[This is my first ever Interview Post. It is a joy to have my first Interview guest Sagarika Chakraborty, who debuts with her first women centric novel, 'A Calendar too Crowded']
1. First things first. Your birthday is just a few hours from now Sagarika. Wishing you a wonderful Birthday and a gr8 year ahead :)
Thank you Aabha.
2. I enjoyed reading your book. So tell me how does it feel to be a published author of a female centric book?
Thank you Aabha, it is indeed a pleasure to know that you liked my book. Am humbled!
It does feel nice, I call it my first baby - the dream that came true. I put all the research I had assimilated in the area of gender studies in the book, thus it is indeed my special project.
3. Your background of research is probably the reason your stories have authenticity and depth. So shed a little light on your research for the stories.
Yes indeed. I started my journey as a policy researcher way back in college and since then have written a lot of research papers for various national and international forums. However, there was a sense of 'not doing enough' despite being associated with big names like World Bank, UK media etc. I felt that my research wasn't reaching those it should reach - the trickle down effect to the masses was not happening. Thus I decided to use the same research (I specialized on gender studies in emerging and transition economy) to spin fiction stories to which the common man can connect.
4. Your happy childhood in a joint family in Kolkotta is reflected in your stories - they are full of hope and cheer. So tell me about your growing up years.
I spent majority of my formative years in Kolkata and a bit of my childhood in Jamshedpur. I grew up in a joint family setting where though education was given prime importance I was not taught to run after grades. Thus my days were filled with quizzing, swimming, library visits. I was an active outdoor kid, a stark comparison to my demure sister. We had a very intellectually stimulating atmosphere at home, led by my grandmother, a graduate of the 1930s India when women education was a rarity.
5. Are you a good observer of people and their behavior, especially women?
Yes, I am indeed a keen observer of people. I think that is why I seldom get bored. I can spend hours staring at the road deciphering people. My best friend says that my predictions are often so true that she's scared to ask me about a prospective date!
However, I have a neutral view when trying to discover people and thus wouldn't say that I can understand women better!
6. So how does a single women spin such convincing tales of married women?
The same way she spins tales about the turmoil of a little girl whose life she's never led as a kid! We are blessed with the power of imagination and when that is laced with understanding and empathy it is not difficult to step into the shoes of the character you want to build and imagine her thoughts. Also, majority of the women in my book are those whom I've met sometime in my life and thus when I sat down to spin a story I sat and imagined how they would have reacted given the story plot.
7. Getting a little personal now. Are you in a relationship? Have been in a relationship?
Both! I have had past relationships and right now think have settled into a stable one *touchwood*. However am a complete different person when I'm with him, he's my window to letting my hair down, the world where I don't have to think before I talk! I wouldn't have one many a things in my life had it not been for his faith in me and his constant support.
8.That sounds wonderful. The very best to both of you. What do you think is the plus factor about Indian women?
An history of adversity! When you have stories which your previous generations store about struggles, turmoil and torture, there should be a zeal in the present generation to never bring back the dark ages. Also, the fact that we are where we are today is the depiction of Shakti thus be rest assured that we have the strength to move on! The very adversity I feel should push the women to do more for a better tomorrow, to attain what our counterparts in majority areas of the world already has.
9. The story featuring Panchali writing a letter to Krishna is unique. What prompted you to do this story?
It is based on a childhood conversation with my Grandmother who introduced me to the fascinating world of mythology. When I used to talk to her about modern inventions she used o draw parallels which matched from mythology. Thus, I grew up to understand that mythology is not nay rich but unexplored. Also, that the cries of freedom and breaking free have already been spoken about in various religious texts. Sadly, as often we interpret religious texts the way we want to interpret them and not the way it was written.
10. You have submitted research papers across the globe on various topics. So do you believe that by large, women are same, East or West?
Yes indeed. The stories of a young girl smoking and drinking with her colleagues quite often thuds the same message to concocted brains. The only difference is that men in the West are more wary considering the strict laws and policies at work. In India, we lack just there and thus the outlook never changes!
11. How did you research about Panchali?
I have read Mahabharata in it's original abridged form and then various interpretation by research scholars, non fiction theorists and fiction writers. Post that it was my imagination at play.
12. Do you agree with Panchali ‘s views, that women have been equal to men since eternity?
Equality has to be seen vis a vis the social setting we live in. There have been tussles since eternity on this topic, however there is no crystal clear answer. Women have had a say if we refer to in mythology and then are was the dark ages whose stories are still heard of. Thus to me both sides of the stories have existed since eternity.
13. What are your views on prostitution?
If it is not forced and taken up by a woman who is aware of its effects and knows how to protect herself, who am I to judge her choice. I respect her choice, her life but just hope that she too never forces it on anybody.
14. Abortion is a debatable issue. On one hand there is the stigma of aborting a life, and on the other there is the unhappy situation of bringing an unwanted baby into the world, say in the case of a rape victim, teen pregnancy or a HIV positive mother. What do you think?
If I am not ready to bring a child into this world who is the society to judge me? However if I am not bringing the child to life only for reasons of gender in my eyes I shall cease to be a woman.
When we have the right to call off all relationships, we also have the right to call off motherhood when not ready or medically challenged.
15. What do you think of single mothers adopting babies, especially a girl child, like Sushmita Sen?
I whole heartedly support them. I hold adoption very close to my heart for both social and personal reasons. Single or married it takes a heart to to adopt. As for single mothers I am very proud of gem, I hope I too have the strength someday.
16. What has been the response to your novel. How has your life changed post publishing?
The response has been quite heartwarming - it always feels nice to hear good things about your baby. However, there have been a few critical takes too, and I am thankful for them. Each response has made me a better author and a human being.
Life hasn't changed accept that work has doubled, but hey am not complaining. Ummm keeping modesty aside there are a few more hits on my name and yes it does feel nice.
17. How does your family feel about your novel?
Ma chokes each time she talks about it. Baba is skeptical for someone told him that it'll be very difficult to marry me off since I am writing on such controversial topics. Kidding! He's very proud too. Didi and Kaka are very proud that I have taken snippets from my relationships with them and spun tales.
18. What next?
More and more writing... The pen should never stop! Am researching as of now, so it'll be a while before the next book is out. I hate books being churned out like a machine without thought and research.
19. That brings us to the end of this Interview. thank you Sagarika for taking time out for this. It is a plea sue interacting with the author of this novel. And have a wonderful day on your Birthday today. this is my little gift to you :)
Thank you Aabha.