’ from his debut EP ‘Project Advaitam’ was released in September 2018. He has sung for Raag, In Search of God, MUSOC XXV and elsewhere.
His literary works have appeared in Kweli (New York), Sentinel Literary Quarterly (London), Atelier (Italy), Vallejo & Co., Revista Innombrable, La Raiz Invertida, Voices de la Luna (USA), Ginyu, Red Door, Contemporary Literary Review India, Enclave/Entropy (USA), La Experiencia De La Libertad (Mexico/Spanish), Expound, Asian Signature, Kitob Dunyosi (Uzbek), SETU, Five2One (USA), Moonchild (USA) and elsewhere. Debasish’s works are featured in international anthologies such as World Poetry Almanac 2017-18, Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love (USA), ‘Where Are You From?’ (New York), ‘Apple Fruits of An Old Oak’ (U.S.A),‘22 Wagons’ (Serbian) and multiple anthologies from Demer Press (the Netherlands) among others.
Debasish has read or received invitations to read in various national and international literary events/festivals including the 30th Medellin International Poetry Festival, 4th Indija Pro Poet 2020 (Serbia), Dylan Day Project 2020 by London Welsh Centre, WPD-2020 Reading of Festival Internazionale di Poesia Civile e Contemporanea del Mediterraneo (Italy), 9th World haiku Seminar by World Haiku Association (Japan), Project ‘Building Smiles’ by Fisdace Foundation & CACB (Equador), 12th International Writers Meeting organized by UNESCO affiliated Writers and Artists Union of Tarija (Bolivia), 12 International Writers’ Festival-India by India Inter-Continental Cultural Association (India) and The 3rd Edition of Festival Itinerante in Colombia among others.
His write-up on Majuli has been listed amongst top 100 online #worldheritagesites stories globally in May 2016 by Agilience Authority Index.
Debasish Parashar was honoured with the ‘Festival Charter for Interpretation’ award at the Indija Pro Poet-2020 International Literary Festival. He has received an Honourary Diploma (Diploma de Honor) signed by the Consul of Isla Negra, Chile by Movimiento Poetas Del Mundo (Movement of Poets of the World). Red Door Café and Art Gallery, Denmark, has permanently curated his poem ‘Fundamental Right to Dream’ in his own voice as part of ‘Poetic Phonotheque’, a classic collection of contemporary world poetry.
The Indonesian translations of some of his poems were included in the English Poetry Appreciation syllabus of Makassar Islamic University, Indonesia for the year 2017-18. Parashar has been/is getting translated into more than 30 world languages including Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Czech, French, Romanian, Serbian, Albanian, Persian, Afrikaans, Indonesian and Arabic. His poetry has been featured in more than 15 different books/anthologies from renowned publishing houses in the USA, Russia, the Netherlands, Serbia and Mongolia. Overall, his poetry has appeared in more than 30 countries of the world.
The Monday Writer Interview
You are a singer and composer. What kind of music do you write and perform?
One word that defines my music in general is ‘Experimental’. I listen to and draw my influences from various musical genres from around the world. I have composed, recorded and performed music which belong primarily to genres like Experimental World Fusion, Indian Folk Fusion, Soul and Sufi. More than machines, it is melody, that dominates my music. I believe my music has an element of spiritual healing too.
My debut song Pamaru Mana was one of the first efforts by an Indian singer/composer in experimenting with the idea of fusing 500-year-old Borgeets (Songs of Bhakti movement by Saint Shankadeva and his disciples) of Assam with Western Orchestral music (with layered violins, pianos, snares & contemporary vocals), challenging the religious and ritualistic conventions of the Satras. Chintan (Thought) and Manthan (Brainstorming) are two important elements of my music. The idea of treating a Borgeet in such an unconventional manner came to my mind in 2010. It took more than three months to visualise and produce its music, which I did in collaboration with a veteran musician named Manas Jyoti Borah by 2011. I released that song in 2018. My debut music video Shillong was also released in the same year.
Is there a relationship between your music and your poetry?
I was coming to that. I have been constantly searching for poetry in my music and music in my poetry since childhood. Music and Poetry are not two parallel worlds of creative existence for me, but leaves and roots of the same tree which is dynamically growing for fresh sunshine. A word evokes a song at times and sounds inspire a poem at other times. Lyrics always remain a major priority for my music. On the other hand, a reading of my poetry will be incomplete without reading the sounds and rhythm inherent in it. I play with musical imagery in my poems very frequently. I write my poems primarily in English and Assamese. I translate from English and occasionally Hindi, to Assamese. Interestingly, I feel comfortable in writing lyrics for my songs primarily in Assamese and occasionally in Hindi.
