VIDYA SHANKAR is a poet, writer, blogger, motivational speaker, budding mandala artist, yoga enthusiast, and English language teacher with experience in instructional designing and content development. An active member of poetry circles, her work has appeared in national and international literary platforms and anthologies. She is the recipient of literary awards, notably, Asia Literary Society’s “Prasanna Jena Memorial Award 2019” and “Gitesh-Biva Memorial Award 2019”. Vidya has been on the editorial of three anthologies, including Madras Hues, Myriad Views, an anthology of prose, poetry, art and photographs on Madras.
Vidya Shankar is the editor of Spice of Life, a collection of short stories by S. Sundar Rajan, and has been on the editorial of IPC’s Confluence and Madras Hues, Myriad Views, an anthology of prose, poetry, art and photographs on Madras.
Her first book of poems The Flautist of Brindaranyam, is a collaborative effort with her photographer husband, Shankar Ramakrishnan.
Vidya Shankar is a “book” with the Human Library, Chennai Chapter, and she also gives motivational talks at open mics. Today she lives a life of purpose by using the power of her words, both written and spoken, to create awareness about environmental issues, mental health, and the need to break the shackles of an outdated society.
By helping others heal.
Vidya is a beautiful soul who carries the quality of unconditional love and acceptance. She can connect with people, miles beyond a person’s expectation, even those whom family would hesitate to accept. She, as Yogamaya, is going to thrive in the best form of what she is.
—Sailakshmi Venkat, Social worker and Curator, Human Library Chennai chapter
Vidya has many avatars; but my favorite is the one where she discovered herself. Breaking the shackles of many a taboo, her diligent rise to a noteworthy poet is remarkable. She is vociferously kind, delightfully flexible and manages all her avatars in style.
—Chokanath Hyma, Founder, Palgenie Technologies Pvt Ltd.
Unravelling the boundless horizons of mind-soul cosmos, unleashing poetic, symbolic musings flowing into ideas and silences—this collection is a gallery space of an exploring author reaching from known to the unknown and beyond!
—Dr Sree T. Sucharitha, Associate Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Tagore Medical College Hospital, Chennai
When I read Vidya’s preface, ‘There was a vacuum, a void that scared me... a deep-seated fatigue...’—These lines sent a deep ache in my heart!
‘...months and months of my precious life gone down the drain,’ is a painful experience... inexplicable...
‘Every time I look at fear in the face, Life happens to me.’—not everyone can easily say this.
Strength and hope sprouts from the depth of pain. We all must remember not to mock a pain we haven’t endured! Please never trivialise someone’s pain.
‘This period of catharsis saw me writing poetry with a vigour. I found strength in my words...’ moved me for the strength Vidya has created for herself through art, and I surrender to the immortal feet of art that always gifts a deep healing.
From the brief journey into the world of Vidya’s poetry, I have, without exception, felt happy to read and discover raw, uninhibited, beautiful poems from the womb of her creative mind and he(art)!
Honest contemplations woven into telling, moving words...
While Vidya’s phoenix rising has been enabled by the strong supporting shoulder of her husband, Shankar Ramakrishnan (whom I call ‘aNNa’),—an inspiring passionate photographer and a compassionate soul, and through yoga, art and poetry, I really wish she had had more listening hearts during her struggling phase.
Proud to know this versatile soul, and wishing her the very best in the journey of sharing her painful story without inhibitions, and spreading hope, compassion, and love.
—Madhumathi, Poet, and a close friend
The poet has shared her rich experience in life through these poems which have a positive connotation.
The thoughts of the poet flow serenely to string flowers of words into exquisite garlands of verses to present poems which are focussed and thought provoking. They relate essentially to Mental health, Life, and Nature which are very absorbing.
S. Sundar Rajan, Chartered Accountant, Poet, and Author of Spice of Life
She is a river, serenely silken. Brown and barren at times. Occasionally, she runs in spate, roaring at being wronged, rearing at being restrained. Yet her faith in the infinite blue that awaits her, spurs her on, in spite of societal excesses and human falsities.
But once in a while, she needs to be heard too. When overwhelmed by forces beyond her control, she chokes, unable to face her fears. It is at such times that the faint line the poet, Vidya Shankar, has drawn between woman and goddess flares. It fades when by surrendering to the Divine, she discovers her purpose and refinds the goddess within her. And onward she streams.
The book thus flows like the river she is. Like the goddess she knows she can be.
—Anju Kishore, Poet, and Author of ...and I Stop to Listen
With rare eloquence, Vidya captures our hearts and minds in her second book The Rise of Yogamaya. She describes initially, how she has traversed her own “valley of darkness” to emerge stronger. Her characters are vulnerable and human. Drawing from myth as well as contemporary writing, she interprets traditionally depicted characters from fresh viewpoints. Krishna as an autistic babe or as a physically challenged youth whose flute is fluently articulate is delineated beautifully. The women, especially Draupadi and Puthanai are victims of circumstance, neither feminine nor feminist, but rise above to become liberated souls. The widower’s regret at never having considered his wife’s needs brings a tear to the eye, as does the mother who toils, while her husband reads the newspaper. The poet has celebrated bravery in her parents’ contravention of customs and paid a glowing tribute to her supportive partner. There is humour in God’s giving “a piece of mind” instead of the requested “peace of mind”! The personification of an inanimate book, coffee and the moon is done skilfully enough to bring them alive. The portrayal of the flowers in the bridal bower is lovely. Vidya is vociferous in her condemnation of pollution and has put into verse her own habit of carrying a water bottle. In her own words: ‘This joyous melody has no death, Only life to tell a grateful epic tale... The ballad of the divine nightingale.’
