Glory Sasikala (Born: January 6th, 1964) is a poet and writer currently residing in Chennai, Tamilnadu. She is the Editor and Publisher of the Monthly Online Prose and Poetry magazine, ‘GloMag’ and is the administrator of the group of the same name on Facebook. She is a language editor and quality analyst by profession.
She was born in Kolkata and did her schooling there. Her husband, who was a bank manager with Canara Bank, died tragically in a road accident in 2008. She has two children, a daughter-in-law, and a four-year-old grandson.
Scott Thomas Outlar: Thank you, Glory, for taking some of your time to join me here at 17Numa. I’d like to start off by asking you about where your love for literature, poetry, and art originated. Have you always been drawn to these modes of expression, or was there a certain pivotal moment in life that piqued your interest?
Glory Sasikala: Thank you too, Scott, for having me here. To answer your question directly, yes, there was a pivotal moment. I was seven years old and in the fifth standard, and my homework from school was to learn by heart the poem “Boats Sail On The Rivers” by Christina Georgina Rossetti. A seemingly rather simple poem, so much so it had me wondering if I could write a poem too? So then, I wrote my first poem titled, “Our God Is The Best.” It spoke of how two birds fight over whose God is the best, and then they decide that all Gods are the same and that they all teach love. It ended with something like “All Gods are the best, and so they went back to their nest and took rest.” I did not think I had done anything great, but when I showed it to my father, he seemed stunned. He took copies of the poem and sent it to all our relatives, far and wide. He gave copies to all his colleagues too. He also gave my teachers a copy each, and that’s how I got to be called “The Poetess.” People started writing to me, I was made to write and recite poems in class, and friends and family dropped in to read my poems. My father also encouraged me to carry a notebook with me all the time to jot down my thoughts. These exhibitions of my work came to a standstill when my father died. I was just 10 years old at that time. And I also got teased a lot about my poetry around this time. I was deeply hurt and I also felt vulnerable because my father was not there to protect me. From that day on, I refused to show my work to anyone despite my mother’s insistent requests. I could not stop writing, however; it came naturally to me. I broke that silence only when I turned 18 and had been a literature student for a year. I was able to analyze my own work then, and I realized then for myself that my writing was good.
I come from a family background of very creative people. My great grandfather on my father’s side was a village school teacher during the day, but in the evenings, he enthralled the villagers with stories – a kind of village bard. My grandparents on both sides were creative writers. My parents were voracious readers and writers too, and believed strongly in the power of the written word.
Personally, there was no escaping the English language. I cannot recall a time when I was not surrounded by books, not listening to English music on the Telerad radio (with the green, smiling eye), not arguing and discussing various topics and books with my family. Strangely, I was always blessed with the best of English teachers in all the schools I went to (seven schools in various cities). My command of the language always startled my teachers, but then few children are treated like adults, their opinions highly valued. My father made me read books that were way beyond the capacity of a ten year old, such as Vicar of the Wakefield and St. Bernadette and Rabindranath Tagore’s short stories. I also recall reading Bernard Shaw’s plays – especially reading Candida – when I was just 9 years old, so that I could participate in a discussion about the book that was going on in my family at that time. However, I cannot boast that I understood everything I read, and I sometimes regret those first-time readings at such an early age.
STO: You put so much time and energy into editing GloMag each month, and your efforts have helped connect writers and artists from around the world. What made you decide to launch your magazine? What is your favorite part of the process?
GS: I’ve always found the magazine format very exciting because it accommodates all genres of writing. That love got combined with my love for poetry and my natural ability to lead. I’ve always been a leader right from school days. There’s nothing pompous about my saying that because as a leader I see myself as someone who simply sets the timer before joining the group picture. Someone has to set it…
For my twelfth birthday, my cousin gifted me a simple chapbook of poems. It had 12 poems in it, with pictures on one side and the poem on the other. The paper was glossy. That book became one of closest companions. Sadly, the poets were anonymous, and I’ve never been able to trace them. I lost that book in transit. That book made me dream poetry, music and pictures all the time. I even thought of holding an exhibition in a gallery with music and pictures accompanying my poems.
