Priya Malik: I enjoyed the disguise in poetry, with such few words one can say so much

Is it just a whim of my mind

or

Are the daisies actually knocking on your door

Wouldn’t you open the door, my dear

or

Would you shun them a little more?

It isn’t their mistake, you know,

They are not the ones at fault.

Though you can treat them how you wish, my dear,

You can give it another thought.

But, what if the daisies die outside, my dear?

Where will we bury their fragrance?

-- a poem penned by Priya Malik when she was 16

Placing my cup of freshly brewed tea (not adrak waali, unfortunately) on the table, I plugged in my earphones and tuned into Priya Malik’s recently released poetry titled ‘You’. This particular verse ‘The ring that surrounds the planet Saturn is nothing but Saturn’s lover giving it a long hug’ stays with me long after her vivacious voice dies down in the video.

And such is the beauty in the poetry penned by Priya Malik. You can’t help but feel like she’s reciting the words that your own heart couldn’t compose. The poet tells us that from a very early age, she has been an avid reader and performer. “Every time some guests would come over for dinner, I’d stand up on a table in our living room and recite poetry animatedly. I must have been only about 5 or 6 years old,” she recalls. She lets us in on a fun fact about herself, “A lot of my poems come to me in my dreams, usually in a state of REM, especially the tag lines.”

What drew me to her work is the famous 2019 mein 1999, which transported me back to simpler times, making me realise that Instagram stories are no match for face-to-face conversation and in the age of casual dating, gestures like hand holding are still very much appreciated. If you scroll through Priya’s social media handles, you’ll see the heart warming reactions this piece has received. She tells us that one of the best reactions to this poem was a couple meeting through it. Apparently the girl had shared it with her friend who in turn showed it to her cousin who said, “I wish I could find someone like this.” They have been dating for a few months now. “I am so glad those two old souls found each other!” she exclaims.

How does it feel when listeners tell you that your writing spoke to their heart? “It is a very humbling experience. An artist is nothing without an audience and hence I really really appreciate it every time someone writes to me. With 2019 mein 1999, I have received messages from India, Pakistan, Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh and even Canada. It has been absolutely wonderful!” she says. Art with a purpose, that’s usually how she likes her work to be. Although, she has written a few love pieces lately which have done seemingly well. She says, “At the end of the day, I want my poems and stories to be authentic. I thrive on it.”

Speaking about some of her favourite poets, Priya admires the grit, resilience and vulnerability in Amrita Pritam’s poetry and she loves reading the works of Faiz, Gulzar and Kausar Munir. W H Auden and Warsan Shire are the English poets she appreciates as well as spoken word poets Andrea Gibson and Anis Mojgani. When asked what inspired her to write poetry, she says, “I wouldn’t use the word ‘inspired’, I’d use the word ‘compelled’. I was compelled to write poetry because that seemed to be a beautiful way to express myself without expressing myself completely. I enjoyed the disguise in poetry, how with such few words one can say so much.”

Given her fondness for old soul love, I ask her how her heart is placed. She poetically concludes, “My matters of the heart remain in my heart, in the folds of 1999, sipping adrak waali chaai, on a rainy afternoon, watching an old Hindi movie together.”