Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Dr Raman K Attri about his new poetry book If Forever Exists, his career, what inspires him, and the advice he has for others.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Well, my name is Raman. I am living in Singapore as of now. Actually, I was born in India to an impoverished family. I was around six months old when I contracted the deadly poliovirus. It left me with a permanent physical disability. I lost my ability to walk since childhood. Now I manage to walk with crutches.
I developed a love for learning in my childhood. I mastered poetry, palmistry, astronomy, physics, science, and other topics ahead of my age. That passion has taken me through some journeys in which I have earned two doctorates in the learning domain and over 100 international educational credentials. I am also recognised with some of the world’s highest certifications in corporate management, business, leadership, consulting, and training.
My immobility to walk fuelled my journey to be a writer. In my childhood days, I wrote poems, stories, dialogues and philosophical pieces, though I could not publish them back then. Now, I have authored and published 20 multi-genre books ranging from training, learning leadership to art and poetry. I tend to write on deeper perspectives on the multidimensional aspects of human learning and excellence.
I earned my degree in electronic engineering and went onto become a technology scientist for about a decade. However, my roots pulled me towards what I was meant to be. Eventually, I decided to go into the learning domain, pursuing it as my full-time career.
Currently, I am a training thought leader. I manage a Hall of Fame training organisation for a Fortune 500 corporation. I am also a learning scientist and a global authority on speed in professional learning and workforce performance. In addition, I run a research forum, XpertX, with a mission to guide people to learn the art and science of speed in learning and performance.
I am also a professional speaker. I deliver keynotes on the science of speed, which are equally inspiring and actionable.
When did you first WANT to write poetry?
I faintly remember that I wanted to write poetry when I was in high school. At that time, I wrote poems which were more in my native language. As I said, I was disabled since childhood. So glued to a chair, my best bet was to get immersed in daydreaming with vivid imaginations. That’s where my creative and emotional side evolved and saw its outlet in the form of poetry and art.
When did you take a step to start writing poetry?
My first step to poetry was writing small poetical songs in my native language. More or less, it was experimental, inspired by songs I used to hear or the books I used to read. More structured poetry evolved during my college times in the early 1990s, immediately after high school. My first attempt at writing poems was for my friends, you know, to help them express their emotions through greeting cards on various occasions. What started as a small help soon flourished into writing proper pieces of poetry.
How long did it take you to complete your first book, from the first idea to release?
My first poetry book was written in my native language, Hindi. It was a collection of poems which I had written since the 1990s or earlier. That book came out after I got access to publication resources. From the day I thought of publishing it, the book came about within 6 months.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Most of the poems I wrote were written between 1990 to 2005. Most of these were written in my personal journal as a mode of self-expression. These poems were written for real events, real people, real relationships and real places. So, in a way, you can say it is a personal poetical memoir.
The perfectionist inside me always doubted the quality of those poems not being publish-worthy yet. But then I decided to make those moments immortal. That’s how I came up with the title ‘IF FOREVER EXISTS’ and the subtitle ‘the moments that lasted a lifetime.’
I published the book in 2018, some 25 years from the date I started writing poetry. It took me about 9 months to complete the journey from idea to release. While the poems were already written, I wanted to perfect in them a lot of things. Out of these 9 months, a large part of the time was spent editing the poems and wordsmithing. A substantial time was spent on finalising fonts, typesets and overall formatting to give this book a unique look. I also spent quite some time designing an outstanding cover that conveys the theme of the book.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write If Forever Exists?
As we grow up, we build several relationships of varied nature from friendship, family to love. As we pass through the ups and downs of these relationships, our relationships go through a series of phases in the emotional journey. At each phase, we are bound to feel, process, and express complex emotions differently. There are always some soulful moments, events, and emotions we encounter in our life which we wish could stay with us forever. I thought the only way to make such moments immortal is to put them on paper. That’s why I titled the book ‘If Forever Exists.’ This book is a personal memoir of my encounters and experience during my early adult life. The book is like a time machine that would allow one to reflect back at their innocent times, reliving those moments again and again.
What were your biggest challenges with writing If Forever Exists ?
