Interview With Poet, Benazir Mungloo

At the age of 22, I was in the middle of my Social Service Worker Diploma Programme at Centennial College. I was no where near as organized as Benazir Mungloo, I mean all that she has accomplished in just 2 decades and 2 years is very commendable. Throughout her contemporary life Benazir does not only write but, also teaches and attends university simultaneously. I honestly don’t know how she does it?  Benazir is incredibly poised and well spoken with a plethora of experience with regards to television interviews as well.  I relish the concept of written interviews, I’m not very good at thinking on my feet.  I’m like that scene from “You’ve Got Mail” when Meg Ryan’s (Katherine Kelly) character was confronted by Tom Hanks (Joe Fox), her words suddenly disappeared from her lexicon until after.  Once she was removed from the situation all the words came to her – at times that can be very frustrating.  When we want to express and say what we desire but for some reason our words are lost. I find that written interviews, provide more of an opportunity to think about what you want to write, as opposed to a live television recorded interviews.   To be frank, I’m in awe of human beings who can think quickly on their feet without mumbling. Check out Benazir on Instagram @benazir.mungloo you’ll be happy you did – she is truly an authentic soul wanting to make the world a better place via writing advocacy. 

RMMW: We all have to deal with our inner critic, how do you contend with yours?
BM: I like to think of my inner critic as an invisible audience in my head that sometimes hypes for me when that well written poem has freshly just been completed or who sometimes clouds me with waves of self-doubts and insecurities like everyone else. I think being able to deal with your inner critic firstly starts with control over yourself and your emotions. It is to understand that it is normal to sometimes be negative about yourself just like how sometimes you applaud yourself for all the great things that you achieve. And yet within the same line, it is to make yourself understand that a leeway of being negative about yourself is a maximum of a week. If beyond a week, I find myself still all negative, I start by grabbing my marker and start by listing out all the positive things about me in parallel with those things that’s making me so negative. Oftentimes, my positives outweigh the negatives and that does the job. Other times, my friends are great at slapping those positive things in my face and help me get up from that spot. And if I am really stuck and still doubting myself and my abilities, I often begin the thinking process contemplating how can I make this better. Ok sure, I didn’t get that HD in that assignment I worked so hard for. Ok, my mind is telling me that I’m shit at this (probably my teacher’s remarks low-key says the same thing). But now, how can I make this better? How can I improve so that I never find myself in this position again? I always spend minutes figuring answers to this question and I always find ways to be kinder to myself everyday. And for this, I’d like to thank my ex-therapist.
RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked? If yes, how did you overcome it?
BM: I have had a massive writer’s block at the start of 2019. I’d blame it on my health though. It was hard to concentrate and write at the time when my health was shaking. At the time, I was doing my final semester of my creative writing major of my bachelor’s degree. So, want it or not, I needed to write every week for my class’s writing workshops. To be able to get through, I tried a few strategies. First off, I decided to leave my words and the writer’s position at my desk for a few days. During that time, I went out, I explored, I had fun and I completely forgot about it. A week later, I came back and I tried again. Failure. It’s okay. I did not force myself. A day later, I read new books that would hopefully inspire me. I even went on to check some of the new posts of my favourite poets – what if the inspiration comes from there? Once all of that was done, I went back and tried writing again until the words leapt off like water. But amidst all of this, I remembered to be kind to myself. I remembered that I’m not a writing machine. And I remembered that a writer does not forget her ways with words. So, it’s okay if in the minute I was struggling. See, it’s all in your head and it depends on how you choose to deal with it.
RMMW: Do you have any ritual before starting a new piece?
BM: Hmm. I wouldn’t say that I have a fixed ritual as such. I always remember to breathe. I always put some music on and grab a cup of coffee. And then I get to my desk, flick through that unfinished manuscript and stare at the blank page, recapitulating the events I’d like to write about until the words become ink on paper.
RMMW: Being so young, if you could travel to the future to ask your future self a question – what would it be?
BM: I would have loved to ask my future self if she is proud of the woman that she has become and if along the way she has lived life to the fullest and just the way she wanted this lifetime to be.
RMMW: Being originally from Mauritius and currently living in Australia provides you with such a diverse background culturally, does that ever bleed into your writing?
BM: I think who I am and whatever I have been through or wherever I live has a big impact on what I write. I often say that I am very transparent in my art and that’s essential as a writer. I often find myself writing about issues from home (Mauritius) or about what I see around me in Melbourne.  Other times, it’s just the description of the settings that often shapes into Melbourne or Port Louis because these are the two locations that I have lived in and am so familiar with the air of these major cities. Or else, other times, my characters in my short stories or poems can easily be either a brown character or an Aussie. It’s that simple. I feel at ease doing these because, I have been around these people and it’s just easier to write about things or depict people that you have seen so closely.
RMMW: What is your favourite topic to write about and why?
