In Conversation with Nirmala Singh
Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Nirmala Singh, a Noida based writer is also a self taught artist, poet and a published author. With a Masters in English Literature, Senior diploma in Textile Designing, Cosmetology, Pranik Healing and Yoga she has held Art Shows, Solo 22, in Group more than 50, and have done Art workshops more than 20, in prestigious galleries & art hubs in India. She is the Ex member of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Academy where she has been sponsored by culture ministry to hold art show in Central Lalit Kala Academy & all the regional zonal centers all over India. She was also sponsored by Indian Council for Culture Relations to hold the art show in their Azad Bhawan Gallery. 2 years ago. She has won many appreciations & prestigious awards including Culture Ministry's Excellence award. Her paintings are mostly based on her poems. Some of her ongoing projects in hand are Short story books & Novel to be published by National Book Trust of India. She has published 6 poetry books till now and there are more to come.
Her poems got place in several anthologies and got published in various state sahitya academies like Punjab, Chandigarh, Madhya pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Hariyana, Uttar Pradesh. Many papers are published on her art in various journals across the globe. Her works are in private collections in India & abroad. Apart from this she has a 5 years teaching experience in Womens Politecni, Allahabad.
She is a self taught artist and feels free to experiment in any medium any colour, echo of her poetic thoughts resonate her works. Her signature medium is "Encaustic" which not only seeks a lot of hard work but is quite time consuming. Yet her mantra is...”No short cuts for me, I use ancient technique, wax, colour pigments & resins. Very few artists dabble in this medium because of its tedious processor.”
Besides receiving many awards during 30 years of stretch, recently she has been awarded by Pinkishe foundation, A R Neelima foundation, Naari conclave, Women of the future awards (WOTFA), Lifetime Achievement Award. She has also been bestowed with Kalakar Samman from UP Culture Ministry and has been awarded by Khadi village industries commission for designing handmade cards.
I got this beautiful opportunity of interviewing this most talented, beautiful, energetic and effervescent woman whom I admire a lot and have been her huge fan since long. Thus, bringing to you the true artist and a great human being that Nirmala Singh is, through this candid interview as given to Plethora Blogazine.
PB. Let’s begin with your recently published poetry book ‘Resham Ki Than Si’? How did you feel inspired to write this book? As in first poem itself which is also the title poem of the book, I noticed that you speak about life being like silk threads that just slip by, the more you try to wrap it. Was this theme the main inspiration?
NS. You took me back to my memory lane. Well, “Resham ke thaan si” is all about the life of an elderly woman who drenches herself into nostalgia very often, her sensitivity hits at her sensibility often. This simile of yards of soft slippery silk cloth with life is a pure metaphor. Poetry is not my tenant, it’s my family, like a breath which goes out & comes back to me. My title poem of this book is my life, I started writing at the age of almost 10, since then 60 years have gone-by, so many dear ones departed, so many got added, many of them settled far away. Course of life is like a river, so are friends & relatives!
Yes, slippery yards of fragile silk appeared to me like my life, but it happened just by chance. My tens of paintings gone up the gallery walls during my all the exhibitions along with my poem, neatly handwritten on a A4 size paper with splash of colours on it. People often asked me “which comes first..poem or painting?”..It’s really difficult to answer, they are like Siamese twins!
PB. In some of your poems I noticed that you have depicted time, in a way that expresses that it never stops but you are still there and things kept moving around you. Do you ever feel this regret that time never stops or perhaps you wish to go back in those times which you still miss?
NS. In some of my poems I really dwell deep within, I lost my 50 years old mom when I was married & only 26 years old, when her 4th stage cancer was diagnosed. During her illness I couldn’t even visit her due to my advance stage of pregnancy. My dad never disclosed about her serious condition to me, she was dangerously ill. It’s a very sad period of my life, I became mother but I lost my mother. I can never forget that period of my life, it could have been so joyous with her presence
PB. Which happened first poetry or painting? Do you think they are interconnected for you?
NS. During my shows, this question often popped up, “Which came first.. poetry or painting? Reporters seem to be very keen to know. It was really difficult for me to answer. Since when I write, colours start moving, floating around me, words start taking shape in forms & when I paint, it’s vice-versa, each stroke shoulders a moving poetry all-around.
PB. Your recent book that is just about to release ‘O Ree Chiraiya’ which is a collection of short stories from your real experiences of counselling days to many girls who came to you for your guidance. How much did it impact you in real life? And what was the main thing you found quite common in these girl’s situations?
NS. My story book “O Ree Chiraiya” is based on the factual incidents, those counselling days still haunt me with scary eyes of the girls, fumbling dialogues, yet a ray of hope in their eyes and a sigh of relief in their hearts about sharing the secret. The most common thing between them was a joint family & their acquaintances. In spite of all this I’m really happy with my one-to-one conversation with them, in no one else's presence, just two of us. I still remember that great sigh of relief & their calm-composed looks. 20 years gone-by I’ve not met with them, barring a few, real happy ones. Yet I reaffirm again, that those memories still haunt me.
PB. Did you ever face any difficulty being a woman as having a hand for both painting and poetry for which you needed to step out? As women mostly in those times were expected to stay within the four walls?
