Kala Krishnan, who is also a professor at Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru, in an interview with TNM shares that Carnatic music and devotional songs influenced her writing.

Author Kala Krishnan seated in a gardenKinshuk Rawat
Features Interview Saturday, August 28, 2021 - 16:24

“The character of Murugan is intriguing, however, what fascinated me more was his love for poets, scholars,” says Bengaluru-based author Kala Krishnan whose book Mahasena was published in July. The book—which is the first instalment of her trilogy—is a mythological tale about the south Indian deity Lord Murugan. Kala observed that she had heard about different legends based on the deity and different traits attributed to him as God of Love, an angry God or one who valued language, which she found fascinating. “Focusing on all the stories in one book  was not possible, so I decided to divide it into a trilogy. The plot is chronological and I have conceptualised the overarching story, but the smaller details, I’m working on,” the author adds when questioned about the further instalments. The books will be titled after his two wives Theivanai and Valli, she said.

Apart from the trilogy dedicated to the deity, Kala, has written two collections of poems based on Lord Murugan named He Is Honey, Salt and the Most Perfect Grammar and Offer Him All Things Charred, Burned and Cindered. The author, who is also a professor and teaches creative writing at Bengaluru’s Mount Carmel College, says that she happened to write a poem during a class one day and later continued writing poems, which finally took the shape of two collections. After her second collection was published in 2018, she began working on the novels.

“During 2019, I spoke to my editors, who liked the idea of my writing prose. I was to have sent the manuscript of part 1, by April 2020, but I found it difficult to write during the pandemic. And the deadline was pushed,” she said.

However, the book she adds took a lot of time to be reworked upon. “While writing, I did not encounter many problems, but I had not focused enough on the novel as a whole, but worked on it, as I would have worked on poetry, my editors pointed out. And that reworking took time, but was enjoyable.”

The book Mahasena written by Kala Krishnan (Instagram: Kala Krishnan)

When quizzed about the authors or literature that influenced her, Kala notes that she felt gravitated towards early Tamil poetry, loosely termed Sangam literature and Bhakti (devotional) poetry. The importance placed on nature in the literature, she said, was beguiling for her. Kala, who also teaches a course on Introduction to Indian Literature, said that she began reading Sangam literature more after she began teaching the course nearly 15 years ago.

“My Tamil is not strong enough yet to fully comprehend how it happens, but the music in all this poetry is something I would like to understand and I’m learning Tamil. The attention to nature in both the Sangam literature and bhakti literature is something that has affected me," said Kala.

The author also opined that Carnatic music and devotional songs that she listens to, influenced her writing. “Whether my choice of music influences my writing or vice versa, I don’t know, but there’s indeed a co-relation between the two.”

Although Kala’s poems were first published in the late 2010s, she started writing poems in the late 80s when she was an adolescent. “But it is only recently that I wrote poetry that felt good enough to be published," the author quips. “It was during a school break, when I was fifteen, that I wrote my first poem. It was at a camp I was attending. After that I wrote a lot, imitating the stiles of many poets. I struggled to rework these poems, because I could not hear myself in them. Only when I began hearing my voice in my poems, did I find it possible to rework," the author explains.

Kala is presently focused on the trilogy. She may go back to writing poems once done, but adds that she would like to take a break though. “At the moment I am focused on completing the trilogy. I will probably write more poetry after that. I don’t have any concrete writing plans now, but after the trilogy is done, I will take a break and see what comes,” she concludes

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