Satya Narayanan R reveals that his relationships with food, poetry and teaching go beyond the surface
S. RAVI | August 13, 2015 | The Hindu
For Satya Narayanan R, the Founder-Chairman of CL Educate and the poet whose second collection “Dhoondh Le Phir Seâ€¦” has been recently launched, everything is incidental. I ask, to what? “To what I essentially enjoy and believe in. I became an entrepreneur as I love teaching all age groups. Similarly, poetry for me is a deep inside out journey and I am an instrument capturing the moment which presents itself in words.” The teacher and poet puts across everything about his life in simple terms at a luncheon interaction at Spice Root in Imperial Hotel.
I begin by enquiring as to what led him to Urdu poetry?
Listening to old Hindi songs on radio since his student days and throughout his stint in St. Stephen’s and Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore made him fall in love with the language, he replies. “It left a deep desire in me to learn Urdu and I did not want to die without doing so.” So in 2010 he hired a maulvi who taught him the language and the script, over the weekends. He then moved on to reading Urdu books, newspapers, essays and periodicals. Poetry was still not his dream or goal. It was again incidental to his completing an unfinished song for his young music teacher. “From then I started writing poetry as part of my homework which the maulvi ji critiqued,” reveals Satya. The late Shahryar after hearing his poems commended his effort and asked him to continue writing leading to the first and now the second collection.
The poems in “Dhoondh Le Phir Seâ€¦” were penned over two years. They dwell on a mix of subjects like romance, current affairs, anguish, reflection, world affairs, among others. “Each has been triggered by the moment. Yes they are on varied topics as I do not want it to be classified under a particular template or label.” Elaborating he gives example of “Nirbhaya“. “It is closest to my heart. The incident and more than that the way the media conducted the whole show shook me up. The tragedy and the insensitivity displayed were very painful. I wrote it sitting alone in a park.” Through such verses he does not intend to preach but share his anguish with the fellow beings.
The two versions of “Jurm-e-ishq” for Gen X and Y present a funny and humorous take at changing generational outlook of romance while “Kaun Thi Woh Ladki” depicts a modern city girl. Observing a lady passenger in plane with long tresses displaying her feminine charm resulted in “Jalwon ko yoon na bikhero”. In the profound verses of “Sapurd-e-khaak-e-mann” the poet wants his organs to be donated after death in order to be useful post death. In the same poem he beseeches his family not to waste time and money on rituals.
The piping hot Thai vegetable curry and jasmine rice forces a break from poetry. Relishing his tried and tested dish, Satya says, “The Thai cuisine has a nice flavour and is neither heavy nor oily nor spicy. Just like homemade food.” Even though his first love are different South Indian vegetarian preparations, he is not stuck upon it as he likes baigan bharta, rajma, tandoori roti, Gujarati thali and Rajasthan’s dal bhati choorma too. “At every place I request for authentic traditional food. I tell people to offer me what they themselves would have.”
Extending this logic he adds, “Whichever part of the world or India I go to I try their local food. It helps in discovering new things and secondly avoid suffering disappointment. For instance, if I were to order a dosa in Rio de Janeiro I am bound to be disappointed. Hence I might as well eat what Rio makes the best.”
Alluding to different cuisines of the world, Satya comments, “Actually I find more similarities than differences in them. Dissimilarities we expect and hence similarities surprise us more. For example the Mexican burrito is basically rajma inside the roti although the bean may be different. Same is the case with falafel or the Arabian or Mediterranean food. I suppose it proves the universality among human beings.”
Taking a second helping Satya talks about his preference for home-cooked food. Even when he returns home by late evening flight he likes to eat curd rice with pickle at home. The daily menu comprises a healthy mix of both south Indian and north Indian food, i.e. rice, sambar, rasam, etc. along with phoolka and subzis.
The poet considers himself blessed having enjoyed great delicacies made by his grandmother and mother like mudda pappu and Mysore pak respectively. “This tradition continues as my wife is an excellent, enthusiastic and effortless cook. Her mor kuzhambu and subzis reflect her magic and love.” Satya himself is a good cook having learnt the rudiments while assisting his mother. “It is based on first-hand experience. I slice onions pieces of equal width. My different variations of omelettes, thogayals and pachadis are also much appreciated by my wife and friends.” He still takes charge of the kitchen in his wife’s absence and is joined by his daughter, a cooking enthusiast.
A street food lover who likes gol gappa, chole kulche, bhelpuri, vada pav and mirchi bhaji, Satya quips that God has favoured him with an excellent constitution as he is able to relish these items which are literally from the street and not the ones served in the five star hotels.
Refusing to order desserts he says he is partial to pal and semiya payasam of South and its Bengali version. “I barely manage ice cream. My wife and daughter love it and so when I am with them I melt it and drink it,” he says with a wide grin.
Satya â€” the cook, entrepreneur and poet â€” categorises these forms of art as creative processes in which there is no right or wrong and no rule book to adhere to except some reference points. “They are all situational, contextual and relative to a person, to a context and to the moment,” he says winding up our lunch with promise to continue teaching and writing poetry.