Meet Yash Raj Goswami, aka aviD, The “Purplexed” Writer of YourQuote
Our veteran writer Bharath Nandibhatla caught up with one of the best writers of the platform, Yash Raj Goswami aka aviD. In this interview, Bharath asks the right questions to unravel the personality of this gifted writer.
Sky, a wide expanse of Blue.
Twilight, a tinge of Red.
Somewhere in between,
they blend, a fine Purple.
An imagination, sky-high,
a perspective, ocean-deep,
somewhere in between,
around the ever expanding horizon,
they blend, a fine Purplexion.
— Bharath Nandibhatla on Yash Raj Goswami
1. Describe yourself in 1200 characters (250 words). Imagine writing a tiny autobiography.
Hello, I am called Yash Raj Goswami. Like every other middle class boy of my age, I was expected to get an engineering degree. I fulfilled the expectation as best as I could. But I realised that engineering was not something I could be best at, not even good at, so I bid it adieu, and took up teaching as a profession. I must admit: I was always keen on becoming a teacher ever since I was a child. While working I simultaneously pursued an M.A. in English Literature. Life has, however, brought me back where I began because now I am working as a trainer with a private engineering college. That’s more or less the summary of my professional life.
When I am not working, I could be found eating, sleeping, reading, writing, watching TV, Facebooking, but mostly, brooding. I call myself part time teacher and full time brooder. I am a guarded person — it’s difficult to break the shell. But the paradox is that I am constantly looking for people who could break the shell. I am a bundle of paradoxes in so many ways that I can’t describe here. I thrive on good fiction, home-cooked vegetarian food, Hindustani Classical music, and stimulating conversations in whichever form. I love hoarding books in the hope that I will find enough time one day to read all of them. My cultural and aesthetic sensibility is very desi. Because I have been brought up in a very conservative vaishnav household, there is a deep imprint of it on my psyche, and, by extension, my creative work.
2. Since I can’t hold this question any longer, shooting it right away:
What’s the story behind your pen name, aviD?
Ah, I really don’t like to talk about it much, because there’s not much to say. Some things must be left to the reader’s imagination. But if you insist, in Sanskrit vid is the root for knowledge. The word vidya comes from there. ‘Vid’ in Sanskrit also means one who knows. Because I am a person who doesn’t know much, I am avid. Let’s just say that’s one way to look at it.
3. Humility at its best. :) What started you with writing? What keeps you going as a writer?
While growing up, I neither aspired to write nor did I write. But I was always fascinated by language and people who could employ language effectively and artistically. I think it’s critical to develop a reader’s sensibility before developing a writer’s sensibility. I started writing much later, after I finished college actually. So I suppose what got me started was this desire to have a romance with language. Now I think it’s almost become a compulsive habit. There is so much suffering and beauty in the world that it demands to be written. Writing is perhaps a way of dressing up the suffering, a feeble attempt to at least make it look less ugly; at the same time it is a way of amplifying beauty and preserving it so you can savour it twice.
4. Wow! And you still call yourself an avid? Nobody could have summed it better. I think you should read those pieces you write, more often. Who/What are your major influences in life? (Both as a writer and as a person)
I can’t seem to think of individuals who have influenced me. I mean the list will be virtually endless. I think all the people you read/meet/love/hate influence you and your work some way or the other. It’s a subconscious process, really. I mean, it happens whether or not you’re aware of it. But like I said, I have grown up in a vaishnav household, so some of my earliest literary influences were the vaishnav poets that I read/heard as a child and then my experiences of growing up as a gay boy.
5. Teaching, one of the noblest professions ever. Why were you keen on becoming a teacher ever since your childhood?
I was an impressionable kid. Teachers are the first set of people whom you get wowed by, when you step out of your home. So maybe, I just wanted to be as impressive as my teachers. I used to come home and emulate my teachers. I remember my parents becoming fed up of my habit of scrawling on the walls to the point that they had to buy me a blackboard when I was about six or seven.
6. Passion and Profession. Where’s the fine line? What are your views on it?
I don’t think it’s always possible to marry the two. You win some, you lose some. One usually can’t have it all unless you’re very lucky. But I believe there must something that you must be passionate about, something around which you can shape your life. For some people their career is their passion — I have respect for such people, but I am not one of those, never been one of those. I respect my profession. I do my job as best as I can, but I don’t dream about it. You can’t romanticize your profession. Like I don’t romanticize teaching anymore. It’s a job. Sometimes students are interested in the shit you’re saying, sometimes they are not. You can’t take it to your heart. You have to do your job.
