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Sonnet who breathes sonnets
  By A.J. Philip  
  Dr Sonnet Mondal is young, both as a person and a poet. In fact, he started his poetic career as recently as in 2005. Yet, he has accomplished a lot during this short period, authoring four books of poetry and winning several prestigious awards. His poems have appeared in journals like the Poetic Diversity, Houston Literary Review, Sound of Poetry Review, Istanbul Review, Kritya, Kohinoor, Muse India and Stremez.

His books are "A Poetic Peep Into The Post Modern World" (Underground Lit. Pub. 2007), "The Curse of Atlantis and Other Poems" (Underground Lit. Pub. 2009), "Songs from Ashes" (Translation work-Bharavi Publications) and "21 Lines Fusion Sonnets of 21st Century" (Sparrow Publication, 2010). His future projects include a novel in verse and another poetry book due for release in 2011.

One of his poems was read out on World Poetry Café, Canada, on January 5 as a message of peace to the world. In March 2009, he was awarded with the Secretary General's certificate and appointment as sub-secretary general of Asia unit of Poetas Del Mundo (Headquarter-Chile). On October 1, 2009, he was bestowed the title Poet Laureate by Bombadil, Sweden, for his contributions to the world of poetry at a young age and also to encourage the lost essence of poetry among youths.

In his latest book "21 Lines Fusion Sonnets of 21st Century" (Sparrow Publications), he has introduced a new brand of fresh and original 21- line Fusion Sonnets. These Sonnets have appeared in Other Voices International Project endorsed by UNESCO and has been translated into Macedonian and Italian by eminent writers in their respective languages.

Apart from his literary works, he edits his journal 'The Enchanting Verses International' and 'United Minds for Peace Society'. He also takes an active role in promoting Indian classical music among youths through his organization Musical Oasis for Resurrection (MORE). In an interview with The Herald of India, Dr Mondal speaks about his poetry, life and future projects:

Question: We have heard about fusion music. It is the first time we are hearing about Fusion Sonnets. Please tell us about the whole concept.

Answer: In literary sense Fusion means Mixing or blending of things. The 21-line Fusion Sonnets blend traditional and contemporary styles. The 21 lines come out from a fusion between a 14-line sonnet with new specialties and a 7-line half sonnet. Hence it has been assigned the name Fusion Sonnets.

Q: Do you consider Sonnets as the best form of poetry?

A: Yes, I consider so. First, I have an inclination for the traditional forms of Poetry. Secondly, I like interplay of rhyming, unlike most modern poets in which sonnets have a varied history. Thirdly and most importantly, sonnets point towards maintaining a balance between Negative and Positive thoughts, social and aesthetic dimensions and, of course, structure and feelings. In a bit vivid manner I must say sonnets are famous due to their structural specialties like rhyming. A poet will always feel a backward pull while pegging his feelings against the board of these specialties. Now, how he pens it makes the form more interesting.

Q: Why did you find the 14-line format unsatisfactory?

A: I didn't find the fourteneer form of sonnet unsatisfactory but sonnet doesn't essentially mean a fourteen-line poem. Gerard Manley Hopkins in the 17th Century introduced the 24-line Caduate Sonnet and the 10 and a half-line Curtal Sonnets. I wanted to invent my own form of poetry and I felt my name as the most suitable and interesting one for this. The 21-Line Fusion Sonnets do not break any basic rule of Sonnets .They just introduce new and interesting variations in which I find myself to be more comfortable and find Sonnets to be more complete.

Q: What are the specialties of a 21-line format?

A: The specialty of the 21-Line Fusion Sonnet lies in its unique rhyming scheme, mixed rhythm and double dimension understanding of a particular thing -- one in the fourteen lines and the other in the next seven lines.

In brief the specialties are as below:-

First Fourteen Lines:-
Same Rhyme in 1st, 5th, 9th and 10th lines.
Same Rhyme in 2nd, 3rd and 4th Lines.
Same Rhyme in 6th, 7th and 8th lines.
Rhetorical questions in 9th and 10th lines.
Negative and pessimistic note in the first 10 lines.
Free verse carrying Optimistic Tone in 11th, 12th, 13 and 14th Lines.
Volta gradually through 9th, 10th and 11th lines.
Next Seven Lines:-The Half Sonnet acting as a coda.
The 14 lines in each case is followed by a half sonnet of 7 lines acting as a coda to add a two-dimensional note in the poem, beginning with the same 1st line and ending with the 5th line of the poem.
Same Rhyme in 16th and 17th lines.
Same Rhyme in 18th and 19th lines.
Volta in the 20th line.
Liberties -- In the length of lines and Rhyme based upon the closeness of pronunciations.
Theme -- 21 Lines Fusion Sonnets deal with heavy and deep themes.

Q: When did you start writing poetry?

A: I started writing poetry back in 2005 without a mind to publish them. From the year 2007, after my book came out one after the other I started taking poetry a bit seriously and as a passion and side profession by the year 2009.

Q: Tell us about the journal that you edit? When was it started? What is the target audience?

A: The Enchanting Verses International journal (ISSN:-0974-3057) edited by me with the cooperation of the co-editors focuses and publishes all form of poetry, both traditional and contemporary, articles upon poetry, poetry translations into English, new inventions in poetry and book reviews from eminent as well as upcoming names in poetry irrespective of any age criteria. The journal also bestows the Enchanting Poet honour upon a poet or poetess for his/her contribution in the arena of world poetry. The journal started in March 2008 has successfully published 10 issues. It aims at both renowned and young names in the world of poetry as its contributors and readers. Of late the journal has decided to start a poetry festival and seminar in Kolkata every year to encourage poetry among youths and common masses.

Q: In India journals are not giving enough space for poems. Is this a world phenomenon? What is your experience?

