LFM #14: Aishwarya on Poetry, Home, and Spreading Happiness

I remember the exact moment I “met” Aishwarya. I was in Seattle in September of 2017, after attending my first Create & Cultivate conference. I had just read about and installed Shapr, a professional networking app touted as “Tinder meets LinkedIn.” And because I was in Seattle, another writer in the city popped up: Aishwarya. We both “matched” and wanted to meet each other, but by the time we’d seen each other’s messages, I was on a flight back to Illinois.

An Instagram friendship ensued; her poems have a way of taking the breath out of me, more times than I would think possible. Much of my saved collection on Instagram contains Aishwarya’s poems. And I was so glad when she agreed to be interviewed! Aishwarya is a writer and photographer living Seattle.

INSPIRED

“My mornings differ as to when I start the day—it’s usually around 7 a.m., I rarely set alarms, and am mostly woken up by the sunlight or a garbage truck sound,” she laughs. “As soon as I wake up, I listen to a chant called Poornamadah Poornamidam— it’s a chant for peace, joy, and healing. It helps get my day going. Then I will meditate, but I don’t force myself… then my day starts.”

“I’m not a big coffee drinker, because drinking caffeine messes me up, unless I absolutely need that messing up to function during the day. I do drink tea in the winter every morning, and then I’ll water my plants, because I’m a plant mom now. I go and say hi and treat them and tell them it’s going to be a good day,” she laughs. “My mom is excited to hear updates on my bonsai!”

I asked Aishwarya how she goes about writing her poems. Is there a process? Do they just flow? “There’s so much to unpack!” she laughs. “Usually it’s just something that I see or happens to me, and it’s like ‘huh, maybe I do want to explore this further, maybe someone else does feel this way, maybe they want to feel like they’re not alone in that feeling… lately I’ve been waking up at 2 a.m. and realizing I have a thing in my head. I’ll put it in notes on my phone and get back to it when I wake up… maybe it’s a thing I want to explore right this very minute… maybe it’s not a poem, but just a simple haiku… there is no fancy process.”

Aishwarya works as a photographer, so she has no fixed hours. “As a person, I’m just not good with rules,” she says. “I like to break them. That’s just how my brain works, so I still do set deadlines for myself so I can have a structure of some sort. But I don’t like having a set schedule because it just drives me crazy… I most likely would break it just for the sake of breaking it.”

Aishwarya is a Buddhist and says having a daily practice, reading through and focusing on the teachings, really helps balance her out. “I’m not a generally religious person, but I am definitely very existential, and if I don’t keep that in check, it just turns into a mess, and I know that doesn’t benefit me. It helps remind me that it’s ok to not know all the answers… it’s not something I have to worry about. Have I done right by others who invested their love and time in me? Was I kind in my ways? The Buddhist philosophy helps me remember that it’s okay to not know everything, and just live in the moment.”

Life, as I’ve learned
Does not like the way
We plan things
And time them to our convenience.
This knowledge has surfaced
Over decades; more times
Than I thought I would have to,
More times than I thought
I could weather.
— Aishwarya Nair

Aishwarya moved to Seattle from Connecticut three years ago, but was born in India. “It was such an interesting change, moving from India to Connecticut when I was 10,” she says. “It was a super huge cultural shock—like, oh! There aren’t many people who look or sound like me, or understand my whole deal… I went to a private Catholic school in Greenwich, and I wasn’t Catholic by any margin there and it was so interesting. I hated being there… I didn’t know what to do with my feelings at the time. Looking back, it was for the best, but for a kid displaced from everything, it’s hard to work through that.”  

“Seattle is a city held together by creatives. I moved to Seattle for love, and I’m still in love with the city, even though it didn’t work out with that partner. For the longest time, I never felt like I belonged… even in India, even here. But Seattle, feels so much like home and I know this because this is the feeling I’ve sought my whole life,” she says. “My mom says ‘home is where my heart resides out of my chest… I could try and be that poetic, but would never accomplish it,” she laughs.

 MOVEMENT

“I have this friend who is a sticker poet, and they gave me a bunch of their stickers to just have for myself, but I put them in the neighborhood I live in,” Aishwarya says. “My neighborhood is super isolated, so I thought, I am just going to put a bunch of stickers up and brighten the neighborhood’s day.  By mid-afternoon, if I feel myself getting sleepy, I think, you know what, I’m going to go take a walk. I go put out stickers… and now I love going for walks, and with the hills in Seattle, I don’t have to go on an actual hike to get my cardio in! Just a 15 minute walk, and I’m done for the day,” she laughs. “I still do yoga, but walking for 15 minutes there and back, putting up stickers… most people won’t see it, but someone will, and maybe it will make them happy. Maybe it won’t. But you have to try. That’s the only thing.”

 You can follow Aishwarya on Instagram.

I dreamed of us
Last night,
And I am not entirely sure
That was a dream at all.
You looked
Like you had wandered right
Out of the fairytale
From my childhood, bathed in
Gentleness and home;
And I, I just looked
Very lucky.
You took my hand,
And we moved together
In the moonlight
Underneath the stars.
— Aishwarya Nair