She is a poet who pursued a career in technology.
She is a columnist who codes.
She is a motivational speaker who mentors aspiring writers.
She is a published author who sings Hindustani Classical and 80s Rock with equal ease.
And yes, in case you are wondering, we are still talking about the same person.
In the first part of our series – More Than A Job – The Siyahi Columns features a heart-to-heart conversation with Madhura Banerjee, a technology consultant in Bengaluru who has two bestseller poetry books – A Tenant of the World (2017) and Monsoon Arrives at the Junction Crossing (2019) – to her name and an endless list of spectacular achievements.
TSC: Tell us a little bit about your childhood. Any fond memories from childhood that you still cherish?
Madhura – I have grown up in Calcutta, in a house full of books, music and people. My father is mad about travel, and my parents gave me my first taste of the Himalayas when I was just ten months old. My grandmother pioneered my training in Hindustani classical music, so I have been singing and playing instruments since I was three years old.
I come from a joint family, with an aunt and an uncle whom I have always treated as friends – from going to movies with to sharing my first pizza. Much of my strength comes from growing up among such warm, supportive people. They were aware of my love for writing from the very start. Would you believe that, when I was barely ten, they would have me practice my speech for when I would win an award as a writer?
TSC. When did you write your first poem?
M- I wrote my first poem at age seven. Ever since I can remember, my omnipresent companion has been my imagination. I remember a terrific rainstorm from 2003 when I was in the second standard, and my class, hands on the shoulders of the girl in front, arranged in a neat line, walked downstairs for PT. We were asked to stand back in the corridors, as the sky grew as dark as smoke. It was the most magnificent sky I had ever seen in my life. I remember thinking about it for days.
TSC. What inspires your poetry?
M – I am mostly inspired by nature, and the world at large – not just its surface, but what a tree or a mountain might mean to the human psyche, relationships, culture, society and more. And that is why I write extensively when I travel.
TSC. Your favourite poets.
M – To start off, my most favourite poet is the one and only – he who personified the storm-clouds as the lady Krishnakoli, the one who gave monsoon poetry to our lives (and more) – Rabindranath Tagore. Then again, I can’t categorise poets into whom I love more, but if I had to, the list would include Agha Shahid Ali, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Oliver and WB Yeats.
TSC. You have a successful career in technology. What is your full-time profession?
M – I am working as a Technology Consultant at a Big 4 firm, from their Bengaluru office.
TSC. That’s amazing. With such a serious job, how do you find time to write?
M – On working days, I write at night, which inevitably leads to curbing my sleeping hours. Or else, if I feel the jolt of inspiration or the need to unload, I write immediately after I get off work in the evenings. I don’t have a fixed routine – I keep notebooks and online document apps handy so that I can at least scribble ideas when I am not in a position to dedicate proper time to it.
My favourite times are the sudden ones, like a recent 4 AM rush I had, when I suddenly heard the sound of Dhaak erupting in my neighbourhood on Panchami morning. I sat at my window with a notebook and penned down the ideas before sleep could carry them away; then I constructed something concise from them when I woke up properly in the morning.
TSC. Ideal writing spot.
M – Oh, I can write anywhere, but if I had a choice, I would want to sit – on the rocking chair in the verandah of my family’s house in Calcutta, or on a bench in Cubbon Park in Bengaluru, or at a coffee shop. If I am vacationing, any place with a view suits me perfectly. At other times the terrace is a constant favourite – be it at my Calcutta home or Bangalore flat.
TSC. Do you ever consider taking up writing as a full-time profession in future?
M – At this point, I cannot say what the future holds for me, because it is that uncertainty that has given me the best, loveliest turns my life could have asked for. I never thought I’d work at a corporate firm straight out of college, but the office gave me Bengaluru, and I have matured as a writer having lived in the city alone.
I do love my job, so I don’t want to think about a time when I would have to leave it, but I often think about whether I would go to writing full-time, whether I would be able to be as busy – this constant activity that I love so much – as I am now. My answer is – I don’t know, and that’s how I would like to keep it!
TSC. Many young, aspirant writers shy away from pursuing their passion due to their day jobs. As a mentor yourself, what would be your advice for them?
M- Nothing should keep you away from your passion – not your day job, not the opinions of other people, and, most importantly, not your own mind. We all have different ways of pursuing our creative thirst – I don’t have a writing routine, but someone else might. I love going to readings and having discussions about my work, but others might take a more private approach. Whatever it is you do, the idea is to liberate it; only when you set the story inside you free, you allow more such stories to bloom. My foremost advice would be to always take that first step, no matter how small. Don’t create scenarios in your head about how things might go. Write a bad poem, complete your first draft, open your blog. Just get the ball rolling, start the journey.
More Than My Job will return with another inspiring interview next week – that of a dentist who paints in between her work shifts. Keep reading this space for more!