In conversation with Captain Kunal Uniyal
Captain Kunal Narayan Uniyal has spent 12 years at sea as a Navy Officer which he says was instrumental in writing his first book, ‘Kuch Khwaab Sagar Se’, an anthology of Hindi poems launched in 2014.
His prose and poetry book, ‘Unanswered’ was released at the International Film Festival in Gurgaon on December 5 by famous filmmaker, Sudhir Mishra. Captain Kunal Uniyal is a Master Mariner who graduated at St Thomas College has penned books such as Kuch Khwaab Sagar Se, Unanswered which is a collection of Poetry in English, Sparrow in the Mirror and his work has been in both Italian (Il passerotto nello specchio) and French (Le moineau dans le mirroir).
Today, I host Captain Kunal Uniyal who speaks on his latest book ‘Mein Tula Hoon’ and how his experience at the sea has shaped him as a person, discovering about his inner side and his love for words through his sea voyage over the years. He is also penning his next, ‘Journey to the next level’ which is an English novel. Click on here to buy Mein Tula Hoon.
1. Your book, ‘Unanswered’, seek to provide answers to life’s passionate questions, ranging from death to life and rituals?
Unanswered is basically an attempt to find answers to all the undiscovered, unexplained questions of life which we face every day but seldom finds a single answer. All one need to do is to dive deep into your heart and uncover the divine mysteries. I followed my heart and dived into the secrets of Vedas and various religious texts to find each and every answer, opening up slowly and gradually. Be it morality, human ego, religion or death, the book will soothe and provide solace to the ailing heart at every juncture in life.
2. How much of your experience as a navy captain is present in your writing, poetry and life’s reflections?
A lot of it; In fact, I would say most of my writings are influenced by my experience of sailing across the vast oceans as it not only gave me the space for self-exploration where I stayed away from the crowd but also brought me closer to nature, thus, explaining the relation between man and nature which is embedded in the ‘Bhagwad Gita’.
I left for the sea when I was 17 years old and since then, my tryst with destiny started and continued in this ever evolving journey. This vast experience made me a poet in the real sense. My poetry is the reflection of life that one leads in one way or the other, ultimately leading to death.
3. You also released your latest which is a collection of Hindi poetry, Main Tula Hoon. How did you arrive at the name and tell us what the collection (poems) is all about in terms of emotions and expressions?
Tula means balance and it’s a coincidence that my moon sign is Libra. So, the book’s title is basically an amalgamation of both along with a third interpretation which implies, being passionate about something. A collection of 29 unique poems which is a departure from what I have earlier written. Life is all about charting out a balancing act. At the mortal level, it’s about love, hatred, fear, family and relation, among many other things. But, at the spiritual level, it is about finding common ground between the material and spiritual life like a man leading a ‘vanaprastha’ ashram.
The poem, ‘Main hoon kya’ will shake your ego, ‘Maa’ will help you understand and empathize with the pain experienced by elders residing in an old age home while ‘Yam se baat’ will usher you toward the journey of life after death and ‘Ek Majdoor’ will attune to the pain and feelings of a laborer.
4. You have spent 12 years in the Navy that inspired you to pen your first book, ‘Kuch Khwaab Sagar se’ which was translated into both French and Italian. How much of your experience at the sea, is present in the book and observations made as a Navy Officer?
The book, ‘Kuch Khwaab Sagar se’ was my first and best poetry work. Trust me, it will always be close to my heart. I am what this book has made me and was the result of my meditation spanning over 15 odd years. I never expected the book to reach soaring heights and to give me such recognition. The cherry on the cake was the French and Italian translations of the book.
The work in the book is the dreams churned from the ocean similar to the ‘Samudra Mathan’ where slowly and gradually, such moments came to influence one’s life. Since the dreams expressed were a true account and flowing straight from the heart, it captivated souls.
Cyclones, pirates, nations, cities, and circles each form an intrinsic part of the book and they are studded with jewels on the crown known as ‘Kuch Khwaab Sagar se’.