I was introduced to the computer as late as 2003 for work purposes. But once I got the hang of it, I was like a child with a new toy, one that offered infinite possibilities to explore and fulfill one’s dreams. All my spare time went – has gone – into surfing the net, and against all warnings to be cautious, I decided to put myself out there only for literary purposes. From being in groups, I jumped to moderating my own group, and from there on, to my favorite bandwagon of creating a magazine. I tried several ways to make one, even via a blog, but was somehow dissatisfied. So, some more surfing, some more experimenting, till my eyes fell on Joomag, and I was at peace at last. Here, finally, was my destiny, the combination of poetry, music and pictures that I so ardently sought all my life. Someone had sent me an e-magazine in PDF format around this time, and I liked it very much. So I decided to combine Joomag with the PDF formatting.
Getting writers to contribute remains the hardest – and my favorite – part of the process. Being a writer myself, I know that the most exciting part of writing is the writing itself. After that, there’s that subtle chasm between writing and submitting the work for publishing. There is also this invisible timing when writers are finally ready to part with their work. Understanding this psychological dilemma helps me be a very patient editor and publisher.
My interactions every month with my writers remains a personal and sacred experience, pretty much the way a parent is parting with the baby, handing it over to a caregiver. A lot of trust goes into it that I will handle the baby with care. I tend to write personally to everyone each month and tailor-make their space in the magazine. With some of the regular contributors, this has become one way to keep in touch and to even update me on their personal lives. This again works on the trust that I will hold their privacy sacred.
STO: You published the first print volume of GloMag earlier in 2017. What other plans and aspirations do you have for your venue looking toward the future?
GS: I have big dreams for GloMag even while acknowledging its limitations. I’m trying to make GloMag a one-stop destination for poetry and short prose for the writers in my database. I try to operate round a database of 120 members. Some people leave, some are erratic, new members join in, so that remains a safe number, and on an average, I end up featuring around 100 writers per month. I’m extremely passionate about the online magazine, and I require writers to be loyal to it before they start thinking about the hard copy. I intend bringing out two hard copies per year from 2018 onward – one in February, and one in August. These copies are automatically placed in the main libraries in India by the publisher, but I also want them placed in as many libraries as possible around the world. I’m placing all the online magazines in online libraries. The idea is to ensure that the magazines are preserved. Media remains a challenge. Last time, I was not able to get any media attention for GloMag, but this time, I’m going to give it a good shot, and I hope the contributors will help me with this because I have no direct contacts with the press.
All said and done though, retaining the fun part of GloMag, the spontaneous interactions and feedback, and the growing close-knit community remains my biggest aspiration.
STO: Concerning your own writing, you seem to draw from a well of personal, intimate details to pen your stories. Is this biographical process difficult to undertake, or do you find it cathartic?
GS: The good and bad about my writing is that I’m comfortable with all genres. The bad part of it is that I don’t get to be defined as so and so. I’d love to be known as ‘Glory, the Haiku Lady’ or ‘Glory, the Novelist,’ or something like that. Not happening because greed intervenes. Every time I read a novel or a poem or an essay, I go, “I can do that!” With my biographical accounts – which are all the stories in my first book of short stories, “Madi Maami And Other Stories” – I tend to use the conversational tone: an extension of my rather talkative personality.
The biographical aspect of my writings should be taken with a pinch of salt, I’m afraid. My aim remains to entertain my reader, and so, I don’t remain faithful to events as they really happened. I happily mix up two or three events, add my own fertile imagination, to present a readable concoction. That said, yes, some of the narratives are faithful presentations, but only because they’re entertaining in themselves.
I’ve moved away from personal accounts in my second book of short stories, which is still under construction, “To The Ocean And Other Stories.” A lot of my well-wishers feel I should bring out an autobiography of sorts because of a rather interesting and chequered life, but I won’t be doing that because the secrets I will wish to hide are more interesting than what I’d be willing to reveal. It seems to make more sense to change these secrets into regular fiction at some point. And yes, I can’t be a woman without having secrets deeper than the ocean, can I?
