Conversations: Quiet Happiness by Natasha Nair

Natasha Nair is an Abu Dhabi-based landscape architect, and Quiet Happiness is her first collection of poetry. The interviewer received a copy of the book through his friend Shardul Akolkar, a Pune based music composer.
Most of the poems look inwardly, the poetess is usually having conversations with herself. Rhyme is faithfully put to use; two little poems particularly caught my eye – one on Istanbul and the other on Scotland. Here is the interview:       
SK: How did you end up writing poetry, when and how was your first poem written?

NN: I am a self-proclaimed day dreamer. Because dreams during the day can be creatively woven by the mind!

Day dreaming translated into doodling…that’s how I started writing I guess. Being left handed, as a child, I always wrote the alphabets as their mirror images. It took me some time to differentiate between drawing and writing back then. Thus some forms on paper became words…and I learnt to arrange them. Secretly, I started loving this exercise…and so poetry happened to me!

I still remember when I was around seven or eight years old…and I was on a sick leave from school. My mother suggested that I try writing what I feel …And I did! My first poem described my little pet kitten’s soft white fur and blue eyes…

SK:What inspired you to bring out the poetry collection – Quiet Happiness?

NN: I have always loved to capture memories in descriptions, photos and sketches. I love celebrating life with all bad things cropped off and only beauty preserved. I thought a collection of poems that I had written through the highs and lows of life in the tangible form of a book would best arrest my humble life story that could touch many other lives and be passed on even after my spirit leaves this world…something that nobody can take away from me!

Living in this multi-cultural land of the Middle East gave me the perfect balance between personal and professional life. I continued to juggle a career and an inspiring motherhood with a dash of art. That brought a quiet sense of satisfaction. Hence the name – “Quiet Happiness”.

SK: When do you know that a poem is ready and nothing more needs to be added or omitted?

NN: I believe in writing in the moment…to pour out the feeling when it exists in my heart. At times, when I go back and read my poem again, I feel I could revise some lines…but the emotion to be conveyed holds more importance to me. Nonetheless somewhere my mind just knows when to stop.

Like in architectural design, we sometimes had to return to the tracing sheet to get back to the design done two days before…it’s a process of evolution that largely depends on personal style. My writing has now transformed into a denser and crisper form as opposed to overflowing verses from my book quietHappiness. It’s here that I quote from a letter written by famous artist Vincent Van Gogh, when his brother criticized his painting ‘The Potato Eaters” – “I am always doing what I can’t do, yet, in order to learn how to do it.” This inspires me to continue writing without thinking of imprecisions.

SK: Do tell us about the book design – how were the cover images, book images, design and font selected?

NN: After moving to the UAE, with ease of travel, my husband and I developed a keen interest in photography. The book design was almost ready in my head when I decided to have my poems published. I wanted it to be simple, emphasizing more on the written matter than on any other graphic art. The cover image is a photo from our travel album of Mykonos, Greece. The flowing curtain with the sea beyond seemed to be an inviting image that fitted the dreamy nature of the book. The other images from the book are from our travel albums in India, Greece, Scotland, Jordan, Istanbul and the most precious snapshots of my baby boy.

The font is Adobe Calson Pro – bold for titles and italics for poems as it is not too decorative or too technical in appearance. The book design was done by me using InDesign software and the cover design, by my husband, in Photoshop.

SK: How does your profession influence your poetry writing?

NN: Architecture is not only a profession, but it has become a way of life. My life is my quietHappiness and quietHappiness is my life. My profession has taught me to explore all the creative sides of this life and extend design not only to drawing, painting, photography and poetry but to incorporate it in home interiors, fashion and each and every small product that can be custom made. My poetry stems from this aesthetic virus that architecture sowed in my impressionable romantic mind years ago.

SK: Who are your favourite poets, authors?

NN: The poetic works of Rabindranath Tagore – Gitanjali, have been the biggest inspiration for me. His timeless earthy writings never fail to pass a chill through my spine…and I feel…what a thought! When the effect of a poem is so profound that any number of translations cannot erase its depth, that’s real poetry!

In the new age, I like many poems…not really a specific poet. I like poetry that displays variety in structure or rhyme. I am experimenting with new forms now. But in my book, most of my poems follow a rhythmic structure and alternate rhyming pattern. In new age authors, I like Arundhati Roy’s writing style in The God of Small Things…the way she nails the descriptions of things with a childlike innocence…


(Poetry enthusiasts may note that at the time of writing, Quiet Happiness is available for sale at Popular Book House, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune.)

(Interview by Snehith Kumbla)

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