‘It’s All In Your Head, M’ Is A Memoir About Radical Self-Love
Library Text by Shreya Ila Anasuya Manjiri Indurkar's first book, a memoir called It's all in your head, M, is an intimate and complex look at the relationship between violence, trauma and mental health. It's a self-portrait that says a lot about the world the author is from - an entire universe that emerges from […]


Text by Shreya Ila Anasuya

Manjiri Indurkar's first book, a memoir called It's all in your head, M, is an intimate and complex look at the relationship between violence, trauma and mental health. It's a self-portrait that says a lot about the world the author is from - an entire universe that emerges from a person's story.

Excerpts from a conversation with Indurkar….

Photographed by Joshua Navalkar

Can you talk about your work as a poet and memoirist and how shapes influence you? How do they bleed into each other? Which one do you like the most? What is the easiest for you?
Most of the time, I am able to find poetic influences in the bleakest of places. I'm going to read some statistics, some data, and I can visualize a verse in my mind. Which means that something as creative and stimulating as a memory can only pour out the juice. For a very long time, the things I wasn't going to tell anyone were written in the form of a poem. "I win the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa of my colony with popular consensus / and I can sit on my azoba's friend's lap for as long as I want" is a phrase about my CSA experience from a poem that has nothing to do with CSA.

It's easy to hide clues like these in poems. In a way, I was still working on writing a dissertation. The first step was poetry; then came the essays and, finally, this book. But now that I'm so used to opening my life up to people, memoir writing has become the easiest thing to do. I equally hated and loved writing this book. Using my creative licenses, making associations with literature and film as I've had it in my head all my life, and giving others a glimpse of that part of my head was fun. The way in which poetry and memoir writing blend together is seen in the book, where one merges and continues to flow.

One of the pitfalls of writing poetry in the denominational style - especially as a woman or a woman - is the same trap that memorialists have to navigate. Which is less about the craft and a lot more about the personal details the writer is supposed to reveal. Do you have this reception? How do you feel about this?
This time, to compliment a young poet, a friend told them their poetry resembled my work. This made the poet insecure, I think, and they replied with disdain, "but she writes about her life, and I don't." I wasn't invited to this conversation, so I didn't respond, but in my head I was screaming, "How do you know I'm writing about my life?" I have written about my life as much as any poet. Our lives inform our poetry, they always will, but that doesn't mean I write on mine.

And it's frustrating that I get this all the time and people don't take my poetry for what it is: literature. Look at what happened to Plath's work. We hardly take her seriously as a poet. Plath had an Electra complex, so she wrote dad; Ted Hughes cheated on her, so she wrote Lady Lazarus, because Plath walked into our dreams and told us so. Sometimes please let the writer die and read his works for what it meant to you, not what it meant to the poet.

A follow-up to my last question: The stigma around writing “personal” (which, as the slogan says, is political, of course) is especially intense when the topics are socially taboo. This includes experience sexual violence, live with the disease and go through trauma - all you talk about. How can a writer get around this problem?
What has worked for me is taking ownership of my struggles and talking about them. The first time I opened my mouth to talk about it, I thought the walls in my room were going to come tumbling down and kill me. The second time it was even more difficult. But I had to keep pushing myself, and thank Heaven for the always supported people in all phases of my life who kept pushing me to do the same. Every time I got scared I turned to them instead of inward, and the fifth time it got easy. The only way to end the stigma is to write about it, talk about it. Not everyone is able to do this, which is why those who can should. That's why I do it; because now I can.

One of the other things that your writing does for me, all the time, is that it breaks down the false binary between physical and Mental Health. In biomedical systems, the pervasive pain experienced by women, trans people, and gender nonconforming people is so often dismissed. People in these communities are working more and more on their experiences. Did it help you read this body of work and, in a way, be in conversation with it through your own?
Yes of course. I read a lot of essays published in places like Skin stories, people writing about their experiences on Medium.

Stories of trans people, non-binary people, the fats, people with various forms of visible and invisible disabilities - These are, in a way, people who stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us and make room for those who will come after us.

I've been called "brave" a lot lately; but a large part of my courage is not mine. Rather, it was the courage I borrowed from people who were constantly pushed to the margins, from their stories. It made me realize my role here too: to pass that courage on to the next person who needs it.

You write about how much Mumbai movies shaping romance ideas, including your own. But in your memories, as you come out of this India, you keep the hope of love. Can you tell us a bit more about what romantic love has meant to you?
Cinema set unrealistic expectations and it took a while to get out of it. But, it also taught us to value ideas of love, no matter what. I am still a romantic at heart so I cannot imagine my life without romantic love and the like. I would fight for it. I find the idea of ​​love radical. It's something we've been so warned about in our society that even a little fight for it in your living room feels liberating. A fight for your love is a fight for all kinds of love in my book. It transcends ideas of class, caste, race, gender. This is something worth fighting for and always will be.

In addition to writing, you also teach. Can you talk about the importance of community and mentoring for emerging writers, especially in a country where the literary community is particularly fragmented and inaccessible?
I am a writer today because of this community and the mentors I had. Fellow writers were always there for me whenever I needed their help, their comments. It is an essential practice. We need to train new writers; it is our moral and ethical responsibility. Writing may be a lonely act, but for me, literature is about building a culture not only of reading and writing, but also of mutual support.

I've been writing for a while, so maybe I understand the craft a bit more than someone who just started writing, then I have to help that person if they come to me. It's as simple as that. I want to challenge new writers to think of things that might have missed their radar, I want them to think of literature as a drastic and much needed tool for change. And I want to have conversations with them and learn from them. In a way, I am thirsty to learn from anyone who is willing to teach me and just as eager to share my learning.

Who are the poets and memorialists who have most influenced your own career?
Memoirs: Jeanette Winterson, Roxane Gay, bell hooks, Maggie Nelson, Joan Didion, Olivia Liang, Stephen King, the essays of Richa Kaul Padte and Johanna Hedva, and the essays of the countless number of women who write every day about their lives with such beauty and grace.

Poets: Nandini Dhar, Sumana Roy, Wislawa Szymborska, Anna Akhmatova, Fernando Pessoa, Arun Kolatkar, Arjun Rajendran, Suniti Namjoshi, Gulzar, Dushyant Kumar, Uday Prakash, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

What advice would you give to young writers who wish to write poetry and memoirs?
The greatest favor a young writer can do is to write without any inhibitions - which is often tied to market demands. Fear of what will be published and what will not. Read, read, read a lot. And write. Write for yourself, for your friend who reads all your works. Then edit. Build a community of writers, not the people you think have "made it", but the people you can actually respect, whether or not they have a lot of readers or big books published. Have conversations with people who aren't writers, or at least conversations that aren't about writing or literature. look carefully movies and the bad ones. Write in your journal. Don't be in a rush to publish books. It will happen.

Your first responsibility is to yourself. Feed your writing, your thinking, your environment. Read the news. Read books that you usually don't like to read. Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, everything. Also read bad writers.

The pursuit of your life shouldn't be about getting famous; this will be the default by-product once you learn to be honest with your inner self and the voice that guides you. Listen to this voice; don't let the noise of the capitalism-fueled publishing industry crush it. You, not that noise, are what matters. Remember this.

Disclaimer: Anasuya was the editor of Skin stories, an older digital publication where a number of Indurkar essays were published.

Shreya Ila Anasuya is an award-winning writer, journalist, editor and performance artist.

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