A: Yes, it is a matter of concern that Indian journals are not giving enough space for poems. I must say they have commercial aims of modern mass readership rather than literature. To name a few exceptions are journals like 'Muse India' and 'Kritya' which have been consistently popularizing poetry.
The world is too big a place and I must say yes again considering the fact that International magazines and journals too reserve much more pages for prose than poetry or poetry-related things not due to the bigger size of stories in comparison to poetry but keeping in mind the popularity factor. Still, in the last decade numerous e-magazines and print journals have come up which have been honest enough in their trials to present good poetry works.

Q: What steps have you taken to popularize your Sonnets and Sonnet poetry in general? What has been the response to your efforts?

A: To popularize the 21-Line Fusion Sonnets all I have done is submit my manuscript to the publishers and send some selections to different journals for their comments and criticism. By God's grace a complete 160-paged book named "21 Lines Fusion Sonnets of 21st Century" is now out in the market. Along with this the Fusion Sonnet form has appeared in nine famous journals and has been translated into Macedonian, Italian and Telugu.
About promoting Sonnets in general, I believe the Fusion Sonnets form will interest writers and readers in the days to come. Apart from these I have included a long article about Sonnets over the centuries in my latest book for a better understanding of them. The emails and letters of appreciation and participation encourage me to go on popularising Sonnets in this new Century. So I can say the response is affirmative.

Q: Do you think there is a future for poetry in this age of mobile phones, SMS, MMS etc?

A: Why not? In fact, I will prefer to say that poetry does have a positive future. Poetry is most terse, pithy and figurative of all literary forms which have the power to capture the innermost feelings of a life-long period in just a few lines and this is enough quality for it to be more popular as people become more and more busy. If I am asked to give evidence I would just like to point at the number of new poetry added daily on the internet poetry sites, exchange of short poetry through SMSs etc.

Q: Please tell us about your family?

A: Well, I have a big family with two of my grandfathers and grandmothers from my mother's and father's side still alive to bless me, though I live with my parents at Durgapur passing some good time with them in the weekends returning from Kolkata where most of my activity is centered.
Check patriarchy
  By Ritu Sharma  
  The exploitation of women and patriarchy are realities in the Indian Church as much as they are part of Indian society, says Nazareth Sister Shalini D'Souza.

The 71-year-old Indian nun, who formerly headed her Kentucky-based congregation of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, says the Church needs "strong and courageous women who can speak for themselves."

Sister D'Souza, now based in Bihar, speaks about issues such as male domination in the Church, the Church's exploitation of women and ways to liberate women. She spoke to while on a visit to Delhi.

Q: Is the Indian Church patriarchal?

A: Yes, it is. But patriarchy doesn't apply only to the Church. It is part of Indian society. It exists in the Church as much as it does in society. I think what the Church and what we all need is to develop a feminist and a mutually-respectful cross-cultural consciousness.

Q: But how can patriarchy affect convent life where nuns live alone?

A: Patriarchy and male dominance do not affect convent life as such. But cultural hegemony continues. Women, including nuns, have internalized the system. Most women accept male dominance.

We exclude ourselves from positions of responsibility and power. I believe we need to address the issue with a broader vision. We cannot narrow it only to the Church.

We need to empower the powerless; connect with people at the grassroots the poor, tribal and dalit [oppressed] people. We need to introduce a paradigm of solidarity and work toward the "discipleship of equality."

Q: Where do we start?

A: We have to look at several levels. Firstly, we need to re-interpret Scriptures and reconstruct liturgies. We need women like Mary Magdalene, a courageous woman who came to Jesus. She came alone and entered the room where only men were present. She did things which no other woman would dare to do. We need to re-interpret the Bible with a perspective of women, projecting the strengths of women.

Q: What about talk of sexual exploitation of women in the Church?

There is sexual exploitation of women Religious in the Church. But because there are priests involved, there is silence. The fight against this issue has erupted in Europe and the US and it will come to India.

Q: Why don't nuns start speaking up?

Some women have, but only a few. For women to have their say there should be micro movements in the Church similar to what exist in society. Here you have movements against dowries, violence and trafficking. In the same way, we have to stand up against movements that exclude women from the liturgy and from teaching theology in seminaries.

Q: What do you mean by inclusion of women in liturgies?

Women's roles in the Church are limited. Ordination is only for men. Let women lead the liturgy and let the Church include women in more significant roles.

Q: How can you say this when a recent Vatican document puts ordination of women on a par with child sex abuse?

That was very derogatory. Many sections of women have responded to it very strongly. I would like women to be ordained.

Q: What kind of women Religious would you like to see by 2020?

A: I do not think the institution of women Religious would be the same in the next 10 years. I don't think we should be contained in institutions as we are now. There is a Church of the Diaspora, of people with little support. We should be out there living with them and come to the institution only for reflection.

The institution should be a base to rejuvenate but it should not be a place of residence. Women Religious need to look at their roles much beyond the convents.

Q: What do you expect from the Congress of Religious India?

A: It needs to become a forum where women Religious unite and discuss their issues, articulate them and strategize plans.

It has to be a vibrant organization. It has to be in touch with the signs of the times. Until we are involved in the micro movements, we will have no relevance. Until we understand what is affecting humanity and we stand up for it, we cannot be vibrant because we are isolating ourselves.

There are more than 100,000 women Religious. It's a huge force. We have not yet garnered it.

Q: As a leader what have you done?

I opened many doors and took many risks. I spent seven years helping prostitutes and today we have a ministry taking care of their children so as to break the prostitution cycle.

I lived outside my convent with a woman and we used to visit the red light areas every day. I worked for seven years on the domestic workers forum as well as in Delhi's slums. I have done my bit and I would have gone back if I wasn't obliged to do other things.
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