Apart from poetry and lyrics for your music, what else do you write?
I write blogs and articles. Some of my old articles are scattered in various newspapers and digital magazines. I have written reviews for a few poets. Since I teach English literature in a South Campus college under University of Delhi, I am into Academic Writing as well. I teach Creative Writing and I am curious about various forms of new writings.
When did you actually start writing and what made you choose to write?
To be honest, my first poem did not come to me spontaneously. I was in the Fourth standard and there was a fierce battle along the borders between India and Pakistan. I was very young and the Kargil war generated strong patriotic emotions in minds of common citizens. My father had created a beautiful library at home with a beautiful collection of books from various genres, times, cultures and languages. He noticed my deep interest in reading those books. He suggested that I write a poem on the Kargil war. I wrote a poem in Assamese. Thus, I started writing at the age of 9 and I kept on writing under all types of influences from outside. My writing lacked originality. I looked up to my poems, but rarely touched them or felt their breath. When I was in the ninth standard, I remember writing my first poems and songs based on personally lived experiences. I wrote on love. Hormonal rush underlined my psychological shift from a mimesis to narcissism.
What subjects do you explore in your work?
A poet himself is the worst reviewer of his own poetry. According to me, my poems constantly dwell between rootedness and rootlessness in a constant search for the dynamic negotiations between the poetic self and realities of external world. Both the personal and the social find equally significant and overlapping spaces in my poetry. Creative ideas for me emerge from a deep sense of love, which is a constant force of inspiration in my poems. We have had enough hatred, innumerable reasons for revenge and enough of wars. We need empathy and love. Poetry and music are powerful mediums for change.
0K. You live and work in India where there are many ancient and spiritual languages You have mentioned you write in Assamese and Hindi? Do you write in any other languages such as Sanskrit, or Urdu? Do you translate all into the English language yourself?
Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages of the world. It fascinates me more because it is the language of ancient Indian philosophy, spirituality and mythology. I am a musician and I sing ghazals too. Ghazals are written in Urdu, and it is one of the most poetic languages, which I am aware of. I write my poems primarily in English and Assamese. Assamese is my mother tongue. I translate from English and occasionally Hindi, to Assamese, and vice versa. Interestingly, I feel comfortable in writing lyrics for my songs primarily in Assamese and occasionally in Hindi. My journal Advaitam Speaks Literary has recently introduced a new section on translation, called Kavyasutra, for which I translate selected poets from English to Assamese, and my wife Antaripa recites them in Assamese.
How much of your work is published outside India? What sort of challenges, if any, have you faced breaking into the international literary market?
Although I have been writing since I was nine, I started publishing my poems and writings from 2016 only. Interestingly, almost everything I have written till now, are published in wonderful journals, magazines, digital platforms and anthologies. A few Indian publishers have published me in India too. I have noticed my readers are primarily from outside India. I am fascinated by the love for my poems I have received from my readers in the Hispanic world and the Slavic world. Italy and Central Asia too have shown a lot of love for my poems.
Language is a big challenge in reaching out to the readers of these regions with rich legacies of poetry and art. But, the challenge which is always bigger than language is a Poet’s ego. It takes time to build productive cultural and creative networks, and ego should not be a barrier at all. I have successfully addressed the language barrier. Thanks to my wonderful translators! My poems have been translated into more than 20 world languages including Russian, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Czech, French, Romanian, Serbian, Albanian, Persian, Afrikaans, Indonesian and Arabic. Primarily outside India, my works have appeared in different magazines, books and anthologies from renowned publishing houses in more than 40 countries of the world.
You are the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Advaitam Speaks Literary journal. Tell us a little about this journal, especially our readers would be interested in knowing if you would consider work from writers living anywhere in the world.
Advaitam Speaks Literary is a bi-annual literary journal which publishes poetry and Visual Arts. We have introduced fresh sections in the Blog itself for curating Poetry originally written in a language other than English (Hengul-Haitaal), Poetry in Translation (Kavyasutra), Visual Arts (RasaNyasa) and Interviews. Majority of our contributors till now have been from outside of India. Poetry and Visual Arts have a universal language, and that is humanity. We are open to read poets and visual artists from anywhere in the world.
Who are your personal literary heroes? Recommend the five books or authors that have most influenced your writing.
There are so many influences and so many books. It is very difficult to name five. Some of my favourite authors and poets can be Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, T.S.Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and Kafka. I have a deep sense of respect for Vaishnavite Bhakti saint Shankardeva as a creative genius and late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika as a lyricist.
