Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Author Interview: Pavit Kaur, author of 'Stolen Years : A Memoir of Simranjit Singh Mann's Imprisonment'
What happens when one is away from their father for years at a time? This book is one such account. But it does not end here. It is an almost touching story, as it describes not just Pavit Kaur’s but also her parents and her siblings’ pain as it looks at understanding the pain and the happiness in these pages.
It attempts at knowing the emotions of this Sikh family, as it lived through Operation Blue Star and its aftermath. The author, Pavit Kaur’s interview was an emotional one, as were her words…
I started writing ‘Stolen Years’ just after my father was released from prison. At that time, I was in boarding school and writing about my father’s and our harrowing time while he was locked away in solitary confinement for five years. That was sort of therapeutic for me.
I had no idea then that it would turn into a book and get published. About 3 years ago, Random House commissioned me to complete it and so, that's how the book came about.
The book goes back and forth from my story, to papa’s while he was in prison, so I had to spend a lot of time with my father, getting his side of how he spent five years in solitary confinement. I also spent time with my aunts and mother researching family history.
Could you tell the readers a little more about your personal experiences and how it was related to what you wrote?
The years, my father spent away from us were very hard and painful. It wasn't easy to accept that papa was locked away in a prison hundreds of kilometres away.
The most fulfilling part of writing this book has been that it has laid a lot of ghosts to rest.
And also, I feel that I have done my bit by letting the world know our side of the story, and what Operation Blue Star and its aftermath did to the Sikhs and my family and how senseless the entire episode was.
Writing this book has been a very emotional journey for me. Often, I thought of not publishing it because I felt it was too personal. But I am glad I did write it, because once it was finally done and published it has given me a sense of closure.
Do you have another book, planned? If so, what is it?
At the moment, I have no other book planned. But, I hope my book encourages others who had similar or even worse experiences during 1984 to come forward and tell their stories even if it's only for the record.
I love reading Vikram Seth’s books. I think he's brilliant. I'm always reading sometimes, even several books, at the same time.
Right now, I'm reading, 'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher' by Hilary Mantel.
I have two sons, 17 and 13 who keep me on my toes even though they're away at boarding school most of the time. I don't work as such, but I love to paint and read, whenever I'm not travelling with my husband.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Well, here we are. At a funnily strange place, where I do not want it to end, but at the same time, I was waiting for it. I have to say it again. The lyrical language is almost effervescent, in this book. It has an almost dynamic touch to it, probably because of the twists in the story.
Firstly, I have to commend Udayasankar because of the way in which, she has managed to stay on the ground, while writing the book. I have noticed the touches in a lot of books, which try to but fail miserably toward the end, but this author does not. And I mean the absence of god and his magic, because she manages to create her own. This book, I personally felt is her best ever. The earlier ones of 'The Aryavarta Chronicles', 'Govinda' and 'Kaurava', were good, but this one takes the cake.
‘Kurukshetra’ belonged to both Panchali and Govinda Shauri, as it should have. But, of course we do have the almost touching Uttara and Abhimanhyu’s story, in which Uttara takes up arms, to join the heroic Abhimanhyu during the war. The love story between them was also given due importance.
I almost missed Panchali during the battle, but her way of making an entry is one, we cannot miss. Panchali’s subtle way of helping the story forward, and the politics blended with the philosophy are all a part of the plot.
Dharma was cold and distant, which he was in Kaurava, even more so in this book. The characters of, Sanjaya, Suka and Ashwattama were given the much needed intrinsic touch, which could almost surprise the reader.
The Secret Keeper and Krishna Dwaipanya’s roles take on whole new meaning. Sanjaya and Suka who was given no importance at all, in the other versions of Mahabharata also have new roles to fill.
Asvattama’s role, evil and wicked in most other versions takes on a whole new shade. I almost felt like Syoddhan would not have had the war, and one can feel his anger and grief with him, when he decides to.
I felt that most of the characters, which should have been given due importance are given it. All these characters are bent out of shape, since they take on different forms. Though it is not different from the earlier versions of the Aryavarta Chronicles, they all have their say in this book.