STO: What projects are you working on at the moment that have you particularly excited?
GS: I’m really, really excited about my bookstore blog: glorysasikala dot blogspot dot in.
I present my books there, both the completed ones and the ones under construction, along with the Instamojo and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) links that allow immediate online purchase of the work. This site allows me to continue writing even as I promote and sell my work. It’s a complete solution, and I find that very exciting. The promotion bit is going to be very tough, but yes, I like the challenge this time.
The world presented to the current set of writers is a fast-paced one. People don’t have much time, and instant gratification has become the name of the game. That apart, they’re also bombarded with too much information, which leaves them quite cynical and questioning. And as for the writers themselves, easy access to being published has made a writer of almost everyone who can read and write. It’s not like in the olden days, when a duchess would say to her lord, “You know, I heard about this young poet named Keats…”
(Not to demean or under-rate any person who made it big those days, but rather to bring out how much more difficult it is to make your mark in the current scenario.)
The nowadays writer is expected to slog as much at promoting his/her work as at writing. It’s an undeniable nuisance and rather contradictory to quiet and peace that creativity demands. But there it is!
Under these circumstances, I find it rather important to garner a faithful readership before I can call myself a writer. A certain amount of dignity doesn’t allow me to take advantage of friendship and force someone to read my work when they’d rather not do so. I’m more likely to treat my books and e-books as products in the market that will be bought because they hold some real value for the customer.
I know I’ve chosen a rather arduous path, but it’s the only path I wish to tread.
STO: Outside of literary concerns, what hobbies and work activities fill your time where you reside in India?
GS: I take care of my four-year-old grandson during the week days from about 12:30 to 7 pm. These are my happy hours, and I learn from him to live in the moment and appreciate things that we tend to take for granted otherwise. It gets me in touch with innocence once again.
I’m basically a loner. I tend to stay indoors too for days on end. I love to surf the net, new websites excite me a lot. I like to read, and am a “repeat” reader: I like to re-read books. I find history and philosophy very interesting. I also like to watch movies, especially Tamil (my mother tongue) and Hindi movies. I like soft melody a lot and I’m a bit particular about lyrics. Love listening to English songs from the 60s and 70s, as also Hindi and Tamil songs. I also like to window-shop (yes, I do end up buying stuff, especially clothes).
My knowledge that I’m a loner makes me deliberately break the pattern sometimes. I reach out to friends, and am very much a family person. I like cooking for them, and I find cooking therapeutic. I like simple recipes, especially my finds from the interiors of India, from the villages. Indian cuisine is amazing in its variety and can’t be pinned down and categorized because it varies from one state to the other and even from one tribe to another, one caste to another, from one religion to another. The deeper you go into the recesses, into the villages of India, the tastier the food.
STO: What is the political situation like at this time in your country? Do you concern yourself much with such news, or simply leave it for the lunatics running the asylum to sort out?
GS: The political situation in India isn’t as bad as it is made out to be, or as good as it is made out to be either. The wonderful thing is it’s a secular country and a democratic one. I was a bit puzzled that a party could ask for vote on religious grounds because that’s in direct contradiction to the very definition of secularism, but apparently the constitution allows that. There’s also been a worry about the curtailing of freedom of speech in recent times. But then, in a democratic set-up, how far can anyone go? We still speak out strongly, we still hold our own. I worry more about countries that will not accept a democratic way of life.
Ruling India isn’t an easy task because it’s so diverse. History shows that it’s basically Hindu land. The people are rather benign and peace loving, even to a fault, allowing invaders to plunder the natural wealth of the country. Dictatorship has prevailed, and it’s mostly been kings and queens. This is the first time we’re under democratic rule. Things will take time, and I believe we’re moving in the right direction.