5. Mein Tula Hoon was also launched by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and is published in Hindi. As a writer and poet, do you think there is a lack of Hindi literature and how do you think we can preserve the rich Hindi literature that gave birth to intellectual writers like Premchand?
It was truly an honour when the Honorable Chief Minister agreed to not only launch the book but spent quality time by reviewing the book in front of a huge gathering.
When I started writing in Hindi, I was discouraged by many who described it as a dying art and there won’t be many who will appreciate me and my writings. But, I followed my heart and kept writing. It was my second poetry book and it shows that if you write well, there will always be an audience who will lap your work. Of late, I have realized that the Hindi as a language is reclaiming its audience since we now there are many poetry writers and readers making a beeline even during corporate events. A reader with the slightest interest in literature, philosophy and intellectualism will surely opt for poetry and I am pretty sure there are many of them in our present and coming generation. Literature and language are sacred and larger than life that there has never been a need to preserve or nourish them. Hindi as a language has always stood tall due to its richness. There may be a lull in some phase but, its might cannot be destroyed and reduced to zilch.
6. Can you tell your readers what can they expect from Mein Tula Hoon after the rave reviews and response to Unanswered?
As I said earlier, Main Tula Hoon is a journey of a soul from rags to riches. Rags in the sense of material pleasure and riches one draw from spiritual fulfilment. One can only achieve peace when one learns to balance life from all perspectives. In the start, it takes place at the platonic level but it slowly reaches out to the cosmic world. There are people all around us who will be our competitor, lover, enemy or compatriot at every level and we need to offer stability in our human interaction. As humans, we often view life with a blurred vision and the aim of ‘Main Tula Hoon’ is to shed the blinkers to see things, in its entirety from a spiritual perspective. I want to reach out and convey this message to the masses through this book.
7. As a Navy officer whose life revolves around the sea, how tough it gets to make time to write when you see danger lurching at every juncture unlike civilians?
Yes undoubtedly, it is difficult, a very very difficult task. But, then difficulty squeezes the best out of you, isn’t it? I always believed and followed this philosophy. With roaring seas, howling wind and pitch dark sky, all marching towards you with all their might, it’s the conscious being which resides within that tells you that it’s nature that wants to embrace and sometimes, it hits you the hardest so that you are able to listen to this divine voice.
Slowly and sheepishly, poetry is created amidst this confusion and tirade. You can well imagine now how poetry is crafted with such will and wit which is different from how a normal person writes.
8. Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a seafarer, the highs and lows-in terms of flirting with danger at sea?
I left for the sea when I was 17 andh sailed since then, almost covered most of the surface of the earth and travelling to most of the countries during 13 years of my life. I sailed with people from various countries such as Italy, Ukraine, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where I learned a lot from each of one of them. There were instances where I travelled as a lone Indian among people hailing from different parts of the globe. Truth in my heart and a diary in hand, I captured beautiful moments offered by life.
In the eye of two cyclones, attacked by sea pirates, I crossed Bermuda triangle ample times and dived into the depth of Mariana trench, which sums my journey at the sea. At the end of the day, I always say that you can take a man out of the sea but never a sea out of the man.
9. Have you always wanted to become a Navy officer or you became one by a stroke of destiny?
I would say it was truly my destiny to be in this profession. Even before the results of board exams were declared, I got selected for N.D.A, aeronautical engineering, Army technical and merchant navy. I always wanted to travel and meet people, so I opted for this profession. Many years down the line, I believe it was the best decision I could ever make in life. Rising from deck cadet to master of a ship and from ship captain to a poet, I believe that my destiny was already written.
10. What role books played in your life and would you say that Kuch Khwaab Sagar se and Mein Tula Hoon saw the culmination of your aspirations or brought you face to face with destiny?
I can say that my books made me a better person and helped me to understand life in a much better way than a normal man would.
This course of life made me realize that I am not what I think I am but what people believe I can be. It helped me to redefine myself where I was brought closer to my destiny on each passing day. I am a universal soul that resides in all and all in me. I am he and he is me.