I did not have any challenges writing the book. As I said, most of the poems I had written around 25 years ago. But because of the lack of guidance and little access to people who could help me publish, it got delayed to form it as a book. During my time, nearly three decades ago, writing books was a well-kept secret known to a few geniuses only. Unfortunately, I did not have access to any book author in my proximity back then to leverage upon. Despite having good ideas, publishers would not listen to anyone less credible.
I have to say, my authorship career really took off with self-publishing. Though the low barrier of entry, it was far easier to publish the book; I wanted it to be a multisensory experience for the readers. People need to feel the words, the meaning behind them and make complete sense of the context.
So, there was a lot of post-writing and pre-publication work that was challenging. This was not an ordinary poetry book. I wanted it to be a multisensory experience for readers.
The first challenge was to make sure the poetry I included in the book could strike a chord with anyone who reads it. It has to be relatable for the readers too. So, I came up with a thirteen-part structure based on the phases anyone goes through in their relationships. This took me some time to brainstorm and come up with the section names.
The next challenge was that poems are not just words. It has to take people vividly to a place or person they think of while reading my book. So, I came up with fourteen hand-drawn sketches that conveyed the theme of each section. That was an unusual choice, but that was one of the highlights of the book. The portrait was drawn to express the theme vividly in a way that would bring people back to their experiences.
My next challenge was to make sure the typesetting gives a special feel to the people reading my poetry. As a poetry book, I needed the formatting and typeset of poems that can convey delicate sentiments. It took me several rounds to perfect the fonts, sizes and formatting, to give a special look to the book.
My last challenge was to design an eye-catching cover and binding that can increase the book’s shelf life. It took me several months to finally create the book cover I had envisioned. The book cover was conceptualised as two hearts – one on the front and one on the back; each heart contains a portrait of a face I had drawn long back. One face represents the past, and one face represents the present. That way, it symbolises the connection between the dots from past to present as we navigate the complexities of life.
While I had several challenges, it was worth it. The result was a beautiful library edition hardcover book with a nice jacketed cover, excellent typeset, high-quality papers, and visual sketches and well-organised structure.
Do you keep to a theme with your poems, or just go where the mood strikes?
Not really. I don’t remember I ever got into any poet mode to deliberately write a poem. I am not a professional poet; it just came out accidentally during my everyday interactions with others. In the beginning, I started writing poems for greeting cards at my friends’ requests. So, the theme depended upon what they wanted me to communicate with their loved ones.
Poems that triggered out of my own experiences came on the spur of the moment. Sometimes while I was in the middle of an experience, some thoughts or words flash across my mind, and I would try to capture them natively. I refined, rearranged, wordsmith and rhymed it later.
But the real magic happened when poems were ready to be published in a book. I arranged the poems as a lived experience. In my book IF FOREVER EXISTS, I chose 87 poems. I arranged the poems in 13 parts, each part representing a symbolic phase any young adult goes through and various types of personal relationships. These poems explore the complexity of life through the successes and failures of relationships.
The 13 Parts Of If Forever Exists
THE LONER starts off with poems that express what it may feel like when we are lonely, when we feel the need for a companion, or when we lack a sense of belongingness.
THE DREAM FACE portrays images any young man keeps imagining in his adolescence about the potential partner one hopes for.
THE FIRST SIGHT recounts the reactions to seeing that face for the first time.
THE MAGIC OF BELOVED expresses the magic we experience when madly in love with someone.
THE LOVE HAPPENED signifies the beautiful and pleasant changes brought in us by the sheer sense of belongingness with someone.
THE PROMISES emulates the thoughts, expectations, and disappointments that arise out of promises we make with our friends or near ones.
THE DISTANCES BETWEEN tells us how terrible we feel when we are away from friends, loved ones, even if it is for a short time.
THE BROKEN HEART is dedicated to the painful heartbreaks sooner or later that everyone feels in a relationship.
THE ADIEU TO LOVE shows the inevitable reality that people don’t always stay in our lives, even if we want them to.