NS. I never faced such situations, I was born & brought-up in an educationalist family. My grandfather was a civil services officer & my grandma was niece of Dr Sir HariSingh Gaur, Founder of Saugor (Sagar) university, first university in central province before independence. My father was Professor in Saugor University. I was born & brought-up in a very cordial atmosphere, it was campus of educationalist & their wives of all age-groups used to be our role-models. I learnt & adopted so much from them, different languages, different cultures, different way of life, but so amicable! Till today I feel blessed & cherish the memories. I was married in a very progressive Rajpoot family, most of them were Lawyers. In the family all the ladies were highly educated. I’m talking about the late 1940 & 1950, my mom in-law & my 5 Aunt in laws got married in their middle of teens, but they were allowed to pursue their further education. They were Lawer, Doctor, professor, environmentalist. My Mom in-law (niece of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan) was the first lady law graduate from BHU and she was the one who encouraged me to pursue my passion.
PB. You belong to a family of educationists and have also grown up mature amid the times of great poetess Subhdra Kumari Chauhan. Did you ever feel the pressure of being perfect or proving yourself to these affluent people? Or it was only the drive of your passion that you focused upon and rest of the things fell in place?
NS. Yes, I find myself lucky for belonging to educationists family, my Dad was a professor & we lived in the university campus where all the like minded people were living. It was like a huge family, people were simple & down to earth. Most of the campus kids did very well in life, my brothers did medicine. I started writing at the very tender age. Saugor University campus was very scenic, I’m a nature lover, nature inspired me to write & when I started being appreciated by Dr Vijay Chauhan, second son of Smt Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, who was a professor & an ace writer, lived close-by, got a real booster. He got married to an American girl & my parents played pivotal role by performing “Kanya-daan”. I recollect when I was in 9th standard, won the school election & became Editor of our school magazine. Hindi section, same happened in university days too. I was in touch with legendary poet Bhawani Prasad Mishra, we belonged to the same place. Once he judged a poetry competition in which I participated, my poem was highly appreciated & awarded. There are many memories like this. Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was my mom in law’s Aunt. (Bua)
No I never felt any pressure of proving myself. I got married after finishing my post-graduation. My husband was an Air force officer, my stagnant life got wings in new arena, did many diploma courses & later made use of them. That gurgling stream within me was restless, during my Textile Designing diploma course I got introduced to the world of colours, making designs. It was an asset to my journey towards art world. I acquired many skills during our various postings. Yet, poetry never died, it flew without interruption. This credit goes to my mom in law, who always encouraged me. Turning point came when my husband took voluntary retirement after 20 years of service. He opted for an industrial job as CEO of an upcoming brand & we shifted to Chandigarh, here I came in contact with Fine Arts College, started painting in a different way, Encaustic medium was a very different & difficult medium to work with, but I mastered it with the help of my Dad. I started holding my shows with my poems hanging & flowing along with them. I held almost 100 shows. Poetry shall remain my muse forever. I still paint but no more shows now, It is tiring for me now. My poetry is my muse now & my books are appreciated immensely.
PB. Do you really believe in genes? I mean you belong to a family of great writers and artists, you also write, your daughter and granddaughter also writes. Do you feel it’s the genes that have passed on to you and to them or it’s the imbibing of the culture one grows in?
NS. Yes, partially, but I do believe in your surroundings and the kind of encouragement one gets from family & friends. My Dad was a scientist & my Mom, a housewife. She was a born sculptor; she used to create beautiful statues with mud, clay, cement etc. My daughter & granddaughter both adopted the habit of writing from their respective moms. As I feel, constant appreciation & encouragement also plays a pivotal role in carving your persona.
PB. You yourself are a scholar in English literature, yet you choose to write in Hindi. Why?
NS. My first love is Hindi since I studied in Hindi medium in a Govt. School. I think in Hindi & feel comfortable to write in my mother tongue. My association with great writers like Bhawani Prasad Mishra, Vijay Chauhan , Ram Ratan Bhatnagar, Dr Prem Shankar & many more filled me with confidence to write more & more.
For my masters I opted for English Literature to gain more wisdom & wide arena to wander & explore the imagery with a vast & prolific angle.
PB. What difference do you see in the writers of 90s or even before that time and in the present day writers? Do you really feel that social media has worked as a boon for millennial writers?
NS. Social media has played enormous role to give platforms to less known writers immensely. 40 years ago too there used to be many writers, girls & women too used to write a lot, but with a difference, especially girls in orthodox joint families were the most affected ones. One of my friends was an ace writer-poetess, but unfortunately because of conservative family background she could not pursue her dreams.
PB. Have you ever in life felt like I have done enough, I must take a break? And have you ever believed in any such thing from your perspective called writer’s block or artist’s block when you are just staring at that page or that canvas and you stand totally blank.
NS. I am really fortunate to be my father’s daughter. He always told me to pick up one thing at a time. I am a self-taught artist, my signature style & medium is “Encaustic”, very few artists work in that medium because of the rigorous process of it. I spent a lot of time to practice and become confident about that medium. After almost 100 shows I am at ease now, I won many prestigious awards. I still paint off & on for leisure, working on waste papers at present to keep my colours alive in “Best from waste” series, but no shows now since it is very tiring & hectic. Many publishers ask for those images for their books, as book covers. Honestly speaking, when I pick up a canvas to paint, colours themselves come running and images start floating in my mind. At times I myself is amazed to see the flowing colours, I give them standing time so that they can make up their mind in which direction they want to flow. It is a herculean task to choose & allow only those who can replicate your thoughts. I do not care for any block, poetry happens anytime, anywhere irrelevant of the noisy humdrum of the daily routine.
The following interview has been conducted through the online mode via email by editor Monalisa Joshi.