—Gita Bharath, Poet, and Author of Svara
‘Every time I look at fear in the face,
Life happens to me.’
The poet introduces you to her thoughts beginning with these words. You may wonder why but as you read her poems you will know that The Rise of Yogamaya is a lot about overcoming that fear—the fear this world imposes on you. It is a journey of a soul from a state of helplessness and defeat to a state of extreme elation and maybe victory. It is a tribute to all those women who undergo suffering due to this unjust society and world, immersed in morality and restrictive rules that bind them. Vidya’s poems reflect the emotions that every one of those women goes through as she tries to break free from the shackles in her journey for finding an answer. In her passionate outpourings in a lucid language full of images, the poet has tried to include all kinds of pain inflicted on a woman in search of solace. Her attempt is to attain spiritual heights.
This world is filled with Duryodhanas and Dusshasanas, a woman has to face fear, defeat, insult, shame… till her saviour arrives in the form of Krishna, as in the poem Draupadi. Scarlet Rising which is about a desire to wear a seemingly outrageous red sleeveless blouse, scorns at the society that almost crucifies a girl with harmless desires. Whether it is about motherhood or Yashoda or Puthanai or Mother Earth, water or a river, Cooum or Cauvery, plastics or a cup of coffee, the poet has a combination of pain and joy to share. While Love Anyway, Hold on to Love, Bridal Scents, and other poems in the section Kaamya speak obviously of love and Love, poems like Wake up to Poetry and Poetry of a Star take you to an ethereal state of dreams and poetry in search of her muse. There is a variety of topics touching on emotions taking you through suffering, pain, love, hatred, sadness… as they reach the final state of peace and spiritual harmony, till you realize this world also leads you to a path of enlightenment and happiness. Thus, the poet’s philosophical quest gets answered through Yogamaya, one of the many forms of Devi.
The Rise of Yogamaya is a treat, at once delightful and intellectually satisfying.
—Geeta Varma, Poet, and Author of To My Violin
Vidya’s poems are a testimony of a soul that has delved the deepest, darkest dungeons of doom and gloom and risen slowly but surely, like that great proverbial bird that rose from the ashes and soared.
Vidya’s transformation (which for someone who has been as low as she has, is a daily battle to maintain what most take for granted) to one of cheer and a life with purpose with vigour gives us all hope. And in that sense, her story and this collection of poems should be a must-read for it gives everyone a dose of Hope. For haven’t we all, at one time or another, found ourselves feeling a sense of apocalyptic doom, a gloom that seems all pervading, with no hope from any quarter? And when this feeling persists, life seems futile.
Vidya, to her credit, fought it head on, gathered strength and courage to talk about it, brushing aside all stigma that so easily attaches to such feelings. And she continues to do so for others afflicted similarly.
She thus, has chosen to live for a larger cause than her own needs.
Suffice it to say that reading Vidya’s poems the reader will be infused with three attributes:
1) Faith in God. For her, it is all Krishna.
2) The necessity of focusing on pulling oneself up through one’s own effort coupled with the help of others.
3) To never, ever, give up. Hope always lurks around the corner.
These are as good a reason to pick up Vidya’s collection of poems, read them and treasure them.
—Jairam Seshadri, Poet, and Author of Woof Songs and the Eternal Saboteur
From childhood, Vidya had a craving for literature. Though she composed poems from a very young age, being brought up in a conservative family, she kept herself away from the public. But ultimately, she did break her barriers and soared high in the sky like a bird through her writings.
With the support of her husband, Shankar, she took an impulsive step in December 2013 to start her own blog. Since then, there has been no looking back for her. The river of her lovely words and imaginations began flowing freely, which were compiled in The Flautist of Brindaranyam and now in The Rise of Yogamaya.
My sister being a Potterhead, I can’t but help wonder, maybe her pen is a magic wand which is why she is able to weave magic through her words and cast magical spells through her poetry.
Dear Vidya, I appreciate all that you do. Richly blessed and proud is how I feel having a sister like you.
—Poornima (Roja), sister (cousin)
Everybody cries sometimes, and if you don’t, you should. It is a sad fact that many of us are shamed for crying. I have always believed that emotions that are not allowed to be released tend to leak out in other areas of one’s life and makes one bitter.
I have known Vidya for long and have seen her fight her way through the “tearful” period of her life. And I am glad that all that pain of hers has found an expression in some incredible poetry. I wish her many more years of sensitive poetry writing. God bless.
—Nalini Subramanian, a close friend