Hello Kirtida, welcome to Incredible Women Of India, Thank you for being a part of Incredible Women Writers of India, Monsoon Edition, 2015 and sharing your journey as a writer with us.
First of all tell us something about your growing up years, your school and college days, and your family.
My father Parukant Desai is a professor of Hindi Literature and a poet. He was the Head of the Hindi Department at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara. My mother Leena Desai is a teacher of Hindi. Growing under their wings, I started writing poetry at the age of four.
After my class twelfth, my extended family wanted me to pursue a regular field such as medicine or engineering, but I wanted to study psychology and dramatics. I bless the Almighty for the freedom my parents gave me to let me pursue the education streams of my interest. After a post graduation in clinical psychology, I again decided to do something unconventional. I joined Film and Television Institute of India, Pune to study screenplay writing.
What makes you, You?
I consider myself a person of science stream because I am Methodist even when I pursue Art. So, I will say that the first things that makes me, me, is my Deoxyribonucleic acid, my DNA! Other than that, I met people on the journey of my life who imprinted their personality and created this final product which you see in front of you.
The most significant people of my life other than my parents are my sisters, Payal and Purabi. I can’t imagine life without them. Thanks to them, I never felt a need of making friends, they are my best friends.
And the next person who has made me- me is my husband Mrityunjay Gautam. We met each other on internet. He was studying computer engineering at IIT, Kanpur. I was doing my post-graduation in psychology. I got impressed with him because of his outstanding knowledge in transactional analysis, a stream of psychology! It’s a love story I plan to write one day in detail. We didn’t see each other in person for first two and a half years of our relationship and yet by that time, we were heads over hills in love with each other.
When I met him, I was a complete nut. I was a directionless person with lot of un-channelled energy. He brought discipline in my life. He made me trust my voice. He inspired me to do every task with diligence and hard work and not to give up when things go wrong. Today whatever I am, at least 75% credit goes to my husband.
And then I gave birth to my Goddess, my daughter Agrima, who reintroduced me to my DNA and turned me into a woman (yes, in my mind I am a male, I have always been a tomboy!!
How did your journey as a writer/poet begin?
As I said, I wrote my first couplets, Hindi Doha, when I was four years old. But by the time I turned twelve, something happened in my life that made me lose faith in people I considered my ideals. After this I pursued lot of careers other than writing. I moved to Mumbai and worked in movies as an assistant director.
Funnily, I didn’t go to FTII with the intention of becoming a screenplay writer. I wanted to be a film maker and as screenplay writing was the shortest duration course the institute offered, I choose this course over film direction course. Again, it was Mrityunjay’s, who was my boyfriend at that time, suggestion that I should go to the best institute of my country to formally do a course in cinema studies if I plan a career in films.
At FTII, I met the person who brought out the writer in me, Mr. Anjum Rajabali. I bow down to him for the patience with which he taught me the craft of dramatic writing. He is the person who made me trust the art of intuitive writing. He drilled the concept of Hero’s Journey in my creative system. He made me understand the symbolism and craft of decoding mythology.
What are your inspirations? Who is your muse, if any at all?
My husband is my inspiration. I create my protagonists by copy-pasting his personality. But the story doesn’t end here, for some unconscious reasons, my antagonists start coping his styles and mannerisms. So end result, he is all over the place in my novels!
Why do you write?
I write to let my alter ego meet the paper.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I never thought I can write a socio-political novel. I thought of myself as a romantic-comedy writer. It was the December, 16, Nirbhaya rape case that made me sit down to write my first novel “#IAm16ICanRape”
But when I heard Nirbhaya’s story, I felt a deep empathy with this woman. It felt to me that she could have been anyone; she could have been me, or a woman I care about. How can state let the people who brutalized her like this go, unpunished? I am talking about the juvenile offender in the case. This was the first time when I paid attention to the juvenile justice system’s law of not punishing delinquents for crimes even such as rape, but sending them to rehabilitation center.
India is the only country where a person can rape/kill a woman and still walk out almost unpunished because he is few months short of turning eighteen. This law made me boil with anger. And that was the genesis of my book.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
For past many years I am a full time writer. Before starting my novel, I used to write for television shows such as Dharampatni for DJ’s creative unit and Jodha Akbar for Balaji Telefilms. But writing the novel made me the writer I am today. It brought out not just a discipline in me to write, but also a passion to write. As of today, I write seven days a week. If I can’t write for three consecutive days, I start behaving like a man-eater. Writing helps me stay in control of my emotions. I have become addicted to writing thanks to my novels.
In future, I want to bring down my writing schedule to more sustainable state, where I write for six days a week, four to five hours a day.
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest thing about writing? Any writing rituals?