Restraint and understanding are topics, which Dharma and his followers seem
to have forgotten on Kuru’s
fields. I felt that, Govinda’s character came into its own, with the recital of
the Gita (Udayasankar style).
Krishna Udayasankar seems to have finally shed all inhibitions, when she wrote this book. Because, I think this rendering is palpable and almost tangible. Whether humanity rises and the realm finds its answer in this book is for readers to decide…
PS : I found only one mistake in Page 308, when it read, 'You'll get the pick of Indra's nymphs in heaven, wont you now that you're a Kuru prince' :) Loved the cover too.
Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: Rs 350/-
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
‘Write a story that calls out to you, and never give up on that inner voice’ is the advice that she gives to writers in this interview. I think that says it all.
Dr Priyanka Naik’s 'Twists of Fate' that speaks to readers and writers was a whole new experience. You can catch the Review right Here. I seem to be getting quite a few doctors, nowadays. Read up, Folks… to discover this new author.
How did ‘Twists of Fate’ happen? Could you describe the journey?
Honestly, I had this story within me for a long time. It was waiting to be told. However, all these years, I thought I just wasn’t fully equipped (emotionally) to get about writing it. Eventually, sometime early last year, I realized I was…
The journey has been quite a thrilling experience. Of course, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Writing the first draft was fairly easy. I simply wrote everything I wanted to say. It was complete in roughly around three months of absolute hibernation and almost nil social life. This was followed by fine tuning. I started reading my own manuscript from a third person’s perspective, someone who would start reading it with absolutely zero connect with the characters or the author. The process of ironing out the creases took me a good eight months.
Then the tiring struggle of sending the manuscript to various publishing houses began. I have faced rejections, lost hope, given up on writing and shown almost all the signs of depression before I realized that most published authors before me had followed the same pattern. Feeling hopeful with that thought, I dried my tears, re-read and improvised my manuscript and tried again. This time around, I didn’t have to wait long.
‘Twists of Fate’ finally saw the light of day this October, and that heralded a whole new experience for me. The passage so far has been a pleasant one. I am grateful for the kind readers who have been highly appreciative of my book. My publisher has been extremely supportive and encouraging as well. However, the journey never really ends. You just move on from one destination to another and then start again.
How did the stories, especially Sharvari’s, Nandini’s and Pari’s come about? Did you have a lot of personal experiences to go with it?
‘Twists of Fate’ is a story that has bits of my life as well as lives of people close to me. Of course, I can’t say it’s totally autobiographical. It has a good amount of my imagination thrown in, as well. Which is fiction and which isn’t is for the reader to guess! *smiles*
What according to you is different about your book?
I believe every book is different in its own unique way. In that sense, my story is dealing with the lives of three female protagonists who each in their own way are racing against time.
Also, my medical background has allowed me to weave in certain subjects that I believe are sensitive issues for the young as well as the elderly. ‘Twists of Fate’ is written in a way that it can connect with all age groups. I am hoping it will.
Whose experience in the book was most close to you and why?
I would say all three lead protagonists have a little bit of me in them. Be it Pari’s fear of commitment, or Sharvari’s ego tussle with herself, or Nandini’s struggle to let go of her past completely,
I have been at all these points in life myself. So, I guess it was easy for me to know how it feels. The insecurities, heartbreak, misunderstandings faced by the three are feelings we can all relate to. Different lives, different stories… but emotions are universal, aren’t they?
I felt so close to Parizaad Sethna, Sharvari Joshi, and Nandini Mazumdar, that they seemed like MY ‘best friends’---soul sisters who had confided in me and trusted me with the huge responsibility of narrating their story…they felt like ‘ME’!
How would you relate the lives of characters to the lives today? Any similarities?
All the characters in ‘Twists of Fate’ are people we can see in today’s world. They might be our next door neighbours, our colleagues at work/college, the co-passengers in our daily local, the girl or guy we spotted day dreaming at the bus stand or maybe someone from our own family.
