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'I do what I can in the moment'

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Veera Sanjana, who has battled a range of personal problems with strength and determination, believes that adversity awakens you to realise what is important in life. She shares her journey with Menka Shivdasani

Veera Sanjana recently unveiled her second book #Love Bytes Life Hacks at Crossword. Veera, who is an educator by profession, has been teaching children for the last 30 years. Her first book, Endured, is a collection of 46 poems. What makes her story remarkable is that she has done all this despite battling a host of health problems and has always come out triumphant.

You have been writing since you were a little girl. What triggered your writing and how would you say it has evolved?

I was born and grew up in the vibrant precinct of Colaba. Born into a wholesome, middle-class family who I largely hold responsible for my value system  and upright but lenient upbringing, mine has been a tale of a relatively normal balanced childhood, with an eager emphasis on education, followed by the usual boy meets girl romance, marriage, the beat of humdrum domesticity with all the normal fluctuating highs and lows of life.

However, born with a congenital heart defect, an open heart surgery at age eight, life has been a roller coaster from the word go and despite the challenges I have faced from time to time I love the ride.

Even as a child I loved reading and writing, which held a special appeal to me. In the ’70's and ’80's growing up there were hardly any options other than the lure of a good book.

For as long as I can remember writing has been my passion. I call it a self-serving act of conversation with myself. Writing to me is a therapeutic and all-encompassing process where the entire universe exists in that tiny bubble in my head just waiting to spill its ink onto that paper. Seconds, minutes and hours collide into one another and all time and space is lost, save those thoughts racing around demanding an outlet.

Recalling my first amateurish attempt, I think it was an immature  verse, an entire poem, a sonnet in form. My poems have naturally, I hope, evolved since then. While poetry still is my chosen tool of communication, the language, form and subject matter has organically transgressed. Love, life, all of nature and everything in between, still holds court in my mind, but my compilations have veered towards the philosophical as well. I call myself “a writer of thoughts and a reader of books”. Out of college armed with a scholarship in Literature, Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Byron, Keats, Shelley, left an indelible mark. Studying literature was joy personified. Their influences can easily be discernible in my writing.

You describe #Love Bytes Life Hacks as a handbook for messages on email and WatsApp, among other things. While this would suggest a tech-savvy audience, I find it interesting that much of what you write is in an archaic style—‘Wondrous in its exaltations’; ‘The breath of life lingers not’... Any comments? 

Poetry and its offshoots—be it quatrains or couplets, quotes or lines—have always monkeyed and danced around in my head seeking an outlet. If something grabs my fancy, a random thought, a mood, a whim, it compels me to write immediately. Love Bytes Life Hacks is a manifestation of that—flitting, contemplative thoughts in my head dancing and waltzing, waiting and seeking an entrance to the outside world. In a nutshell, it is a simple handbook of quotes which in this tech savvy world of WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter may prove handy to someone trying to find the right words in any given situation. While the language may seem archaic and classical at times interspersed with the contemporary as well, the book can best be defined as 'a timeless spectrum of literature with a unique blend of original quotes categorised broadly into Love and Life'. True connoisseurs of English may appreciate the diversity which has been used intentionally.

You have been through several health issues. What do you tell yourself in your most difficult moments? How do you keep your physical, mental and emotional energies up?

Yes, I have faced a fair share of medical challenges and fought my damnedest against them. From being born with a congenital heart defect and being operated at the tender age of eight, living with a frail heart or so I was told,  nonetheless, truth be told,  a fearless one at that. Being diagnosed with lupus, an immune disorder at 32, battling with a severely compromised immune system and the shenanigans it brings. It’s a disease I would like to humorously describe as ‘a temperamental woman with raging hormones and unpredictable mood swings’ wherein you honestly don't know what the next day will bring. Pain management and other challenges become the order of the day. Lupus almost feels like having a bout of bad flu on your best day, so one can well understand the bite of bad ones!

The funny thing with any disability, sickness or adversity is that it awakens you to realise what is really important in life. Life itself is so short under normal circumstances but if you've ever faced real life challenges and rude knocks, you become a lot wiser, almost like a Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, all rolled up in one.

In  those bad moments you have to tell yourself it could be worse. When every day is a struggle to boost your energies, just to go through the rigours of the day, you consequentially change your mindset and lifestyle. If getting out of bed is an everyday ordeal, you learn to smile and offer a silent prayer when you do. Can't run or jog—no problem, you walk. Can't join that boot-camp, no issues I plant my boots into things I can.

I do what I can in the moment. I have lived and mastered the art of listening to my body and its needs. If It calls for a day of rest then that's what I do without hesitation or guilt. No one knows your needs and wants or understands your predicament better than yourself. I do what I have to and am happy that by and large I have managed life beyond the expectations of my limitations. I am robust in spirit, a warrior by heart, strong and stout where I need to be, and that is what counts. Since my ailments are aplenty the medications amount to a regular cocktail of drugs. The side effects are innumerable but honestly the less you think of your woes the less they trouble you.   

What other hobbies do you have?

For the  better part of my life I have been an educator, thus it naturally follows that teaching is something I greatly enjoy. Moulding, guiding, and inspiring young minds is a gratifying career choice. It is both enriching and endearing! I also enjoy travelling and meeting people.

Short takes

Born with a congenital heart defect, Veera Sanjana had an open heart surgery at age eight.  At 32, she was diagnosed with lupus.

Despite these challenges, Veera has been an educator for 30 years and is the author of two books.

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