'Make poetry, not propaganda'...says Leena Saldanha, author of the recently-published Radha, a collection of poems, giving voice to the protagonist
It was one mad experience,” begins author Leena Saldanha, as she speaks of her recently-published book Radha, a collection of 101 poems written in the latter’s voice. “I was ignoring the voices in my head for months. But when I couldn’t anymore, I penned a couple of poems and put them up on Facebook,” says Saldanha, who runs the Red Tree Design Studio, a Pune-based brand and strategy consultancy.
Saldanha’s first two poems on social media received a huge response and she continued putting them up, until friends and well-wishers told her to stop doing so. Why? “They said it was good stuff and could be published. “That’s when I began writing down the poems. It was crazy. I would begin early in the morning and just keep writing until sun down. I wrote 91 of them in 15 days. After I wrote the 101st poem, I was like ‘this is it’,” she narrates.
What made you choose Radha?
That’s one voice that has hardly been heard, the author says. “Her story hasn’t been told, despite her name being taken so often. We always talk about ‘Radha-Krishna’, but we don’t know much about the lady. What happened after Krishna left Vrindavan? Mythology says Radha and Krishna met once after that. Some even say Radha didn’t exist at all,” she explains, adding that her poems are everyday conversations that every woman has.
“She is in all ages in my poems. She is all of us,” says the writer who has drawn several metaphors through her work. Giving an example, she speaks of a poem in which Radha is sitting in her drawing room, thinking of Krishna and the battles he is fighting, but spots the pressure cooker in her kitchen with dal stains on it that need cleaning. “Krishna might be fighting his battles at the Kurukshetra, but she too has her own everyday battles to fight,” Saldanha explains, terming the Radha-Krishna love story an ‘insane one’.
Radha, in her poems, also questions Krishna about some of his choices and decisions, stressing on the fact that nobody questions him, and that’s the reason he needs her. She asks him if he has travelled by bus. She believes he should, only then will he know how women have to fight eve-teasers every day and how even a simple task like taking a walk in the dark is an impossible task for a woman.
Reflecting her experiences
Saldanha, having studied Philosophy and English Literature, says that her advertising career is an accident, while writing is her love. “I am writing all the time,” she laughs and says when asked when she took up writing. The mother of two has also worked across rural Maharashtra and tribal padas (hamlets) while working with NGOs for around five years.
“We barely know the realities of these places,” she says, adding that her next collection reflects the experiences she got in these places. She is also currently working on two other novels — one based on cricket and another about women wanting to lose weight and discovering themselves in the process.
What is feminism for you? Humanism, comes the answer. “My favourite feminists are men,” says the author who is inspired by her mother, her maternal grandmother, Maya Angelou and her teenage daughter.
The one thing she wants to share? “Make poetry, not propaganda,” she says on a parting note.