You’ve got mail

In a world educating itself from Instagram captions, there are a handful of romantics who believe in the power of longform and storytelling. Writer, editor, curator, and occasionally a forager–Rohini Kejriwal is one such romantic. We spoke to the editor of the Alipore post (@thealiporepost) about all things literary.

Rohini Kejriwal, editor of the Alipore post

What prompted you to start the Alipore Post?

I’ve always been someone who looks for mental stimulation in the ordinary. I like how words come together to form a poem, or how you can look at the clouds and spot dinosaurs and alligators in them. Back in 2015, I was a naive human being who had just quit her first job as a print journalist to explore what digital had to offer. It was a time when Facebook and emails and Tumblr still ruled, and Instagram wasn’t around. Some time in 2014, I found a newsletter called Oddity & Light, which sent the most simple and lovely poems into my inbox. It was run by a school senior, Raeesa, and she invited me to curate some poems for the readers for a week. That deep dive into poetry opened me up to everything that existed outside of the textbooks I had read in school, through which my love for poetry began. I loved the act of putting together poems that moved me, knowing that the themes they explored were so universal and well-articulated, there would be others like me who were sure to love it too. Sometimes, the right poem arrives on a low day and everything just becomes okay again. I wanted to pass on those feelings hidden between the words with everyone curious enough to read them, experience them.

That was the seed for me to start my own newsletter–The Alipore Post. I was coming across illustrations from strangers worldwide through Tumblr, reading lots of poems and articles online and have always loved discovering new music. So I decided to put together a daily compilation as a newsletter, first for friends and family, and eventually for strangers anywhere. The name happened because I was staying at home in Alipore, Kolkata, when this brainwave struck, and the “Post” because it felt like a personal letter written to whomever was reading. Eventually, I made it a weekly newsletter, and migrated to newsletter platforms like Tinyletter and now, Substack. I’ve done lots of poetry and zine workshops and wonderful collaborations and events through this, all aligned to the same underline vision behind the newsletter.

You've got mail with Rohini Kejriwal

How do you choose themes for your curation?

The newsletters are definitely an extension of who I am, and what I’m intrigued by. Ever since they became weekly editions, I’ve allowed more of myself to seep through versus just a curation of links and poems. More so, my own mental health journey and ADHD diagnosis have helped me be more vulnerable and let my meandering mind play with whatever theme it fancies on a particular week. It’s a space for me to explore personal curiosities and half-baked ideas that have been shaping up in my mind, because I’m a big fan of letting things simmer and brew and manifest at their own time. I definitely have a leaning towards themes around nature, mental health and creativity, which keep showing up as points of interest.

I almost always find clarity when I start writing the newsletter, and the words and curation flow from that simple act of sitting in front of my laptop, coffee and kitten by my side. At the same time, I’m mindful of not sending out a newsletter for the week if I’m swamped or not feeling it. Sometimes, one just doesn't want to look for gems on the Internet, however lovely they are.

Weekly newsletter by the Alipore post

What do you do when you need a break from reading and writing?

I’m actually not someone who writes or reads too much. My reading seems to be mostly newsletters from writers I adore and graphic novels these days. And my writing is mostly limited to writing the newsletter once a week, the occasional poem in my journal when inspiration hits, or content for brands I work with. My creative outlets of late are double exposure film photography experiments, zines that act as playful brain dumps, and collecting and pressing leaves and flowers in my books. I also got a little kitten last month named Haiku and my life is now all about catering to her every need, spoiling her silly and finding joy in small moments with her.

You've got mail with Rohini Kejriwal

In a world chasing momentum, it's almost as though you are chasing stillness. What is your process of answering to that inner voice?

I loved this question, and thank you if my work makes it appear that way. To a large extent, I am chasing stillness. But chasing here is an interesting choice of words, because it’s a very slow, intentional, often backtracking personal journey. I keep falling and picking myself up and striving to stay with the new equilibrium. I am sometimes too passionate and easily get overwhelmed because I try and do too much. I have to keep reminding myself to make time for time, as a friend once put it. To embrace slowness and not-much, and wiggle my way back to myself.

I think therapy, the pandemic and living alone have collectively helped me seek and set better boundaries, and recognise that I have to work hard to preserve my limited energy when it comes to engaging with the outside world so that I don’t forget to listen to my inner voice. I’m a gentle person, who doesn’t like being in the forefront of things, who knows what she likes and doesn’t, who strives for authenticity every step of the way. The only ‘process’ for me is to keep it real, and take life one day at a time.

You've got mail with Rohini Kejriwal

Tell us about Memories on a plate. How did the project come about?

It’s been such a joyful journey to work on Memories on a Plate, which is a print anthology I’m working on with Shruti Taneja from Nivaala. We both love food and storytelling, and collaborated in the past to facilitate a recipe postcard exchange during the pandemic, when so many of us were cooking for ourselves and missed home and our loved ones. We always wanted to create a book together that captured stories from Indian kitchens. Because there’s nothing more nurturing like feeding and being fed.

With that idea at the core, we decided to do an open call for stories, essays, illustrations, poetry, photo essays and recipes around food and nostalgia. We got some 350 submissions, and have put together a whole 200+ pages anthology featuring 100 memories from Indian kitchens around the globe. We’ve done everything DIY - we curated, edited, designed and are printing it ourselves through a pre-order campaign, which ends on 30th September, and it’s been such a rewarding and satisfying labour of love thanks to the subject itself and the warmth of the contributors. We’re on the final leg now, and the closer we’re getting to the launch day, it’s sinking in how truly special this little project has turned out to be. We also wanted to pay it forward, and are donating a meal towards Khaana Chaahiye with every pre-order.

Memories on a plate by Rohini Kejriwal

Describe your life as a writer, an editor and a forager.

It’s fascinating and wonderful, mostly! There are good days and bad. Good months and bad. But every single day, life surprises me in the most unexpectedly lovely ways. It’s amazing how much awe and delight can come from the purring of a cat on your lap, or watching your bougainvillaea plant bloom after months, or cooking yourself a comforting meal after a bad day.

I think I’ve built my life in a way that everything feeds into each other. How a walk can inspire an impromptu zine, or a clean desk and a cup of coffee can put me in the mood to edit or write and finish my pending tasks. I’ve also started enjoying organising my life and structuring my brain into mini rooms through Notion, my most favourite app/platform on the Internet. It’s where my life scheduling happens, where ideas take shape, where these questions are being answered right now. It’s made my personal and professional life more exciting.

The forager in me is alive and well for everything - from little poems I find on the Internet, or fallen leaves and flowers I gather on my walks. I like how foraging is a constant feature of my life because it keeps me always open to the possibilities of delight.