Eunice D’Souza talks about poetry, life, and growing old
I never dreamt of being a poet. I never wrote anything till I was in my thirties. I loved reading and was happy with teaching. One day I woke up and started writing and I have never stopped since. I sent the first things I wrote to my friend Adil Jussawalla and asked him if this was in fact poetry, because I was not too sure! He assured me that it was.
My early poetry was my reaction to the society I saw around me. It spoke of issues like marriage, faith and religious practices or simply, the idiosyncrasies of the people that I saw around me. It was a comment of my community and the discrepancies that I found there. Later, when I came to Mumbai and came across many other communities, I found that the things I wrote about were universal and not just restricted to my community.
Many friends and acquaintances thought that I was being disloyal to my people, but I have not really been the kind of person who bothers too much about what people say. My poetry has been considered as feminist, but I have never been very conscious of myself as a woman poet. I have no objections to being called a woman poet; however, I do get irritated when people call me a poetess. Probably my poetry naturally talks about issues related to women, as my immediate circle is comprised mainly of women.
My father passed away when I was only three years old. Our family faced some travails because it was an all-women family. My father’s death affected me deeply. Like many children in this situation, I blamed myself and was left with a sense of insecurity and an irrational fear that people will go away. This feeling has affected many of my relationships later in life as well. My poetry however has escaped its influence, probably because I started writing later in life.
I studied in Sophia College and even till I finished college I had had a very conservative and protected upbringing. It was only after I started to teach that I was exposed to different kinds of people and started to live life on my own terms. Teaching has been one of the most fulfilling things in my life. My mother was a school teacher and I have always been attracted to the teaching profession. It is a very fulfilling feeling to be able to mould the youth.
College students are at an age where their minds are not closed to new ideas. It is very exciting to be able to see these minds take shape. I have always enjoyed my interaction with students and have believed in an open relationship between a teacher and a student. There are many students who have become friends over the years, and are still in touch. In the present system, the important thing to remember is that students must not be judged by marks or academic performance.
All my editing and other works came to me later on in life. It was never planned. Many of my works have been related to children. I enjoy writing and editing books for kids. Although this literature has takers now, it didn’t have a market at the time when I brought out the books. In fact, I feel there is still no market for poetry. Some kinds of novels are being sold, but writing in general, has a long way to go before it becomes a lucrative profession.
As I get older, I worry about how I will manage some years from now. I have been independent all my life and I love living alone. My main preoccupation is taking care of the dogs that live down the lane. Feeding them and spending time with them makes me happy. With limited means and increasing age, I do worry about being unable to help myself if I fall ill. After all these years, I feel that you essentially struggle at the beginning of your career as well as at the end of it.