1. How did you get started with haiku?
I started my tryst with haiku in January 2014 (or possibly December 2013). I think I just stumbled upon it online. It just happened and since then, haiku and the allied Japanese genres have constantly occupied my attention. Thinking back, I recall writing a tanka in early 2002 (yes, 13 years ago!) just before I left India to come to the United Kingdom. That tanka was about my sorrow and misgivings about leaving my home for another country. But since then, it had been lying in suspended animation I guess, until last year. In the last year, I have managed to win honourable mentions and prizes in several international contests. That of course encourages me to do more. Apart from that, I am a Rottweiler by nature and don’t give up. Once I set my mind, I am very passionate about things. So there is always an internal drive to keep going. I won the An (Cottage) prize in this year’s Genjuan International Haibun contest, the first prize in the Skylark’s Nest tanka contest earlier this year, editor’s choice of haiku and tanka in Cattails, and several other honourable mentions. I am not influenced by any particular person, a least not consciously. In fact, I like to find my own path and if aware, I avoid influences. Of course, in a general way, I am influenced by all good haiku, tanka, and other stuff I read and for that, I am grateful. I can’t say I have read too much of the classical Japanese masters, but of what little I have read, I love Bashō and his approach, and possibly Issa as well. Very early on, within a few weeks of starting with haiku, I attended a general weekend workshop by Alan Summers. That gave me an understanding of what I already knew and what I didn’t. Alan was very positive and encouraging. People like an’ya, Stephen Gill, David McMurray, Claire Everett, Kala Ramesh, Don Baird, Hansha Teki, and Johannes Bjerg have been very good friends, encouraging me with their positivity all along.
2. Tell us more about yourself.
I am an Indian from Bengaluru. I am a doctor and practising psychiatrist, living in the UK since 2002. I live with my lovely wife and two young boys in Birmingham, England. My older son, Pruthvi, also writes haiku (when he manages to sit down, that is). Sahana, my wife, has written rengay and renku with me. We actually managed to win an honourable mention in the HPNC rengay contest.
Apart from haiku, haibun, and tanka, I am deeply passionate about South Indian classical music (Karnataka sangeetha). I have composed and written a few hundred musical compositions. I also have two CDs to my credit. I have written in many languages, which tells of my other passions—languages, literature, and linguistics. I can converse, read, and write fluently in Kannada, Sankethi, Tamil, Hindi, and of course English. I also have a very good understanding of Telugu and Malayalam and a good grounding in Sanskrit. I have worked as a music critic for The Times of India for two years. I have also written articles for music journals, as well as poetry and short literary compositions in several languages. I still do that when I get time. I am also the proofreader for Cattails of the United Haiku and Tanka Society. This gives me ample opportunity to read contemporary haiku and tanka (I cannot skip and read only my works). I have also accepted to be the proofreader for the Skylark.
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
NaHaiWriMo is where I honed my skills (and continue to do so) as a haiku writer. I love the surprise each prompt brings. It is also a good place to experiment. I particularly like to combine several prompts in one ku. I would encourage everyone to have a go at these prompts on a regular basis. Not all poems will be good, but it sure is fun.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?
Please learn the very basics (short/long/short format, two images, avoid flowery epithets and similes) and pay due respect to them. Beyond that, keep trying. Sometimes, the things that we love the most in our haiku are things that weaken or kill them. Be prepared to change and listen to suggestions. You do not have to accept others’ views, but give them consideration.
5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
It is so hard to choose three favourites from my own haiku. It is like picking favourites among your own kids. Of course, some of them have weaknesses and I am only too aware of those. So here are four from my published haiku. I trust readers will forgive my transgression for picking one more than the prescribed three. There are many others I like but there you go.
bundles of washed clothes
let off steam
cloudburst on Easter
a macaw shrugs it away
but keeps the rainbow
the bitter sweetness
dusting of dew—
a road-sweeper scrapes
the night away