Hardest thing about writing is trying to write something writer doesn’t believe in. Always remember that the world of fiction is created between writer’s two ears. If he/she is not convinced about the motivation of his/her characters, the world can’t get convinced.
The easiest thing about writing is when writer stops controlling the plot, and let his/her characters decide what the story will be like. Then it is as entertaining as watching a movie. Only in this case, the movie plays on the projector of writer’s mind.
I listen to lot of music when I write. Sometimes there are songs which help me crack my scenes. For example, for my novel, “#IAm16ICanRape”, the song, Aye Khuda loot gaya, from Murder 2 movie became a theme song. Every time, I felt lack of energy, I would listen to the song and would feel rejuvenated to write.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? Have you ever hated something you wrote?
I have hated lots of things I have written. If writer loves everything he/she write, the writer is in trouble!
I do write following a vigorous method taught to us at screenplay writing course in FTII. And yes, I do create a step out line for my novels, but I don’t stick to it. As the characters become more alive in my mind, they often change my story and make it better. I let them do their job J
Do you ever get writer’s Block? And how do you get over it?
I have lived in a seven year long writer’s block before I wrote my first novel. Just kidding! Yes, I do get writer’s blocks. There are days when I don’t feel motivated enough to write. But again, as I said earlier, more often than not, a writer’s block is mind’s way of telling the writer that something is not organic in his/her story. Writer’s block is one of the best things that happen to a writer. It forces the writer to take a break at right time so he/she won’t heed in wrong direction.
I often listen to music and read books on craft of writing to overcome writer’s block. Hero with a Thousand Faces is my all time favourite book on craft of writing. My other favourites are, On Writing by Stephen King, Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, and Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I try to live my life authentically. A writer can’t be an authentic artist without being an authentic person. When I say authentic, I don’t mean righteous, I mean honest to my own self and to people around me.
What are you working on at the minute?
I am writing my second book of fiction. I call the series Yin-Yang series because its theme is Mind-Body and how they interact with each other. #IAm16ICanRape is my first book of this series.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors and poets / what are your favourite books?
I read a lot; I read both fiction and non-fiction. My all time favourite author is the psychologist, Carl Jung.
My favourite books are Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Geeta. So far, I have read only English translations, but some point in life, I plan to learn Sanskrit and read them in Sanskrit. Other books which I absolutely love are Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, Man’s search of meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. My another favourite novel is a Hindi novel named, Mujhe Chand Chahiye by Surendra Verma.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing in India?
Indians will have to do two things-
- They will have to start looking at their roots of storytelling tradition. We can’t tell best of the stories by imitating western story telling tradition. We will have to go back to our roots and understand our theory of Rasa, aesthetic of emotions, in order to tell moving stories.
- They will have to become better readers. My dramatics teacher Mr. Prabhakar Dabade told me one day, the best way to watch a movie is to read the screenplay of that movie and watch it in your head. I believe that over exposure to audio-visual mediums make us lazy readers and even lazier human beings.
Just like we have forgotten that the most advance language of this world, Sanskrit, which at this moment is a sleeping language. We have forgotten our storytelling traditions. A revival is long overdue. It’s great that authors like Devdutt Pattanaik, Amish Tripathi, Krishana Udayasankar, and many more are reviving the interest of Indian readers to the stories from our rich cultural heritage.
What are your other passions apart from writing?
I practice Yoga. I used to act in theater. I study psychology not as a professional but more as a way of life. I like to know my mind.
What is your message for the readers of our blogazine?
- Become mindful readers
- Bring discipline in other areas of your life, not just in your writing life. For example, make physical exercise a regular part of life and see how it positively affects everything else
- Never let a day pass when you don’t write a single word. Make writing 500-750 words, a daily ritual, if you are not working on any project, blabber on paper, but write.
BOOK LAUNCH OF #IAm16ICanRape by ANJUM RAJABALI
Excerpts from book- #IAm16ICanRape
Chapter- 6.5 Belly of the whale
Point of view- Rudransh Kashyap (I in this excerpt is Rudransh)
“It is too much theoretical knowledge and I don’t want to claim that I understand everything that you say. I want to ask one question, could I have stopped him from being who he is?” I ask.
“You still ask the wrong question. The question is not if you could have stopped him. The question is can you bring Aarush back. You can bring him back only on one condition. He will have to experience the pain of the loss he inflicts on others. He has to go through the same pain. Newton’s 3rd law of motion, every action has equal and opposite reaction, it doesn’t just operate in Physical world. In good old days, it used to be called the Theory of Karma.” Samvedana says.
Please note that this interview was conducted online, via emails.
Interview conducted for Incredible Women of India : Rhiti Bose