The written word can be a tantalizing, sacred concoction—a well-crafted, authentic collection of characters that throws insights into our world and sounds like music to our hearts. If one but knows, how to.
I chanced upon Savita Nair’s writings whilst surfing. It was just another day. I read one poem, and then another from her book 45ml. And I was hooked. I felt she was writing about me, unbarred, and bare. Somewhere along the way, we became fb friends. When I heard her second book Tell Me Your Real Story was just off the press I ran for the launch as expected. I was curious to know what made her tick. What made her read into everyone’s dark ugly closets and know exactly what we were all about. Was she some kind of psychic able to see through us plebs, stripping us of our masks!?
It was a lovely event. Some poetry reading, wine, a couple of celebrities to do the honours, and a vibrant Q&A. But no one asked her what was her real story. Why is the obvious so elusive at times.
So tell me, Savita Nair, what is your real story. The answers met me over a coffee one evening, earlier this week in Mahim.
“I am a misfit in the Indian world. I live by my own rules. I know it sounds clichéd. Everyone claims to be liberated. Yet everyone is pretending. Pretending to be conventionally moral. Living on superficialities. Why? Because the truth can be very ugly. And once they are drunk or in safe dark spaces, their truths spill out. Why can’t we be ‘liberated’, sans alcohol, in broad glaring daylight?”
With this I take out my pen and start fervently writing as she talks, her black curls tumbling over her shoulders and her eyes dancing as she veers from excitement to an almost forlorn look etched across her face.
Her father was in the army, her mother a professional always questioning the status quo. “I drink in front of my parents, and question everything—you could call me their obvious by-product,” Nair laughs, trying to make out my scribbles. I assure her they are legible.
Growing up in Shimla, Kolkata, Poona and much of Punjab, Nair, an advertising professional, moved to Bombay 10 years ago from Delhi, with her then husband who she got divorced from six years later.
“I failed in my marriage. I got lazy. I thought I was the bigger person. My poems are a reflection of the wisdom I’ve gained since then and the introspection and retrospection it’s left me with. I want to forgive myself. My only consolation is I do not bullshit anybody anymore. My poems are my self-realization and salvation. The lessons I learnt. The lessons I still don’t learn. They are the one good thing I keep creating.
Don’t you think we are becoming too resilient to heartbreak, losing our sense of right and wrong in our eagerness to be with those who mirror us? We justify everything and that is not good.”
It is almost 9 by now and our conversation wanders over solo travel, men and relationships, and assumptions. If you wear a skirt, speak your mind and are single you are loose. If you are dressed in a sari, talk about morals and are married, you are a saint.
“I stopped being affected by opinions many years ago. There is a difference between voicing an opinion and actions. Not many get it. I say what is on my mind, and sleep at 10 pm. Yes, I like to have friends over. I drink. You want to slap me for that? Go ahead.”
The more I talked to her, I realized, the more I liked her. Really liked her. There is an openness about her, unashamed of her own truths. Coupled with this is a keen observation of the other. Nair notices things about people, big and small, and transforms them into words in her mind, without judgement, just stating it the way it is. And she is kind without bias. It is a rare combination to find. Her poems are a net expression of what she is, inside out: urbane, dark, optimistic, in your face, exploring the daily trials and tribulations of life, creating chaos out of supposed order.
“My favorite poem? It is the title poem …
Tell Me Your Real Story
Not the one you’ve been peddling to friends
The one that’s bubble-wrapped in philosophy and paradox
Not the one that’s sugar coated with intrigue
Or the one that’s toned down with caution
Not the one where you turn part-time loser
Or the one where you turn all time martyr
Not the one where everything and everyone is ‘fine’
Or the one that’s tattooed with ‘I will survive’
Not the one that’s marinated in exaggeration
Or the one that’s deep-fried in self-pity
Not the one that’s a racy novel for most
And a pitiful thirty-seconder for some
Not the one that rings true in the court of law
Or the one that clinks glasses at parties
Not the one where you use time and age as excuses
Or the one where you use attitude as a weapon
Not the one you’ve repeated a hundred times
Or the one you’ll repeat tonight
Tell me the story you haven’t told anyone but yourself
The one you’ll take with you
The one you’ll share with God
The one you’ll never tell your mother
The one that keeps you awake most nights
The one that pokes your conscience
The one that shakes your arrogance
The one that’s changed the course of your life
Tell me that story.
For that is the story you’ve locked in your soul
And that is the story that will set you free.
Sit down. Tell me your real story.”
As we walk out of the café, she muses, “I think I am now ready for a grounded mature relationship. I am tired of Plan A, Plan Maybe, and Plan Never Be.” And with that she breaks into a loud guffaw, taking pure joy in the harmony of the words. The grounded relationship as attractive to her as the play of words she had just created. 🙂
Blog post photo credits: Shashank Amrohi