You are a widely anthologised poet, but have you published a collection of your own yet? If not, when can we expect one?
I am yet to publish my debut collection of poems. I hope I can bring out my own collection by the end of the next year or so.
You are a professor of English Literature. In your experience, can everyone be taught to write?
I offer Creative Writing as a Skill Enhancement Course under the syllabus of University of Delhi to undergraduate students. It is always debatable, if Creative Writing or Writing in general can be taught, especially in the classroom, or not. I like to believe in the possibility that it can actually be taught. I don’t think people are born with unequal skills or creative instincts. Various factors play into the creative output of an individual. Creative instincts can be nourished and honed in a child from early childhood. It depends on the child how it responds to different internal and external factors affecting the same. One can be guided to write well and effectively, but one can not be compelled to write well. Writing afterall, is a conscious choice.
At the beginning of the academic year, your new students step into your lecture room. What is the first thing you say to them?
“Please sit down. No need to stand up from now on every time I enter the classroom, you are not in school.” SLQ
The Monday Writer Interview with Debasish Parashar
by NNOROM AZUONYE
I love the way
You look at me
In odd seasons of the year
You deserve to kill
like poppies dried in sunshine
yesteryears of monsoon
a perfumed gossamer
draped in scented tears
In odd seasons of the year
you look beautiful
you look at me
black unsolicited eyes
more inevitably believable
I die at the end of that gaze of yours
just to reborn
like seeds becoming sunflowers
in a field after tillage
History of love is a history of inarticulation.
Of Sanskriti and Prajñā
The tipsy town topsy-turvy
tamarind flavored hunted a pair of eyes
Prakṛiti and purusha hand-in-hand
handcuffed hornbills striving for a flight
across turmeric skies. What looks toppled
from above is not always a sanskriti. And a
sanskriti needs not always to be wise.
I often ask myself what Prajñā is after all.
Folding your trousers when you are half submerged in flood ?
Standing in a queue when no one is around ? To become a
sleep-walker to escape insomnia ?
Now that I stand on top and look down
to find the tipsy sanskriti topsy-turvy tilted
in grief of its unheard screams I
think I know what Prajñā is. Prajñā is
the samskara of playing songs in a loop,
listening lovingly to the songs of your choice
from a playlist not always set by you. Prajñā is
not leaving a cow alone in a desert to
survive its karma. Prajñā is to look inside to make sense of the continuous
tussle between sura and asura. What is good is not always bad.
The purusha is not always the Prakṛiti. One is two at times and two are one at other times.
Prajñā was. Prajñā is.
Roots of Nirvana
There is a city inside your body
There is a city inside your body
noisy, cloudy and ancient
I have inhabited its ghettos to fill up
I have lived its margins like a dangerous supplement
resisting and fighting
the blue hours
scattered around your eyes
There is a city inside your body.
I have inhabited the corners of that city
gathering roots of nirvana.
you spread your city skies and I embrace its moon
dimmed by the light-holes of your citylights !
Very often than not I steal
stars from your skies.
I bury them in
moidams of memory with legends of dead kings
and local heroes for them to transcend spaces of memory and life.
Stars stolen from your therapeutic skies can paint hues of
I am little drunk right now
as if I am naked and shot at point blank
for a ban
Drunk as if smitten by this
femme fatale with disheveled cloths in her boudoir
This night is a crazy melancholy with eyes of longing
A pair of eyes with viraha can be so attractive
All puzzles are
I am so drunk that I can see
I can hear clouds killing birds with a tipsy sun and I can smell the sun breathe
I wish birds were a republic of sentiments
could fly a bachata
sensual and sexy
could fly like a frizzy piece of jazz cutting Van Gough’s ear into pieces
Darshana is drishti
I am drunk right now
Sometimes my nights are full of dualities and paradoxes like drunken selfies
Sometimes erotic like a lazy husky voice
An oasis a plateau a carnivore a serpent
a prarthana an idiom a circle a kiss
a mrityu a confession
a moksha an apology
a shringara a trivanga
a karma an apasmara
a lihaaf a doha and what not
My nights have many faces
but not a ban
I wish I could fear death more than I fear formalities
Your Words are a Continent
your words are a continent
the ripples of my experience
acceptance and refusal
into your solid continent
where Othello cried
on a topsy-turvy night
into the vanishing skies
with sweatdrops shining on his dark body
like an armory of stars
you know what ?
not all rituals started with the Public Bath
in the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro
the history of drowning is a history of metaphors.
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