Dr Angelee Deodhar, a haiku poet from India.
Below is an interview with her conducted by Narayanan Raghunathan:
Ques1. You were born just before the Indian Independence ? Were you born in Shimla the idyllic Himalayan terrain?
Please tell us about your parents, ancestory and your early pre-school memories. Do you have any special memories of the Partition Of India ?
I was born in Lahore on 20th July, 1947. My father was a doctor in the army and we traveled a lot all over the country.
My grandparents [both paternal and maternal] had to flee Lahore during the partition and when they crossed over to Amritsar at that time there was no milk to be had and they witnessed the worst of the massacre which you see depicted in films / serials like"Tamas". Being an infant at that time, obviously I would have no memories of that period. However, what I heard from my relatives was appalling.
Ques2. Do you remember somebody specially from your childhood?
Yes, my parents: my father, Lt. Col. R.L. Mehta who was the one person who affected my life in every way. I wanted to be a doctor just like him. My mother, though a housewife, was very fond of books and gardening and gave me the values which shaped my love for nature.
Ques3. Which languages did you speak at home? Were you polylingual early in life?
Yes, we spoke in both English and Hindi. My parents spoke to each other in Punjabi. Both of them insisted that we converse in English all the time except for when we had to talk to the domestics and then we used Hindi.
Ques4. Where was your early schooling? Who were your special teachers and friends? Are you still in contact with any of them.
My early schooling was in Sacred Heart Convent, Dalhousie where I spent one year. Subsequently I was educated in The Lawrence School, Sanawar amidst sylvan surroundings of the hills of Himachal Pradesh. All my teachers were special. At that time discipline was the key and as this school was a purely residential one we had very strict rules. Only one of my teachers is still alive and I have met him a couple of times. I had many good friends in school but lost touch with most of them once I joined medical college.
Ques5. What were your childhood dreams and aspirations?
My childhood dream / aspiration was to be a doctor just like my father. As far back as I can remember I used to be "doctoring" my dolls and had a box of medicines and an old stethoscope which was one of my favorite toys.
Ques6. Did you listen to / learn any form of music?
Yes, I did listen to lots of music both at home and at school. I had started to learn the Sitar but had to give it up as in school we could have only one hobby. I had to choose between art and music and so I chose art.
Ques7. Did you paint as a child? Did you have any formal training?
Yes, all the time! My aunts told me that ever since I could hold a pencil I would be drawing their portraits or flowers or something. No, I have never had any formal training at all. Even during our hobby classes in Sanawar I was not instructed in any kind of drawing. My art teacher Mr. Bhalerao was kind enough to let me have a free hand and allowed me to draw / paint whatever I fancied.
Ques8. Did you like poetry as a child?
Yes, very much so and memorized many poems by heart. Of course I did not know that haiku existed. I was drawn to all the forms of English poetry and enjoyed reading Shakespeare as well as other British poets.
Ques9. Please tell us any other things about your child hood that you may want to share with the readers.
I often got into trouble for talking too much and as I had pet white mice in school for giggling too much when the mice ran up and down my shirt. I also feel that the education I got at Sanawar and at home basically discipline laced with lots of informal learning and a love for books made me what I am today.
Do you have brother(s) and /or sister(s) ? Could you please say something about them?
I only have one younger brother, no sisters. He is a nephrologist, who lives and works in San Diego, USA.
Now coming to later school days, did you play any physical games?
Yes, I played many games, Tennis, Badminton, Hockey, and took part in athletics.
Did you participate in extra curricular activities like debating, dramatics elocution etc?
Yes, I was very active in debates and dramatics.
Were you specially attracted to science because of your childhood desire to become a doctor?
Yes, and also because of the fact that we lived very close to nature. This love for the environment was imbued in me by both my parents. My mother was a very keen gardener.
Do you remember some poem(s) which specially inspired you in school?
Yes, one poem which I have always loved more than others is Rudyard Kipling's "If". However, I developed a great love for all kinds of poetry from Shakespearean sonnets to the limericks of Edward Lear.
When did you first attempt your poetry. What was it about ? Do you still keep it with you?
As far as I can remember, I wrote poems even in school. At that time it was great fun to write limericks and nature poems. No, I don't have any of my early poems with me.
When did you complete school ? Are there some special memories associated with leaving the Alma Mater.
I completed school in 1963. Leaving Sanawar was one of the saddest moments of my life. I loved my school and had spent the best years of my life there.
