Conducted by Elena Fite, PD Poetry Editor, Newsletter Curator, and Social Media Assistant.
1. Your piece, RUN, has a message to everyone who reads it. A plea for help as well as a shocking revelation as to the state of your home country, India. What would you like everyone to know about this situation, foreigners and natives alike?
RUN was written in a state of shock and disgust at the state of safety of women in my country, India. It is a painful anecdote, unfortunately very personal to not only me, but millions of women in India and across the world. Women’s Safety is an issue that is often politicised: it is used as bait whenever deemed fit and ignored otherwise. With approximately 88 rape cases reported every day in 2019 in India, excluding the many cases that go unreported each day, women live in constant fear. The most heart wrenching part is that it has, extremely unfortunately, been normalised and we have been forced to accept this reality. It is high time that actions are taken, voices are raised, and changes are made; in personal lives and at social levels. Boys and men need to be held responsible; be educated about consent, respect, and rights (among other basic yet integral ideas). Friends need to correct each other when an offensive comment is made, and the normalisation and tolerance of ‘rape’ must come down to zero. ‘Rape culture’ shows itself in the habits of people way before it effectively materialises itself. THIS HAS TO BE STOPPED. DO NOT STAY QUIET. You can prevent rape just by speaking up at the right time.
2. Often, survivors are made to feel powerless at the hands of their abusers. Sometimes, it goes beyond just our abusers that make us feel powerless - such as the current situation with some police and government forces. Do you feel that poetry and other forms of creative expression are a good way to get the message out about what's happening behind metaphorical closed doors (both in our own homes and on a larger scale)?
Unequivocally. Art is much more than just entertainment, which shall continue to be a part of it. Art is how an artist screams into the universe, wishing to be heard. If we turn the pages of history, most knowledge about our past comes from various mediums of art and its integral role in almost all major historical events is indisputable. Creative expression is an integral part of any social change. Every individual has their own way of getting their message out and each and every way is equally important in the collective process of spreading awareness and bringing about a social transformation. Abusers and oppressors can only make us ‘feel’ powerless. They can never strip us of our power as it lies within us. Art helps one discover their inner strength and provides them a medium to channelize it. When an echo is heard from every corner, the message is bound to strengthen in its intensity and impact.
3. Many are told the best (or sometimes, the only) way to heal from our trauma is to forgive the ones who have hurt us. Do you believe forgiveness of the ones who have hurt us has any place in the healing process?
Healing is personal to each individual and to generalise what it means would be unfair. I believe that sometimes forgiving helps one get rid of the weight that they have been carrying. However, not everyone deserves to be forgiven and we don't owe anyone to forgive them. Forgiveness comes as a realisation. One day you may feel in your heart that you're ready to let go of the hurt and forgive the person, or you may feel that they don't deserve to be forgiven but you deserve to move ahead in life and so you will. Forgiveness is a choice that does not impact one's healing and is rather a consequence of the same, that too, not necessarily. How one heals is something someone else shouldn’t be allowed to judge because nobody can understand their pain or trauma.4. What or whom would you say has been the biggest inspiration in your work?
Do breakdowns count as inspiration?
I am a very emotional and highly empathetic person. My work often reflects these intense emotions because I tend to shift the weight from within me and into my words. My inspiration will have to be the very extremes of my emotions and the backstories of the same.
As a 10 year old I needed someone to turn to. I felt extremely alone in my struggles as a child and the reason why I share my work today is to reach that one person who needs to know that they are not alone. I write about the darkest of corners in my head to let people know that they are not alone in the shadows. When the lights go out we are unable to see anyone else in the room and that’s when fear sets in. If we’re holding the hand of a friend that fear suddenly seems surmountable. I didn’t have a hand to reach out to when I needed it most and I try to do my part in making sure nobody else feels that way.
5. What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I am not one to do a lot of planning and that is NOT a good thing considering my anxiety. However, I do dream of publishing my own book (might be working on it already). I want to study the art of poetry too but for now I plan on pursuing a Bachelor's in Technology after completing my schooling.
One thing that I most definitely will do, is continually try to reach out to as many people as I can and spread awareness about topics of mental health, eating disorders and the like which are often overlooked.
A last thing I would like to say to the readers is- you are valid. Your emotions are valid. Your fears don’t define you or make you a coward. Your thoughts don’t define you or make you a bad person. How you choose to act on them makes all the difference. You are not alone in your struggles. Be kind to yourself because healing is a long journey with its fair share of ups and downs which leads to a beautiful place of realising your worth. Love and light to each one of you.
Writing since age 11, Shriya Bajpai [She/Her] addresses topics of mental health and trauma. She writes with the purpose of reaching out to those who may find refuge in her work and sometimes, to find refuge in it herself. Currently she is 18 and is completing her schooling from Delhi, India.