We would all be able to relate to Pari, Sharvari and Nandini at some level. We might have had or may be having a ‘Neil, ‘Adarsh’, or ‘Ryan’ in our life.
All the characters in my book are people we might have encountered in our childhood or youth. The situations they face will take us back in time to similar quarters that we have perhaps dealt with differently, for better or worse.
I think that’s enough said. To know more, you got to read the book.
What was the most challenging part about writing this book?
Getting the time leap at the exact precise point was a bit of a challenge. I had first written half the book with the characters in their teenage years, followed by the time leap.
But a lot of contemplation later, I realized it was better placed six chapters down. Like life, we could always reminisce about them in retrospect in the following chapters.
Also, I was careful not to let medical details overpower the story. I wanted to amalgamate it with the right amount of emotions so people don’t forget that it is a novel that they are reading. So, writing those parts in a way that would keep the general reader’s interest up and going was something I took up as a challenge. I am hoping I have succeeded.
What are the most fulfilling parts in your book?
The most fulfilling moments were when Pari, Sharvari and Nandini peeped out from between the pages of my manuscript and said ‘Thank you’. I’m not joking. That really happened! *smiles*
Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?
This undoubtedly would be Mrs Tanaaz Sethna for her kind and selfless nature. She plays friend-philosopher-guide to the girls directing them through important teenage dilemmas and decisions.
Despite going through a few early personal crises herself, she holds her own… at least as long as fate allows her to. As I penned down the subsequent course of events in her life, I could not ignore the tear drop that often rolled down and blotted the ink on the pages of my manuscript.
Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?
Frankly, I don’t think you need to be told. It’s more like you have to believe in it. However, I also agree that compliments always help to boost self-esteem. I have been a blogger for twelve odd years now, before my book got published. It was a beautiful journey in Blogsville (It still continues to be) with people commenting, writing in with valuable feedback, providing me with inputs on how I could better my writing etc.
This interaction with the readers of my blog resulted in not just mutual admiration, but it also encouraged and motivated me to keep writing. Random readers who stumbled upon the blog said they would love to read a novel penned by me. I took them seriously… but not enough. Years later, when the small voice inside me just couldn’t be hushed, I knew it was time.
I was ready for the book!
When will you next book be out?
Well, my second story has already called out to me in whispers. God willing, it should make its appearance in print in 2015.
Which book are you currently reading?
Who are your favourite authors and why?
There are quite a few of them. I admire and respect a diverse style of writing.
My most favourite, however, will be Mitch Albom and Khaled Hosseini. I also enjoy reading Jodi Picoult. Sudha Murthy is an Indian favourite.
Each has a distinctive way of storytelling. While Hosseini weaves emotions and characters in a beautifully intricate way, Sudhaji’s stories have a simplicity that do not fail to charm. Mitch Albom and Jodi Picoult are western authors and have a slightly different way of getting around their narratives.
While one sticks to being precise and crisp, the other believes in being expressively elaborate. I love each of their styles.
What else do you do on a daily basis?
I am a doctor by profession. Fortunate for me, a private setup permits me time to pursue other passions as well. Blogging and writing almost feel like routine now. If it’s not online, it’s usually my journal that has to bear the brunt of my ramblings.
Reading is also something I enjoy very much. I make it a point to read at least 50-100 pages per day. Music has taken a backseat these days, with me spending every extra online minute on social networks (have become quite a technology slave like that). But it has and always will help me unwind after a tiring day.
Needless to mention, I make it a point to spend quality time with family and a few close friends. At the end of it all, it’s only these relations that you can actually call your own.
What advice do you have for the young writers of today?
Well, it’s not like I am a seasoned author with tons of books to my credit to dole out advice. This being my first book, am learning every day myself.
I can just say one thing to all those who are interested in pursuing writing. Write what you believe in. There is no success formula to a good book. Never underestimate the reader. Be true to yourself and your readers will connect. Write a story that calls out to you, and never give up on that inner voice.