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When a poet goes on the air

Her poetry — and her profession as radio announcer at Kochi FM — is an attempt to communicate to the world. In a talk with ANAND HARIDAS.


Poetry, it is said, is the urge from deep inside to communicate to the world outside. This is true for V.M. Girija, who writes to tell the world about her personal pains and dreams. She has been doing this for the last couple of decades, not just through poems, but as a radio announcer too.

Ms. Girija has been trying to establish this invisible contact all through her career.

"We need to acknowledge that people's lifestyles have changed, and that communication media changed along with them too. And, we need to realise that the space given to everything in our life — be it reading, cooking or love — has shrunken."

This shift in priorities has echoed in her works. In poems like Chitra and Andhar Parasparam, in which she returns to classical literature, Girija uses characters from the ancient texts to drive home contemporary messages. While the former is a combination of monologues by Chitra and Arjunan, the latter is a dialogue between Drutharashtra and Gandhari. Love and compassion are recurring motifs in her works. "It is wrong to categorise poems, or poets, on the basis of themes. It happened to Balamaniamma. She was labelled as a poet of maternal love, but her poetry had much more than maternal love in it."

Ms. Girija struggles hard to break free of these categories and remain in a wider world, where she can react instinctively to life around. "Love and compassion are not traits we can only expect from mother. We must go beyond these pre-defined roles for individuals." This applies to poets too, she asserts.

Her career as radio announcer — she joined All India Radio in 1983 and moved to Kochi when the FM Station opened in 1989 — has brought her voice home to a loyal club of radio listeners, who are yet to be swayed away by television channels.

"Many people recognise me when I go shopping, just because of my voice."

Voice is her another link to the wide world. It also gives her a chance to feel the pulse of the contemporary society — through the radio's phone-in programmes. "I have often felt that the present day society does not know its priorities and needs.

Even while requesting for songs in the phone-in programmes, rarely does anyone ask for old songs. A majority want only recent film songs. This could be an indicator that our society is losing its memory and that it is fast becoming mechanical," she laments. In her poem, Nagaravishu, the poet, compelled to live in a city apartment, tries to recollect a childhood spent in the midst of smells and colours of her native village.

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