7. That’s very well put.
As the exceptional writer that you are, what do you think is most rewarding about being a writer?
Haha! That’s very kind of you. I seriously consider myself to be a mediocre writer. But maybe that’s the perk of not being a professional writer — you can afford to be mediocre. I try to better myself but I also realize there’s a long way to go. About the rewards: I think it’s a mix of lot of things. If I am not mistaken, it was Orwell who’d said that all writers are narcissists — we revel in the appreciation we get. People who say otherwise are lying. You want your words to be recorded and persist, hopefully even after you’re no more around, and of course appreciated. It’s cathartic too, yes. But then, the catharsis should not be achieved at the cost of boring your readers. Writing (especially poetry) is also a like a photograph of a thought or an experience. A photograph captures the external reality, whereas words capture your internal reality. You want to preserve that thought/experience for future’s sake, to look back at it and savour it, cringe at it, marvel at it, express shock at it or to just laugh it off. It always feels nice when someone comes up to you and tells you that they relate to what you wrote. And if some money trickles in too — then nothing better. ;)
8. All writers are narcissists, damn right!
From earning a degree in Engineering to pursuing an M.A. in English Literature, and now working as a trainer in an Engineering college, how has this journey been?
Fulfilling. I had wanted to study literature right after school, but I was snubbed and was told that boys don’t study literature, not boys who have to go out and earn the bread for their family. But then I somehow managed to return to it later on. I think the study of humanities changes your outlook in a way that even the study of science cannot, maybe because of the way science is taught to us. We are only taught concepts and experiments; there is no emphasis on instilling a scientific and rational temper in the students. We are taught to believe what we are told; we are taught not to question, or look at things from a different perspective. Humanities does that. Literature is the confluence of sociology, history, and literary aesthetics, and thus dear to me.
9. I can relate to your answer on so many levels. What’s the best lesson that life taught you so far?
Wow! That’s heavy-duty! I think one thing that makes some sense to me is that nothing will fully make sense to you ever. In other words, there is no black and white. To every narrative, there is always a counter-narrative. I love the metaphor of amrit-manthan from the Hindu iconography. The churning is eternal and perpetual. And one of our greatest struggles is to find a sense of balance in this vigorous churn. People who are rigid about their positions end up missing out on a lot. The world will never be the kind of place you want it to be.
10. Admittedly an ‘aviD’ reader of Purplexion, I always wondered what draws you to this colour, Purple? Tell us about what got you started with Purplexion.
You’re very sweet, Bharath. Thank you for following Purplexion. Purple is a personal favourite, yes, again because it is symbolic of a reconciliation between the fiery passion of Red and the cool, rational detachment of Blue. If pink or red is for women, and blue is for men, then purple is for people who don’t neatly fall into the binaries. Also, life has a way of keeping me always perplexed. There was this one friend who was insistent that I start an FB page. That’s how Purplexion started.
11. Thank you for pouring such insights on purple, they’ve changed my entire perspective on this colour. So, how did you come to know about YourQuote? What hooks you to it?
I guess I was one of the first few users of the app. I saw Harsh’s Facebook post where he talked about it. I liked the idea. I was looking for something of this sort, something that’s simple, flexible, and user-friendly. And lo and behold I found YourQuote. I think what hooks me to it is that it eggs you on to write in a community where there’s always inspiration/appreciation/critique to be found.
12. If there’s a novel based on your life, what would it be called?
God, that will make for a hell of a depressing read! I think it could be called ‘From the Margins’.
13. Given that your writings are from deep unexplored corners of the soul, the title sounds misleading. ;)
Your YQ Bio reads: Part time teacher, full time brooder. I’m glad to have found a fellow brooder in you. :D Do you think melancholy is an important element of prose/poetry? If not, what is?
I am reluctant to generalize; I can speak for myself and I think, yes, most of my work is, for better or worse, coloured with melancholy. Melancholy is one emotion that lends itself very well to my writing. So I think we love each other mutually. I wish I could write about sunshine and glee with as much of an abandon, but I just can’t. To my mind, the colour of melancholy too is purple. It’s not black or gray, but a deeper shade of purple. Even if you look at the origin of Indian classical poesy, the word ‘shloka’(verse) is derived from ‘shoka’(grief). That says something.
