Interview with Mr. Amarendra Khatua


This month we are featuring a diplomat with a charming personality, a kind heart and a mighty pen.

Mr. Amarendra Khatua is a 1981 batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service. In his diplomatic career, he has held trade and economic positions in the Ministry of External Affairs and Indian missions abroad. He has also served in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Planning Commission and Ministry of Industry. He is also the Director Founder of Millenial Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

Mr. Khatua is an accomplished writer with more than 40 collections in Hindi, English, Odia and Spanish and in all other major Indian and international languages.

Here’s our discussion with the versatile diplomat.

Vandana Bhasin: Mr. Khatua, being an Indian diplomat, you have travelled and served in various countries. How has this experience enriched you as an individual and as a writer?

Amarendra Khatua: I joined as a Foreign Service Officer in 1981. However, I started writing when I was only 10 years old and I got published at the age of 12 in Odia and English. I always kept my profession separate from my identity as a writer. Though I have published collections of poetry, short stories, novella, and essays, I mainly remain a poet.

I have served in Pakistan, Russian Federation, USA, Spain, Ivory Coast and Mexico and also in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Uruguay, Paraguay, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. I am still in touch with many writers of these countries and being a voracious reader, I have read many authors of these countries. Besides translating them sometimes, the fact that you live like a resident for three years in other country, your poetic imagination and vocabulary start borrowing the part of their richness, style, imagery and experience, and use these as expressive additions in one’s creativity. As an individual, such experience teaches you humility and to appreciate cultural differences, and as a writer, it points out that everyone’s literary creativity is unique and we all writers are trying to define our creative tradition.

Vandana Bhasin: Sir you have been writing for many years, how do you think the technological advancement has changed the paradigm of writing space?

Amarendra Khatua: Writing space no more belongs to so-called few. Literature and literary activity has become globalized. Technological advancement has created diversified literary fraternity across the continents, facilitated exchanges, encouraged new and young writers, and made publication within reasonable reach of the talent. The domain is vast, varied and helpful to tap global audience. To some extent the problem of translation and transcreation have also been resolved and this extends the literary fraternity all over the world. Example of such reach during difficult COVID time must be illuminating for all of us who are writing and publishing and seeking readership.

Vandana Bhasin: Despite holding a bureaucratic position that demands a lot of time and energy, you have kept your love for poetry alive by writing numerous books in multiple languages. What drives you to be a writer? What inspires your pen?

Amarendra Khatua: In India we have a large number of authors who are also bureaucrats. However, I started writing at an early age from my remote life in rural Odisha under the love and guidance of my great grandfather. He taught me to keep my poetic self away from my professional and familial responsibilities. I am a known trade specialist of India and WTO negotiator and have promoted India’s trade and economic relations across the globe. Along with this role, I kept on publishing in my limited way with great difficulty and interacting with global literary personalities. However, I have not used my diplomatic position to publish more or exploit my position to get my books translated or buy laurels. I love poetry and live like a poet. Curiosity, dignity, meaning of relationships, exile from Odisha due to professional and familial realities, love in all its multipronged divine and mundane colors, influence my themes and poetic march.

Vandana Bhasin: Poetry is believed to touch the chords of the soul and connect people at a deeper level. Do you think being a poet has changed your persona or your attitude towards people or life in general?

Amarendra Khatua: Yes, poetry has made me soft in seeking meaning and defining attitude. Poetry has simplified my life as a human being. Poetry is a reflection of all your inner struggles, psychological impressions, relationship modes, and dreams fulfilled or boiling in imagination. Poetry connects with people and readers and does not aim to bring revolution but to awaken love, empathy and smiles. Evolution, more than revolution, for me is the light and sound dimension of poetry.

Vandana Bhasin: We live in a fairly competitive world that is full of distractions. What advise would you like to give to aspiring writers to garner attention of readers and to make their writing appeal to masses?

Amarendra Khatua: Remember, poetry must have a platform and readership to satisfy. ‘Only me and myself’ approach has ruined many poets. If I am an aspiring or young poet, I must reach out to fellow poets who have appreciative critical outlook for others’ poetry. I must publish regularly with the help and consultation of other writers and publishers. I must read and become aware of my gradual evolution as a poet in my language, in my expression, in my style and in my treatment of right themes in a way that it would resemble my uniqueness. Seeking controversy for the sake of controversy must be avoided and love, friendship and brotherhood must be the aura around your poetic self and creativity.

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