THE MEMORIES FOREVER recounts and relives the memories left by those beautiful moments while expressing that life does not stop at one place or one person.
THE GOING BACK reminds us of a range of emotions and reactions we express toward the places we belong to, things we missed the most, the mistakes we made, friends we adored, dreams we built, failures that scared us, and confusions life brought to us.
THE FOREVER concludes my philosophy that some desires, like love, are timeless, boundary-less, unconditional, and persist throughout our life.
In all these segments, I have tried to capture a range of emotions adolescents, young adults or grown-ups feel during those phases, such as love and friendship; attraction and infatuations; belongingness and loneliness; rejections and acceptances; obsessions and passion; successes & failures; heart and mind, along with many more powerful emotions. These all are natural human responses.
What is your favourite poem in If Forever Exists about and what inspired it?
It is hard to point out one when you are the creator of it all. It becomes a part of you. But I would say the one titled ‘It was you All Along’ is my favourite. I find it is challenging to express how magical it is when you find someone when you finally meet that special person in your life. But at the same time, we find ourselves at the loss for words. This poem is my attempt at expressing those feelings as vividly as possible. I tried to express that sometimes we feel presence of someone next to us all the time, well before actually meeting that person for the first time. And when we meet one day, we feel we were meant to meet long ago.
Does music help you write or is it a distraction?
I find music a distraction while writing because it may disturb your rhyme. But I suppose music can trigger a lot of things when you are thinking about some expressions.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did If Forever Exists need?
I guess I can say that I’m a perfectionist. I needed everything to be as perfect as possible. So, I had run my manuscript through several rounds of editing.
First, I sought professional freelance service to make sure I was using the right words in the right context. English vocabulary could be interpreted pretty differently in different parts of the world. Also, word usages in normal text versus poetic texts vary to some extent.
Second, I found it challenging to create perfect rhymes in certain places. So, I took some creative help in paraphrasing certain stances for a rhythmic layout.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write poetry?
I am not a professional poet. Fundamentally, I am a scientist and an engineer. So, perhaps, I cannot share any advice like a literary poet. But I have tried writing poems from everyday incidences which had inspired me. These come from our usual relationships. Through this book, I can send a message to the readers that we have probably made our life too dry by coming across as professionals or dignified leaders. Human experiences are multidimensional. We can feel, process, and express. Admittedly, not everyone can be good with words and weave a poem, but then again, expressions do not need to adhere to any set rules. I have seen people who just write in the free flow of heartfelt words as poems. As long as you can express the impression vividly and accurately about the way you feel, you can ignite the poet inside you.
My advice to others would be to let the sensitive human side of you complement your dominant professional personality. Don’t worry if you or others don’t see it congruent with what you are doing today. Live and relive your memorable moments that defined who you were back then. Take pride in expressing your inner self. Stay true to yourself, even if it is really sensitive, and bring it out.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
At this moment, I do not have any plans to write any more poetry books. However, I am working on specific ideas to repurpose my poems.
First, I repurposed several of my poems. I included these selected poems in my coffee-table book of portraits in which each poem described a specific portrait.
Second, I am negotiating an arrangement with a budding music band for them to turn my poems into songs and create music videos. It’s basically a family band.
Third, I am looking forward to generating some short videos with lyrics and background music. I plan to create a separate YouTube channel for this. Another thing I would like to do is to create an Instagram page with graphically designed poems.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yeah, I am glad that finally, I could publish the book as a beautifully jacketed, hardcover library edition. I was thrilled to see my books being sold in some of the famous libraries across the globe.
This book is so close to my heart; it combined the artist, writer, creative designer and the poet inside me with working in sync with each other, producing a masterpiece for life. I am proud of having created such a piece.
Though I am a scientist, while developing this book for over a year, it challenged my beliefs that life is not just about being logical and rational. More often, it is about being sensitive and emotional. In the end, we are a sum total of all the professional experiences and personal encounters. That’s why I use the phrase “art and science” quite often in whatever I do, as I believe whatever we do in life has both an analytical and a creative side.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Get to know me profile: https://www.speedtoproficiency.com/ramankattri
Purchase my book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/9811413932