14. I believe we’re all bundles of paradoxes in our own way. What exactly do you imply when you say “Break the shell”?
I think any introvert would relate to this paradox of shying away from people yet secretly wanting someone to come and draw you out of your shell. I have had the good fortune of meeting a few people who have borne with my idiosyncrasies and have tried to draw me out and made me do things that I by myself would’ve never done. I think you always yearn for that person(s) who could touch the kernel of your innermost thoughts, without your having to say them. Of course, it’s impossible and maybe that’s why we take to writing. Writing is undressing yourself before the public, but artfully.
15. Amazing! That’s a great perspective.
What are some of your favourite books or novels? Give us a peek into this hoard of unread books you’ve been talking about, maybe?
I am horribly under-read, I feel. My TBR list is endless. There are so many classics and so many contemporary gems that I haven’t read. I have talked about some of my reading-woes here. Some of my favourites are The Half Of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, Memories Of Rain, The Easter Parade, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Lovers and the Leavers, The Colour Purple, Jane Eyre, The Sapiens (non-fiction),The Catcher in the Rye, The Untitled…there are so many. I am always a bit hesitant to name the books I’ve loved. I somehow feel reading is such an intimate affair. It feels as though I am publicly naming all my lovers. But I have realized of late that I am always more inclined to read women writers.
16. While you say you’ve been brought up in a conservative household, your works are vastly uninhibited and equally thought-provoking. Is that another paradox in the bundle of paradoxes that you are?
Indeed, it is. Although I have had a very religious upbringing, now I am nearly an atheist. And the loss of faith is one of the biggest losses I have had to deal with. There are times I try to reconcile with the loss through my writing. I am not at all religious now, so much so that I have grown averse to all religious practices if they are followed blindly without any consideration for their social and ecological repercussions. I am still deeply moved by culture though. Now I take delight in it in a detached manner. I am able to appreciate its aesthetics objectively without being a fanatic.
17. Who are your favourite writers on YourQuote?
I like Anubhav Srivastava for his surreal imagery, you for your quality of being simple yet sharp, Sara Jothi for her imagination, Parag for his sharp wit. Pardeep Chahal and Mayank Dadu are brilliant in Hindi writing. Mohini Dhankar and Yansi Keim have tremendous potential. Akshata Mishra and Sobhan Parmanik too are stunning. I think I am only being repetitive because these are indeed the most recognized writers. I am always on a look out for newer pastures, so to speak.
18. Thank you for the mention. :)
What is your dearest possession? Share a picture and describe it in 3–4 lines.
I have no material possession that I hold dearest. I have things that are dear to me for various reasons (mostly sentimental or aesthetic). But no pictures. I am a private person, remember? ;)
19. Is there anything you wish to say to the current crop of writers?
I don’t think I am the right person to be dishing out advices, for I am myself a novice. Plus, there’s plenty of advice on the internet available already. Our own in-house expert YQ Baba has some really effective tips.
But because I have observed a lot of posts that revolve around break-up and heart-breaks, I am just going to say this: of course there’s a huge demand for such thoughts because we as a generation love to feel victimized. The irony is that we are the best placed in terms of almost every socio-economic index, but emotionally we feel the most fucked-up, thus the high demand of such thoughts. Bollywood has also made a break-up song now. Just do a search on YQ and see how many thousands of posts will have the word ‘scars’. I keep wondering if all of us are scarred then who is giving us these scars.
I have nothing against it. I do it too. My only suggestion is that don’t seek pity. Make art out of your suffering. Don’t be a sob-story. No one likes naked sadness. You have got to dress it up. Like I’ve said before art is the pretty dress we weave to cover the naked ugliness of reality. Try to avoid clichés as much as possible. I mean, “I was your password and you’re mine” and “I wanted love, He wanted lust” is done to death now. Make me tear up with something new. I would love to cry, but make it worthwhile.
Bharath: I’m going to treasure this experience, Yash. This interview’s been one of a kind. Thank you, YourQuote for bestowing upon me the honour to interview this gem of a person.
Here are some of aviD’s best works on YourQuote:
Follow more of his writings on http://yourquote.in/yash-raj-goswami-b9b/quotes/