What Makes a Winner, part two: A conversation with Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay

Last month, Lagnajita, a student at Hume Fogg High School, won our Nashville Reads Essay contest in the teen category for her breathtaking piece, "An Insignificant Balcony." We're proud to share a few words from her today, but first, in case you missed it, here's a bit of her winning work: 

The humid July air drifts through the open windows, leaving fragrant footprints on the cold tiles. There’s no such thing as summer here; it’s monsoon season. The rain comes in droves like the murder of crows perched on the colorful awnings of the market. The city’s littered with sundry sounds, from street peddlers to wives hanging up clotheslines and sloshing rickshaw wheels on slippery mud. All this, accompanied by the horns of passing bicycles, creates a symphony of vibrancy that’s difficult to forget. This is home.

I’ve seen limitless wonders from this insignificant balcony, played I Spy with Grandpa from the fourth floor, and counted cars until I ran out of fingers and toes. This crooked foundation has held the weight of my childhood, from Popsicles to school uniforms. Yet here I am now, a million miles away, disconnected from the very idea of a simple visit to Grandma’s.

Read the rest of the essay here. 

The Porch: Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing "An Insignificant Balcony"?

Mukhopadhyay: Writing "An Insignificant Balcony" was quite a quick process, really. I had a slight hint of an idea ahead of time but no structure. When I sat down to write, however, things just started flowing out. Eventually, the entire story was done within a matter of a couple hours. It was a pretty satisfying outpouring of my ideas, thoughts, and feelings onto paper. The finished product is a really honest and emotional account of my experiences.

The Porch: This essay is very lyrical, and I know you write poetry as well as prose. Is the subject matter of this essay something you've explored in your poetry, as well? What kinds of subjects and themes have emerged in your poetry? 

Mukhopadhyay: Yes, actually one of the first poems I had ever written was along the lines of this subject called "Midsummer," and it was about the feeling I get when I visit my home in India. On the subject of my poetry, I like writing narrative poems dealing with human nature and the thoughts and emotions of people. Most of my poems are stories about individuals, ranging from infamous historical figures like Hitler to unknown individuals. It is a priority for me to resonate with my audience and for them to relate to my poems, whether they be art or writing connoisseurs or everyday people.

The Porch: What compels you to write? What do you think creative writing can do for a young person? 

Mukhopadhyay: Writing is such a release for me. Anything I don't or can't say, I write about. It is the best form of human communication, in my opinion. That is my outlet for individual expression, which I think is so very important for young people. And in doing so, I like to think that my ideas and my message can be conveyed to people from all walks of life and make a difference in a small way.

The Porch: What books / authors have you enjoyed recently? 

Mukhopadhyay: Recently, I have been in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Voltaire's Candide, and Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. Other than that, I also have been enjoying poets such as e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Frost. And last but not least, I am not shamed to admit that I am a huge John Green fan as well!