N: Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
A: Writing. And stuff I can do with my hand, such as block printing. I like natural fabrics and patterns, and learning about different textile techniques. But normally it’s writing. Yoga for sure. Food - both cooking and eating. When I started living on my own, my ambition was that if I want to eat something, I should be able to cook it. I find that quite therapeutic.
N: Do you remember the last time you lost track of time?
A: It’s normally if I’m writing something or reading a crime novel. The last time I was writing, it was poetry which I’d never done before, as part of a workshop, and the final feedback I got was that I sounded very angry. The instructor said that I have a lot of anger in me, which I thought was interesting because I had always assumed it was something slightly less aggressive, like passion. It was a workshop over a couple of weekends, they give you cues and you can write whatever you were feeling strongly about.
"Writing poetry is a good way to channel anger (or frustration) constructively."
N: Perhaps you were stressed at work that week?
A: (Laughs) Ya, of which went into the writing. But I realised there were unresolved issues (not work haha) and writing poetry is a good way to channel anger (or frustration) constructively. I did feel lighter after it.
N: When did you start learning poetry writing?
A: I didn’t learn, I think I just have it in me (laughs). I can’t rhyme or anything, but I think the idea of having to be more disciplined than prose makes you really boil down what you are feeling to the essence of it. Every first Monday, at BluJazz, they have like a speakeasy where everyone does spoken word. I went for those and I was amazed by it, and realised there’s a lot of support for it. It was very inspiring how brave some people are. Honestly I’ve only started writing this about 2 years ago and not very frequently. But I do enjoy it - the disciplined thinking especially.
N: Disciplined thinking?
A: Yes. When you have to think about the root cause of why you are writing something that you feel so strongly about, you sometimes realise that you may be annoyed with something (or someone...) completely different from what you assumed when you started.
N: So have you published any of your works online?
A: I’ve been too scared to publish my work, and to put it out, and know what people will think. But I have recently set up a website. Not publishing the poetry bits (yet). I think it can get very specific and personal sometimes, because it’s something you’re trying to get off your chest. My website will mostly be about food and mountains. Not of food and restaurant reviews (I don’t really understand the end point to that), but of food and how it impacts a culture (hopefully). The website is live, but it isn’t ready for public launch.
"I don’t know if its a geek fest for me or whether it’s something people are interested in. That’s interesting to me. Not sure who would pay me for it though."
N: So let’s say you could choose do one thing all day long, and get paid for it. What would that be?
A: Difficult to choose one. Like you know, I’d like to write, and get paid for it. I like the whole concept of the history of food, where it came from, and understanding traditional dishes that's makes up part of a culture. Like Singapore, there are so many foreign influences that came from it being part of the various trade routes. Similar to the part of India that I came from. I don’t know if its a geek fest for me or whether it’s something people are interested in. That’s interesting to me. Not sure who would pay me for it though.
N: You’re also an avid hiker. Tell us more about it. I have good memories of our conversations on hiking.
A: It surprises a lot of people. I don’t look like an athlete. I like how mountains make me feel so tiny. It started when I was working at Madras (Chennai). One of my colleagues who used to run ultra marathons asked me to go with her on a trek. My first trek was in the Ghats of Western India. We did the route that was along an abandoned railway track. We thought it was abandoned but they had actually started test runs. When we were crossing the bridges over the gorges, there was a possibility of a train coming behind us. We had to run across these and I am terrified of heights. I think that adrenaline rush is something that’s never left me.
Years later, she suggested we go to the Himalayas, and we went to Roopkund. It was good fun and maybe the most difficult thing i have done physically. To date, we still try to incorporate trekking into our trips. We realised we couldn’t go to the Himalayas every year like we wanted to if we were to see other parts of the world so now we try and do a trek, even a short one, wherever we go.