....................in conversation with Pavan K Varma
(Via CNN-IBN Live Chat, 02-04-13)
YASEEN: How do you keep yourself active politically and poetically?
There is no contradiction between the two. The only issue is of time.
YASEEN: Do you feel that the Government bodies (both state and central) are offering enough support to literary organizations to grow here in India
PAVAN: No, not enough. Our Sahitya Akademi should be doing much more. But basically writers should not be depending on government support.
YASEEN: Can literature as whole or poetry in specific can bring change in society?
PAVAN: Yes, of course. The challenge is to make people read, and once they do, they must make use of the cyber world to propagate the ideas further.
YASEEN: What is the future of English poetry in India?
PAVAN: Not very bright, I'm afraid. Poetry must be written in one's own language,and preferably in one's mother tongue
YASEEN: And if I ask you, how do you see future of poetry (irrespective of languages) in India?
PAVAN: Poetry is an important form of literary expression. However, it is important too that there should be a readership for poetry. I sometimes wonder if that exists in India on the scale it is required.
YASEEN: Today one can sense the conflict between poets who prefers writing classical poems (i.e. haiku, Sonnet, etc) and poets who who prefers modern poetry (free verse), my question to you is if one does not follow all the rules of classical poetry (original rule, not modified) and want to call his/her poem as classical, will it be one?
PAVAN: Poetry is poetry, whatever its form.
YASEEN: Lyricist you admire from emerging lot?
PAVAN: Gulzar, Nida Fazli and Prasoon Joshi
YASEEN: Indian Cinema is celebrating its century, your favourite song out of 3,50,000 songs that Indian cinema has given birth to?
PAVAN: This is an impossible question to answer. But I am partial to the music of Khayyam and the poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi
YASEEN: When did you first take up translation thing, was it by accident or intentional?
PAVAN: No, it was a conscious decision. Translations are required to give to good poetry, and other writing, a wider audience.
YASEEN: You have done translations for Kaifi Azmi Saheb, Atal ji, Gulzar sb, etc. Whose work has been most challenging and why?
PAVAN: I enjoyed all the translations, but I think Gulzar Saheb, because of his modern idiom and powerful imagery, posed the greatest challenge.
YASEEN: You have translated many eminent poets, what makes Gulzar Saheb stand different?
PAVAN: Gulzar Saheb's poetry is unique for the powerful imagery he captures and the modern style of his poetry.
YASEEN: Your poetry translation looks as poetic as original, How do you manage it?
PAVAN: Translation is an art. It must be done such that it retains the meaning of the original, but also captures, as far as possible, the rhythm, cadence and meter of the original. of course, thorough knowledge of both languages is essential.
YASEEN: What motivated you to write poetry?
PAVAN: I don't write much poetry. My only book of poems is called 'Yudhishtar and Draupadi', which has now been translated into Hindustani by Gulzar Saheb,and republished by Penguin with both the translation and the original. A play written by Gulzar has also been made on it and has had several very successful stagings.
YASEEN: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
PAVAN: Life is my inspiration. And India, in all its facets, is my motivation
YASEEN: I am sure you are ideal for many, what would you like to say to our upcoming authors and poets?
PAVAN: Never lose confidence. Don't give up because of initial setbacks. And write because you love to do so.
YASEEN: Would be great if you can share one of your poem with us?
PAVAN: Read 'Yudhistar and Draupadi'
Pavan K. Varma, born in November 1953, is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi where he studied History (Honours) and received the first position. Subsequently, he acquired a degree in Law. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1976. His career as a diplomat has seen him serve in several countries, including New York and Moscow. In New York, he was with India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. He also served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Group of 77. In Moscow, he was the Director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre in the Indian Embassy. He has also been High Commissioner of India to Cyprus as well as Director of the Nehru Centre in London. His assignments in India include that of Press Secretary to the President of India, Spokesman in the Ministry of External Affairs, Joint Secretary for Africa and Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi, Indian Ambassador to Bhutan.
Pavan K. Varma took voluntary retirement from the Indian Foreign Service in 2012 to enter public life and is presently the Cultural Adviser to Shri Nitish Kumar the Chief Minister of Bihar.