Teertha Anil is an ambitious, out of place, chronic daydreamer. Her name is Teertha and she is 21 years old. She is from God’s Own Country – Kerala, but at times, feels particularly godless. She has struggled with her mental health for almost five years now, though it has in no way affected her passion for life and she prefers to be called ‘distinct’, not ‘different’.
Teertha has very recently developed a love for English classical literature and Milky Bar. She has dabbled with love, the ceremony of getting a college degree, and of course, with being society’s idea of perfection and has failed miserably in all of them. Now, she is grappling with living and in doing that happily. And so far, so good. –This text refers to the paperback edition.
TBE: Could you please tell us more about your latest poetry collection, Petals and Embers, that isn’t in blurb?
Teertha Anil: The blurb pretty much sums up everything very well. Petals and Embers was an amalgamation of everything that I felt, saw and discovered, of the memorable moments that I lived back when I wasn’t at my best. These are all the words I couldn’t say in the strict academic environment of my college. It is almost an outburst.
TBE: What was your first encounter with poetry? What fascinated you the most about it?
Teertha Anil: The very first poem that I remember reading is “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad ” by Sarojini Naidu on a cool winter morning in my convent school back in 5th grade. It baffles me how something so simple in it’s wording could transport me to a different place in a different time. I think, when I shivered a little in my blazer, it wasn’t just because of the cold.
TBE: What, or who, inspired you to start writing poetry? Where did the inspiration for the poems featured in your book come from?
Teertha Anil: Nobody inspired me to write poetry. I myself am a very dramatic, over-expressive and creatively driven person. My poems are birthed in my anxiety, my grief at not being able to cope with the world in general. I had a lot of help on my writing journey though, I am very thankful to Sumit sir and Naureen ma’am (my professors).
TBE: Tell us a little bit about the design element that accompanies your poems. How did that come about, and what made you want to illustrate your poetry with drawings of your own?
Teertha Anil: The illustrations were not drawn by me. It was drawn by Kodhai, who was my college classmate and dear friend. I wanted illustrations in my book because I felt they would serve to further elucidate what I am trying to say through my poems. I requested Kodhai, who is a very talented artist, to make the drawings on the basis of her understanding of the text. This is because I trust her ability to interpret the poems in a manner that matches mine.
TBE: Your work has touched on issues like violence against women, mental health and overcoming trauma. How do you navigate through the complexity of these subjects, especially when they can be so “personal” for some people?
Teertha Anil: I am a drop in the ocean, I am one among the masses. My experiences are in a way part of the larger picture. They are made of the essence of the larger social issues. These shared experiences are not the copyright of a few who have taken most of the brunt of it. I take the liberty to voice my opinions because voices, even indescript noises are better than silence. I just said what I felt needed to be said, in a manner that I believe would be least offensive to any and all.
TBE: How do you find the balance between writing about your own personal experiences and exploring topics that may not necessarily be autobiographical, but still speak to so many people?
Teertha Anil: The personal and the political are so closely intertwined in all our lives that trying to find a balance between the both would be a fool’s errand. I just write what I feel, there is no balance or precision in creative writing. There is just a spontaneous overflow of emotions.
TBE: What would you say to those who struggle with making peace with themselves? Where and how does one start on this journey of embracing the self?
Teertha Anil: I am no expert in the matter myself but I will put in my two cents. One can kick start their journey of self acceptance by doing what one truly loves. We do not exist to live life according to the whims of the world. We are here to experience and celebrate the joy that is life. As long as we do not hurt anyone in the process of doing what we truly love, there is no harm in it. It will rejuvenate our soul and make us a little more content with our own lives.
TBE: Who do you recommend when someone says they want to read more poetry?
Teertha Anil: I would say only this – don’t read “good poetry”, just read a vast variety of poems, you will discover that you like some more than others and then go on reading more of what you like. It’s about the process of reading, it’s not about what you read.
TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?
Teertha Anil: It was just excellent. As someone with very critical mental health problems, I always found it difficult to meet deadlines. I am answering these interview questions almost two months after I was given the task of answering them. But everyone who was involved in the process of publishing my book showed a world of patience, for which I am more grateful than I can express. Everyone was cordial, friendly even and always ready to help. Every step of the process of publishing was done meticulously. I can’t recommend publishing with Leadstart enough. Kudos to the team for their unwavering faith and professionalism.
TBE: Do you always want to write poetry or would you consider writing something else for your next book? Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Teertha Anil: I would love to write a novel but consistency is key to writing a bigger body of work than what I have already written. I will write another book, but I am yet to find something that inspires me enough to start the process of writing.