Varalika Mishra is the author of the book Shanti Panna. It is a collection of poems that are mystical, sublime and uplifting in its core nature. In this interview the author talks in depth about her experiences that led to the birth of this book and what she aims to achieve with it.
1. What was the inspiration behind writing the book and what made you choose the title 'Shanti Panna'?
I am an expressive soul. I mostly express my emotions through words. It was in 2018, when my college friend asked me to write a book – and I thought to myself – why not. Shanti Panna is an amalgamation of my thoughts and views about life and society. The name is catering to peace – I want every reader to find peace through my words.
2. The poems in the book are of a very spiritual nature, often times encouraging the readers to feel motivated and fulfilled. As an author, what kind of relationship do you wish to build with your readers?
I wish to connect to their soul. Everyone writes a book but my intention is to connect to the reader’s heart and leave them with peace and love. I wish to build a relation on trust and value creation – inspired by my mentor Dr Daisaku Ikeda.
3. Can you take us through the journey of putting together your poems, what kind of discipline and mindset you had while penning your pieces?
It was all in a flow. There were days when I did not write and there were nights when I kept on writing for hours. It all depends on how you feel at a given moment. Whenever I felt aligned to my soul – I used to write. I did not follow any discipline but I followed my heart’s instinct.
4. The style of writing is simplistic yet the messages are profound. Was there an intention behind this kind of a writing style?
I wanted to connect with the general public and audience. Hence, the style was simple yet profound.
5. There is a huge emphasis on the wellbeing of the mind in your book. Why is mental health so important to you and what is the right approach in having a conversations around it?
I am a mental health advocate and certified mental health first aider on suicide prevention. I am a part of Delhi Mental Health Council. For me, this is very personal. My own experience of anxiety and depression made me an empathetic soul and I decided to spread awareness about mental health through my work. I have my initiative – Your Story Is Important where I conduct dialogues with people who share their struggles of mental health and also with professionals like therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists to spread awareness and break the stigma attached to mental health.
6. Do you believe art has the potential to change people and bring about positivity in their lives? If so, how does your book aim to do that?
Yes, I agree art can truly create magic. People are creative souls and art can create an impact on human mind. My book talks about self care, mental health, music, friendship, loss, democracy, equality, body shaming, menopause, periods, sex workers – I guess I have done my bit in creating awareness.
7. I found these lines pretty interesting to read,
It’s imperative to say 'no'
When you feel the discomfort,
do not hesitate to say 'no'
There is no guilt in saying 'no'
A lot of times the word 'yes' is used in order to gain acceptance but 'no' is usually seen as a harsh word that may cause conflict. Why are you advocating the use of the word 'no'? Tell us when and why it is important?
I personally feel boundaries are an essential part of human interaction. When someone is not at ease or comfortable, it should be alright to say a simple NO. Saying no doesn’t make a person bad or wrong. It is more about preserving your energy and prioritising yourself.
8. The process of becoming a poet is long and tedious. Who were the people who inspired you in your journey?
I am inspired by my mentor Dr Daisaku Ikeda, Rumi, Pink Floyd, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Ghalib, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Dr BijayaLaxmi Nanda, Vijay Lokapally, my mother, Tulika Mishra, my father, Vikas Mishra and my brother Vaibhav Mishra.
9. How can people who are going through a difficult time find joy in life and the perseverance to keep going?
It is important to develop self conviction and courage through any activity that gives them joy. For me, it is my Buddhist chanting, meditation, exercise, listening to music and writing.
10. What message would you like to send out to your readers?
I want to tell all my readers to believe in themselves and dream big to achieve their goals. I would like to tell them that you are worthy regardless of your job status, income, caste, class or gender. Your Story Is Important and you are an important.