Interview with Rohini Kejriwal (The Alipore Post)

Rohini Kejriwal is a writer, poet, and curator based out of Bangalore. She is always up for a good story, travel, strong coffee, and the company of plants. She runs The Alipore Post, a curated newsletter and journal that promotes contemporary art, poetry, photography, music, and all things intriguing.

What impetus made you come up with the name ‘The Alipore post’

I’m a huge admirer of the India Post, I used to write letters as a child and Alipore was the place in West Bengal where we used to live. So it’s an amalgamation of the two.

Running an acclaimed literary and arts journal, you must’ve come across an age-sex demographic. Would you say that the current times are making way for young women to venture into the field of arts and humanities more than before? If so, who are some of your favorite young women writers?

There are a lot of Indian poets coming up, which is amazing, and what’s happening across the age groups. I am finding poetry podcasts by Sunil Bhandari, who is 59, as well as someone as young as Meghna Prakash, who is constantly doing fabulous work.

So, there are definitely many young women and male poets in the scene. I also feel that social media is allowing people to express themselves more freely, and there are actually people who want to read what is produced. It is not like the conventional publishing board, and it has its merits.

I feel like it is a very community-oriented kind of thing that is happening right now, with some structure of course, and it is really nice. So, everyone has their own aesthetic: someone is focusing on spoken word; people like me are working on art-lit poetry. So, it’s good, and it’s important to have such platforms which are helping in creating these particular niches for everyone.

We noticed on your personal doodling account that you love making ambiguous body figuratives- We are interested in understanding the creative aspect of it, where does the admiration for dandy and vague but equally human conception come from?

I have been on this trip of doing these- creative mornings virtual field trips. It’s the best thing that has happened to me during the lockdown. I even gave one of these workshops, it was super fun! There was someone who did this watercolor-meditation thing, and it was just like an art class with no judgment at all.

I think it’s just coming from this need to express, and playing with shapes – watching these forms emerge. There was one incident when I tried a still portrait, and I was really surprised by the effects. So, I am happy with it: Somewhere it’s instinctively there but it’s a matter of fine-tuning and sharpening that skill.

We noticed that TAP holds a strong substance over correlating poetry with art; We want to know that where does this inspiration for art come from? Were you always so artistic as a child, or is it something that developed as you grew older?

Not really. I think I was happier reading or playing games. However, I think over the last few years, I have been trying my hands at these inktober challenges. Even though it usually happens for like for a month, and then I forget about it, but then in that one month only I have 12-13 doodles ready, which I did.

I have had a linocut experimenting phase, where I just took a bunch of envelopes and made linocuts, but it’s just one stack now. But last year only, a friend got me an iPad and downloaded Procreate for me, and just like that experimenting with illustrations has changed my entire experience, as a personal experiment.

I like trying not to understand how a painting works, not the techniques, but the person behind it. I have always been fond of interviewing people myself, so there has been this need to pick someone’s brain, and question that why didn’t you put this here instead. So, I think I find the words in their artworks. That is how it basically correlates for me.

What are some of your favorite memories from The Alipore Post?

I think the events have been really fun.

Basically, the idea was to have a physical manifestation of this online space, and the main aim was to let learning be the main thing. The first one was just brilliant because I found this place called the Courtyard House, in Bangalore. It’s in the suburbs and is really just like a huge garden with an old structure of South Indian architecture in the middle. I wanted a trampoline to be there as well – for kids and adults, along with music, so that was a focus.

Even virtually there’ve been many special moments for me. The kind of people that I have met, have just generally opened me up to the world. I could’ve been a very limited person, but here it’s not even ambition exactly, but I just want to nurture this community, and it feels very natural now!

How did you come up with ‘Chitthi Exchange’? Was it because you wrote letters as a child, or did some particular exchange fuel the inception of this idea?
I went to a boarding school so I was introduced to the form of letter writing very early in life. In fact a lot of times, it was the only mode of keeping in touch. We had a few leaves in each semester when we could all go home, and folks were allowed to visit once a semester, but apart from that, it was just letters and one hour of emailing per week. So, the thought of someone writing back to me and keeping in touch inspired me to come up with Chitthi Exchange. Even The Alipore Post came partly from there – like a letter to the internet!

Do you think that art as an art form has the power to cause material change? Especially in the current scenario, considering the happenings that have been occurring in India, such as suppression of minorities.

Yes. As a form of expression and empowerment, it really encourages people to experiment with their zeal, which is actually easier for arts that you can share with others. It is not necessarily about going to a gallery, you can literally make a change on the street, just by holding a placard, saying what you want to say. It’s definitely like you are representing a part of who you are, what you stand for through your creation; It doesn’t have to be intended for that, but it always has to have that underlying message.

What are some future projects that you can tell us about?

I definitely want to create a pdf version of the website, or like a physical magazine, or maybe an e-magazine. I’d also love to pursue more collaborations and partnerships.

There are other future projects as well, like The Alipore Post library, but it will still take years to happen. In addition to this, I definitely want to release my merchandise, I am making a bunch of tote bags with my 3-year-old niece, where she gets to color over them, but I don’t exactly know what I will do with them.

There’s also this newsletter called ‘This is My Newsletter’ which has been initiated by me, but every Sunday ask a different person to curate a newsletter and send it across. Currently, we have around 500 subscribers for that which is really interesting, because honestly, I didn’t expect it to happen, because you don’t know who is going to write to you. So, through this, I have also observed that there are always people there to accept such ideas which you aren’t very sure about, but it’s also okay to take those chances and have fun with the process along the way!

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