Politics interests me, yes, and there’s a natural aptitude to rush in where angels fear to tread. If there’s a dire need for a revolution, then all citizens must speak up, be proactive, the way they did during the freedom struggle. Right now, there’s nothing like that, and there’s already too many people into politics. Holding positions and offices does not interest me at all. Changing people’s attitude interests me; showing them how to personally get down to changing the world they live in. If they wanted to do away with corruption, how would they – not the government – go about doing it? If they wanted to do away with poverty, how would they – not the government – go about doing it? That interests me more.
STO: What brings you the greatest peace and happiness in life? What should we as individuals be striving after in order to find the deepest possible fulfillment?
GS: What brings you the greatest peace and happiness in life?
Again, to directly answer your question, I get the greatest peace and happiness in life by being a free person, free to make my own decisions and be responsible for them. When you’re given so much freedom, how you utilize it becomes a choice and using it wisely becomes a personal responsibility. At least, it has, in my case.
For a multi-tasker like me, life can be overwhelming. So I try to simplify my thoughts to a single point of focus: my planner for the day set according to my goals. This immediately sorts out my thoughts and helps me move on. You will find me going back to my planner several times during the day, arranging and re-arranging according to changing circumstances.
What should we as individuals be striving after in order to find the deepest possible fulfillment?
We should be striving for freedom all the time. Freedom to be accepted for who we really are – not a version of us that pleases someone else’s sensibilities. There can be nothing more fulfilling than feeling free with every breath we take.
If we do have that freedom, then the next step would be to live a balanced life and seek happiness. I believe in the four-legs-of-a-chair theory – a balancing out of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental needs – as being necessary to living a fulfilling life (just as it’s necessary for the four legs of a chair to be even in order for it to be balanced).
I think of happiness as an end in itself, and I find it strange when people are afraid to seek happiness. They sometimes call it “sin” and being “slave to the senses.” Trust me, seeking happiness is the best thing a person can do. Unjustifiably hurting someone – including yourself – whether in pursuit of happiness or otherwise – is what’s wrong (I believe in ‘justified hurting’. If someone’s being unreasonable, standing up for what you believe in is ‘justified hurting’).
So, yes, do seek happiness. This immediately gets you in touch with your own inner tailor-made self. You come to know that you like your steak cooked a certain way, that you like pink in a rose but not on a car, that you’re good at poetry but not prose, etc, etc. It also negates all external factors and competition and focuses attention completely on you. You’re now your own VIP. So then, set goals according to your happiness and passion.
We’re human beings, not robots. So, along with being focused on what we need to do and achieve, we need to be emotionally anchored; we need to build and cherish relationships, make time for our family and friends as well as our spirituality.
Truth is, it’s not everybody’s prerogative to be completely free to make their own choices. We’re often restricted by the society we live in, and yes, by marriage and other commitments. In which case, I believe life should then be treated like a game of rummy. Check your cards to see how you can best play the game of life, exchange your cards for ones that might hold even the smallest ray of hope. It can be as small as saving a one-rupee coin per day, or learning two lines of poetry by heart every day, or just paper and pen and some thoughts of your own….something that brings joy into your life.
It’s amazing how resilient the human spirit is, and you never know how far you can go by just shoveling away.
STO: Thank you again for your time, Glory. If there are any other concerns these questions didn’t cover that you’d care to speak about, please feel free. The floor belongs to you…
GS: Dear Scott, thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s an honor and privilege to be here with you on 17Numa. I find that the questions have been chosen with care to allow me the liberty to delve deep into the recesses of my own mind and collect and arrange my thoughts into comprehensive but precise replies. Strangely, it’s brought into immediate focus issues that have been lying dormant or those I’ve never really consciously thought about. I’ve found closure for some of these, and I’ve found an awakening of possibilities too. It’s also helped me finally vocalize some thoughts that I’ve wished to convey to my readers for a long time.
Over here, I would also like to tell you how much I appreciate all that you do, and how much you inspire me. I see you working very hard to put your poetry out there in the world, and I’ve become subtly aware that you’ve found your niche and are a distinct voice in the world of contemporary poetry. I know that you are relentless in your hard work, and I wish for you only the very best success in all your ventures. Good luck! And thank you so much, once again!