BM: I don’t think that I can pick one. I write about diverse things. Though I find myself writing about heart breaks and mental health a lot cause these two topics are close to home and are things that I have personally struggled with a lot, I still like to think that empowerment and feminism are my favourite deals. I think my writings about heart breaks and mental health is an exposition of reality, of the pain and the negatives that all of us go through and is mandatory to have a talk about those until they become normal. In this modern era, where we are taught to race and achieve in terms of education, we often belittle those who may struggle mentally post break up. How many times have we not heard it in small countries like mine “It’s stupid that you’re crying over a guy / girl”. And the level of ignorance that this sentence carries just startled me at some point. The amount of increasing suicide rates and homicide of youngsters and married men / women in my home country over a divorce or break up is also a main reason why I pour all of these in my poetry, in an attempt to make others feel that it is normal and it is okay to struggle in that minute. Struggling with a breakup is normal and in no way makes you weak. Oftentimes, that’s refuted with the elements of empowerment and feminism in my art since that’s the next part of the story. That’s about when you’re done grieving or are struggling to move on, so these poems are for people to understand their worth, to own themselves and to keep moving. As a whole, my writing is therapy to me and it’s very reflective as I attempt to make this collective so that the messages at least attempt to heal the heart of these people.
RMMW: What is your first writing memory?
BM: Unlike so many writers who say that they started writing at 9 years old something, I started writing at 15 years old. And at the time, Wattpad was the new big thing. I remember writing my first story ever “The man I hardly knew” on the site. In fact, the story is still up on Wattpad. To me, the writing of that story is very amateurish, probably full of typos and what not of things that I know that I could have improved big times; since now after completing double majors in Creative writing and Media & Com at Monash Uni, my pen game is strong. But that same story brought me my audience. It brought me my first few readers who were hyping for me. It brought me my first audience who had predicted that some day I will make it big and win noble awards. It is for this reason, I never deleted it. By now, Wattpad has officially ranked my story “The man I hardly knew” as number 4 for the genre Indian drama and is trending there.
RMMW:  What is the relationship between your writing and speaking voice?
BM: Like I mentioned before, I tend to be very transparent in my writing. And since writing is more of a self-reflective and therapy session for me before it becomes work, art or passion, I think the relationship between what I write and what I practice is pretty proportional. Though sometimes, I am best at giving advice in poetry rather than what I practice myself just like that friend who is single but is best at giving relationship advice. But since the words came from me, the day always comes when I actually practice what I may have written two years ago. In fact, this is something my therapist said to me before as well. I have my days where I’m dwelling in all the negative stuffs but having positive things anyway come out of me is a sign that I will be there someday, owning my words and practising them as I preach.
RMMW: A television interview is different than a written one. Which one do you prefer and why?
BM: I think they both have their own pros and cons. A written interview happens in two ways. You either meet the journalist face to face, share a cup of coffee with them as they jot down answers to your interview. Or simply the journalist sends you the question by email or conducts the interview on the phone. I think when you meet the journalist, it’s more spontaneous answers and your real self peaks out. At the same time, the journalist gets to know you a lot better which is always crucial for the latter since knowing who they’re dealing with in the first-place impacts how they’re going to write that interview.  I think impression plays a big part on getting that journalist to write a good interview about you. I think interview by mail or phone is unfortunately my least preferred one since I get all the time to write my well thought responses (which is good) but the person writing it doesn’t get to know me personally and they can only write about what I share with them. A television interview is my most preferred simply because it’s everything. When I was aired on our national TV, not only the host got to know me but our entire nation, my audience got to put a face and a voice to the writings that they support on Instagram and the books that I wrote.
RMMW: From reading many of your interviews, you are clearly busy, how do you manage your work life balance?
BM: In Australia, I study, work and write all at the same time. I barely have a social/party life but that doesn’t bother me. Anyways I am not a big-time party animal neither and have always been fond of spending time with myself more.  My close friends understand this, and I hang out on weekends for a bit as I’m free. I am a very focussed and ambitious individual. I’m often termed as a workaholic as well. I have a clear vision of what I want, and my aim is just to make it happen right now. I am 22 and these are my selfish years cause I want to make it happen. So, I go to Uni in the morning. In between, I catch up with a friend or two for lunch or coffee or I go to meet my role models in the field. In the afternoon, I go for a four-hour shift at a market research company. And once I\’m back from work, I sit down to write until I sleep. I believe when you’re passionate about something, you make it happen.
RMMW: Where do you hope to be 5-10 years from now?
BM: I hope the big dream of being NY best time selling author would have been achieved by then.
RMMW: Do you have any interesting writing quirks? What are they?
BM: Since they become poems latter but at first the words are thoughts, I actually write down my first draft on the app “canva” and then go on to transfer that to my pages document on my laptop and start work-shopping that piece. It’s rare that I actually start writing on a piece of paper or on the pages app directly.
RMMW: If you had a superpower, what would it be?
BM: I would have loved to travel from one country to another through the snap of a finger. It’d save tons of time and money spent on airfares. And I’d be able to complete my bucket list in no time!

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