What did you do after school? Did you join for medicine immediately? Where did you do your medicine? Which medical college?
After school I had to wait for six months before I could enroll in the pre-medical program. I joined the Armed Forces Medical College [AFMC], Pune in 1965. I chose not to accept the stipend and therefore did not have to serve in the forces after completion of my course.
Any special memories about medical college and intimate friends?
Most of my friends were the happy-go-lucky types but most of them also shared my love for reading.
Did you write poetry then in college? Are there any early publications?
Yes, I wrote poetry in college. No, no publications.
Did you participate in other extra curricular activities including sports in college?
When did you complete your graduation and where did you specialize in ophthalmology after that for your post- graduation?
I completed my graduation in 1971. After internship, I worked as a house surgeon in various mission hospitals. I did my post graduation in Ophthalmology in BJMC, Pune.
Where did you practice first? What are your early experiences as a practicing physician?
I always worked in mission hospitals. In these places I learnt how to look after patients with love and not treat them just as clinical entities.
When did you marry? Something about Dr. Deodhar please ~
I married in Jan 1981. My husband, Dr. Shridhar D. Deodhar is a world renowned Rheumatologist, a pioneer in his field. He retired from the prestigious PGIMER, Chandigarh as the Head of Department of Internal Medicine and is currently doing private practice. We have one son Ananth, who is a computer professional.
When did you start writing poetry regularly?
1989, when I fell sick.
Who are your favourite poets in world literature?
This is very difficult to answer as I enjoy every kind of poetry.
Do you still write poetry other than Haiku?
No, not any more though I still enjoy reading other kinds of poetry.
Please be kind to share with us some general memories associated with your Family
Ours was a family which had a very strict disciplinarian code of conduct but which in the long run gave us the values which have stood us in good stead.
There weren't too many overt demonstrations of affection but our birthdays were celebrated as also special festivals like Diwali.
When did you first hear about Haiku and read it?
In the year 1989
When did you first sense and write your haiku?
I started experimenting with the form in 1989-90.
When did you start publishing Haiku?
In the 90s.
What did you read in Haiku / about Haiku? Who inspired you most among the Haijin[s] old and new?
I thought of haiku as a minimalist nature poem with great imagery. Almost everybody I read inspired me. As I mentioned earlier, there were not many sources for haiku and I had a hard time acquiring books. William J. Higginson's book "How to read, write and share haiku" is still my all time favourite.
When did you get interested in Haiga? Please tell us something about your haiga work and how you derived your inspiration. Do you still do Haiga?
I have always been drawing and sketching. Once I learnt the basics of Paint Brush program on the computer I started playing around and adding images to my own and other people's haiku. I still dabble in haiga as and when I feel like it.
Do you write Tanka, Haibun, Senryu etc. too?
I am particularly fond of writing Haibun and though I enjoy Tanka and Senryu I do not write these.
Tell us some of your special experiences with the international haiku community?
Please keep this as a separate question which I will answer at leisure some other time.
What are the Haiku and Poetry books you have published?
None so far except for a small chapbook in 2000 called "Pail in Hand".
Your translation of Japanese Haiku via English into Hindi is a very commendable effort? What prompted you in this venture?
Thank you. I felt I must do something for my colleagues who are writing in Hindi to
Do you read Haiku written In Hindi / Punjabi ? Which are the Hindi/ Punjabi magazines that publish Haiku? Do you write Haiku in Hindi or Punjabi?
I do not know Punjabi except to speak in it. Yes, I read haiku in Hindi and I have translated my own English language haiku into Hindi. There are several magazines in Hindi now publishing haiku, however the ones exclusively to haiku are, Haiku Bharati, Haiku Darpan, and Kavitashri.
What are your special suggestions and hints to new Haiku poets?
My main suggestion to any poet established or new is to read and continue to learn from good journals and books about haiku and allied short forms of Japanese poetry. Now with so much available on the internet this should not be a problem.
The need to improve ones knowledge and skill in writing haiku is paramount. Publication should not be the primary goal of any haijin.
Do you have any special plans for the future? Or some dream awaiting to be fulfilled?
a) to increase the level of understanding of the haiku genre in India
b) to place Indian poets squarely on the International haiku scene.
Dreams? One has so many dreams I would like to travel more, write more, have more than 24 hours each day. : )
Anything more you want to share with your readers?
Could you please give us about fifteen of your own favourite Haiku ~ Also, please give us links to your own favourite Haiga?
This will have to wait, I will send this to you later.
Thank you for your patience.
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