"The Fingers Remember" in the Sunday Guardian

"I read these poems at home, at work, on the metro, even on various DTC buses in the relentless May heat (the subject of a very short poem in this collection, incidentally). Not once did the poet allow my concentration to wander. It feels a little weird to call this a debut book. One reason is that it includes poems that I read for the first time years ago. But the other, more important reason is this: rarely do you come across a debut that is so assured in its style that you think you're reading someone with 20-odd books under their belt." So. A Facebook message I hadn't noticed in my "others" folder just brought this lovely review of the Fingers Remember to my notice. From the Sunday Guardian. From May 2015. Umm. Clearly, I need to get more on top of following my little book's journey into the big wide world!

Here it is now, though.

PS: Just to put it out there, I am the kind of poet who would _love_ to have a random person in a bookstore come up to talk about my work. Really. If you've done it, you know this. If you haven't, you should know it.

Muse India - Satish Verma Young Writer Award 2015

It's finally out and official: "The winner of the Muse India - Satish Verma Young Writer Award 2015 for poetry is Aditi Rao (for The Fingers Remember) for 'the range and variety of her poems, her innovative craft, the solidity of her images and the unflinching fortitude of her unique voice.'" Big thanks to Arpita Das for giving the book a home in the big, wide world. And a special shoutout to Akhil Katyal, my little book's favourite uncle, and my favourite person and poet to share a shortlist with!

A little more on the award below, from the press release:

"Muse India Young Writer Awards are given to recognise and encourage outstanding literary talent. The awards are given in the categories of poetry and fiction. Instituted by Muse India, the literary eJournal, the awards are given during the Hyderabad Literary Festival. A panel of senior professors, besides editors of Muse India, evaluated the entries to short-list books for the final round judged by nationally reputed writers. The panel included eminent poets and critics K Satchidanandan, Ranjit Hoskote, Meena Kandasamy, Sukrita Paul Kumar and GJV Prasad among others."

Here's the full, official announcement

The Threads that Connect Us

So, while I was doing my morning chanting on this independence day, I had a thought: What would happen if we chose to celebrate this as "interdependence day"? No, really, it isn't just a play on words. What would happen if Pakistan, Kashmir, and India decided to commemorate interdependence over the 14th and 15th of August (because let's face it, none of us can fully know peace, security, or freedom until we all do -- that's just the reality of our history and our present)? What would that celebration even look like? It seems like such a faraway possibility, and yet, it seems so necessary, so urgent.

Therefore commemorating this day by sharing an article I wrote for the "Common Threads" blog, recently started by the SGI quarterly, my favourite peace, culture, and education magazine. This was definitely among the most interesting pieces for me to write, not only because it helped me bring together many different experiences (all of them simultaneously personal, professional, and political), but also because it gave me a chance to talk about so many people very dear to me.

I look forward to the day when changing the names in the story won't feel like a necessary precaution for the individuals concerned, but for now, here are the stories: The Threads the Connect Us

Tasawwur presents "Walk!" on 22nd and 23rd May!

So, as many of you know, in my non-poet life, I also work with young people, exploring how to use the arts as a vehicle for social-justice education. Last November, I started Tasawwur, a collective of artists and educators, working towards this end, and we're just finishing up our first program cycle. Next week, we proudly present our first every show, "Walk!" -- a collaborative production inspired by the stories, struggles, dreams and hopes of a motley group of teenagers. The show is born out of a 4 month intensive arts-for-social-change curriculum, in which 12 teenagers, cutting across barriers of caste, class, gender, religion, and nationality, came together to teach each other about the social issues that affect them most deeply as well as the changes they dream of. “Walk!" is based on the lives and stories of the cast members; while no one plays their own part, the stories are all true. Facilitated by Tasawwur, a collective of artists and educators, this show brings together song, choreography, tableaus, and stories to take the audience through the world these young people inhabit and the more inclusive world that they dream of.

Walk! is open to the public, but seating is limited, so the audience is requested to arrive early. While there is no charge for the tickets, we welcome donations to cover our costs. Proceeds raised at the event will be divided between Studio Safdar and Tasawwur.

When: 22nd and 23rd May, 7 PM Where: Studio Safdar (Near Shadipur Metro Station)

See you there?


If you'd like to know more about Tasawwur, here is a brief description, or visit our website here, or our Facebook page here. We are always looking for volunteers, donors, and participants, so do get in touch if this excites you :)

In the News, for Different Reasons

As some of you might know, I have recently launched an arts-for-social-change program for teenagers in Delhi, under the ChangeLoomsWith.in fellowship. Happy to see the initiative being recognised -- we have only taken our first baby steps yet, but here's to hoping this grows as serendipitously and magically as the rest :) (apologies to folks with low vision or others who use screen readers. I tried, but failed, to get a copy of this text that I could upload as background text, and this photo isn't great either. I wish you could all read this, but I'm running up against the internet here :( )

Also: typo in the headline! But maybe yes, this time round, chance rather than change -- agli baari se change hoga, pakka! ;) 10648429_882584578430576_8960341097686619110_o

City of Flowers

I've been moved over the past week to see my ghazal "City of Flowers," written as the only way I could speak about the recent killings in Peshawar, find its way around Facebook, shared by some friends and many strangers. I'm never more grateful for having words than when I find them resonating with others at difficult moments.

Today, a pleasant surprise to discover that it made it into a newspaper in Pakistan. Usually, I'd do some writerly cribbing about the way the formatting was completely messed up (poets spend a lot of timethinking through stanza breaks, alignment, italics, and things like that, people!), but in this case, I'm just grateful these words found their way to some of the strangers for whom they were written.

To the many whoevers who made that happen (and the ones who got the photograph to me!), thank you. Click here for the full text from the Aman ki Asha website, or read the photograph or full text of my poem (correctly formatted!) below.

city of flowers poem

City of Flowers  For Peshawar, 16 December 2014

My temples pound with laughters that died today. Fences collapse. No this side that side today.

I made a hundred thirty two paper dolls, drew neckties, burned them one by one, then finally cried today.

A bloodied pencil. A broken ruler. The impossibility of measurement. No desks under which to hide today.

A teacher who saved two hundred lives, cries when called a hero. A heart too tight for pride today.

Mine is not the grey silence of the unmoved. The matted hair has left me tongue-tied today.

And the dead, listening to the wails of those who remain: do you, at least, have someone in whom to confide today?

To leave the city’s famed flowers blooming, or to lay them all at gravesides — who should decide today?

Your cliches do not warm them, Aditi. If you say more, you will have lied today.

Reading at Poetry with Prakriti

Happy to announce that I will be reading from my new book at the inaugural event of "Poetry with Prakriti" (associated with The Hindu's "Lit for Life" festival), along with 10 other poets, this Wednesday, 3rd December, at 7 PM in Alliance Francaise in Chennai. I'll also be doing a longer reading at Kalakshetra at 2 PM, also on the 3rd.

Do come to one or both if you're in Chennai, or direct some of your friends over if you aren't :)

Poetry with Prakriti Invitation