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How Megha Rao finds her workspace holy and cathartic

The poet, artist and performer says that her workplace feels like a large, comfortable womb from which her poems and stories are created

Megha Rao performing poetry
Megha Rao performing poetry (Courtesy Megha Rao)

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"I cannot turn scars into
cannot build glory out of shame
but I swear one day
I will have bookshelves in my name."

This is from an Instagram post by poet, artist and performer Megha Rao. The poem is titled Magic Lamps, and was posted on 8 May.

It doesn't seem an implausible hope for Rao, who, at 26, already has 4 books behind her: It Will Always Be You (2015, fiction), A Crazy Kind of Love (2016, fiction), Music to Flame Lilies (2019, fiction) and Teething (2021, poetry). Currently, however, she says that she is mostly working on herself, though verse continues to seep into her Instagram account, usually accompanied by intensely aesthetic imagery.

In an interview with Lounge, she talks about her workspace (sometimes graced with the presence of her cat), the way her writing has evolved, and how her early infatuation with the poet Sylvia Plath has settled into a more steady sort of love.

Describe your current workspace to us.

A quintessential yellow table lamp, sticky notes on the wall, lots of notebooks and storybooks everywhere. There's a shelf to keep them, but my TBR list of books remains on the study desk. A window opens into the lush, green coconut groves of Kerala. Scented candles, a mug of tea, some polaroids. I also have some sketches lying around when I'm working on something because I like to draw my characters and visualise different scenes in the book. Depending on my mood, I also have a small round speaker to play jazz or dream pop. Once in a while, if I'm lucky, I'll have the honour of my cat's presence in my workspace.

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

Oh, it's definitely evolved. I mean, I know I used to be a lot messier. I'd crumple paper and just throw it in my drawer. I also fell in love with yellow lights recently. It's mellow and beautiful and helps me write more regularly. Even reading feels so nice with it. But some things were always there: the shelf, the books, random paintings I'd made…

Megha Rao at her workplace
Megha Rao at her workplace (Courtesy Megha Rao)

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

Co-existing with the space is a ritual. I wake up to it, spend my day in it and go to sleep in it. Because the poems and the stories are being created here, it almost feels like a large, comfortable womb to me. My relationship with it is holy and cathartic. It's also symbiotic — I nurture it, and it rewards me with creativity (or at least becomes a sort of catalyst for it).

Also read: For artist Urvashi Adhye, the canvas is her work station

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.

I wrote Teething here. I wrote my favourite poem, ‘Spoonerism’, here. I've wept here, indulged in ecstatic dancing here, giggled here, fallen in love here, healed from wounds here, meditated here. I've had some major breakthroughs in this space, both as a writer and as a person. It's been a friend to my writing but also to my heart.

If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?

Honestly, the front yard. There's a beautiful garden, an easy chair on the verandah that belonged to my grandfather, and again a lovely view. I love nature. I love seeing the mongoose scurrying around, unbothered by me sitting there. I love the blue sky and the different shapes of clouds and how all of this looks at sunset. I know another place I loved writing in: Illiterati Cafe, McLeod Ganj. I think they had to close it, though.

What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years?

A timepiece. Sometimes it was a clock, sometimes a watch —I even had a very pretty hourglass at one point. It's a prerequisite.

How has your writing evolved over the years?

It's braver and wiser. You could say, when I started out, it was this confused blend of colours. Now it's golden.

The first writer whose work you followed closely/sometimes imitated. What about them appealed to you?

I think the one writer I couldn't get out of my head, walked into lampposts reading, was absolutely painstakingly infatuated with, was Sylvia Plath. When I was a troubled, angry, moody teenager, she was my world. Mostly because she introduced me to confessional poetry, and she wrote about a lot of things I was going through at that point. I still love her, but you know, with time, limerence sort of fades and settles and cools down. I'm not a freak about her anymore, that's what I'm trying to say. I mean, I don't stalk her anymore, don't feel this burning rage for Ted Hughes anymore, and my biggest dream in life isn’t…visiting her grave anymore.

Also read: Ministhy S.'s living room is for linguistic labours of love

Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.

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