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Friday, February 27, 2015

Author Interview: Kavita Kane, author of 'Sita's Sister'

Kavita Kane
She is back with a bang. Kavita Kane set some standards, the first time I read ‘Karna’sWife’, and now with the sister of a most loved heroine, she raises the bar, further.

I started this book, since the name of the novel caught my attention at first go. ‘Sita’s Sister’ is a remarkable book, it attempts to set the tone for future authors.

So you can read up the Review here and Buy the Book here, as well. Read on further for her own words…

How did ‘Sita’s Sister’ happen? What’s the research that has gone into it?

Interestingly, when I first decided to write a novel, it was with the story idea of Sita's Sister, that is, about Urmila. But I gave it up after not getting too much information about her to expand into a whole novel.

I wrote ‘Karna's Wife’ instead. After the surprise success of this debut novel, I was brave enough to attempt another. The idea of Urmila persisted and I sat down to how I would develop it. I finally did and it came out exactly the way I wanted!

Why did you choose Urmila? What is the difference in the opinion of Urmila before and after the book?
While reading the Ramayana when I was at school there were three characters whom I loved - Urmila, Lakshman and Sumitra and out of the three Urmila fascinated me the most. If I were to ever write a novel, it would be on her!
Fortunately or unfortunately, there was just a scant mention of her in the epic, so I had the freedom to flesh her out on those flimsy, skeletal facts. She was to have slept through those 14 years when her husband was away on exile with Ram. It was metaphorical, of course.
Instead, I looked at her beyond being Sita's younger sister or Lakshman's wife or Janak's true daughter. A scholar, an artist and a woman, who held the fort at Ayodhya when the three went on their exile. There is much fiction but placed within the framework of the facts. I did not want to break her image - however blurred it was - yet to make her a striking woman, she who, triumphed tears and tragedy with dignity and strength.
How would you relate the life of Urmila’s life to the lives today? Any similarities?
Emotions and relationships are not time-limited, they are universal. And in both my books I have dealt with issues like love and disappointment, one of the main reasons for marital friction.
In ‘Sita's Sister’, it is also about long distance relationship - such a common phenomenon, today.  Then there is the saas-bahu equation, sibling relationship and the tussle between jealousy and insecurity, power and arrogance, duty and love... some issues remain the same down the ages. I explored them through my characters, chiefly the four sisters and the three queens.
'Ramayana' from Wikipedia
Both your books came out along with a number of mythological novels. What according to you, was different about them?

Mythology is a huge canvas and each author handles it in his own inimitable way. Therein lies the charm of both the author and mythology!

How would you relate the lives of Urmila and Lakshman to the lives today? Any similarities?

As I said earlier, the basic relationship issues remain the same, values change. Urmila and Lakshman suffer physical separation and I think both handled it beautifully. Falling in love is easy, loving is difficult.

Also, both are ranked second in the sibling hierarchy which, definitely affects how their personalities are.

How would you relate the book and its characters, besides the two mentioned earlier, to lives today?

‘Sita's Sister’ is more about the women in the Ramayana than about Ram, Sita and Lakshman in exile. These people left behind within the lonely palace of Ayodhya fought a different battle.

Another element was the difference in power and status equation amongst siblings is what makes or breaks the sibling relationship. It is not just love, it has to be followed by trust and respect. And this goes for any relationship be it a couple, siblings or parent-child. That comes through every other character besides the protagonists.

Which is your favourite character besides Urmila? Why?

Kaikeyi. If not Urmila, I would have liked to write on her. But, a lot has been said about this remarkable woman. She is probably the most interesting, versatile villain, very finely nuanced in her shades of grey.

She is the spirited princess, the favourite queen, the spunky warrior, the generous mother who suddenly turns evil. Why? She holds the key to the family's happiness and tragedy.

What are the most fulfilling parts, now that you have managed to release two novels?

Besides writing what makes the effort, so fulfilling is receiving the readers' feedback. I prize and cherish them. And I strive to learn from their reactions and responses. It does make you think, analyse and need be, correct and rectify.

How do you differentiate them from the usual understanding of some of these characters that we get to read about?

More than the black and white, I like the greys in the characters. Besides a strong narrative, fleshing out the characters is the most exciting part. Especially, when they are profuse, they should not overlap and confuse the reader.

More than Urmila, I found Lakshman to be more difficult to define. His identity has been completely sublimated. He has always been seen as the ideal brother or the devoted younger brother in law. Within this definition, I had to work on him, adding colour and shades to his uni-dimensional personality.

Same was with Karna in ‘Karna's Wife’. He is such a larger-than-life figure in popular imagination, that adding the the right dose of greys and pathos to him was creatively challenging.

Also, Kunti or Kaikeyi and Kausalya. They are huge personalities and need to be handled with care. I went a step ahead and coloured them with strong strokes of grey.  But for a few, most liked these strong women.

What book is coming from you next?

Best it does the talking when it's out!

Did you think that they would become as successful as they have become today?

I am overwhelmed at the tremendous response each has evoked. And am really glad my readers enjoyed them. Surprises are often sweet!
Which book are you currently reading?

Who are your favourite authors and why?

I can't claim to have any favourite authors. Each has his/her own charm, which I loved individually and each influenced me in some way.

Who is your inspiration?

Anyone and anything. Could be a person, a stranger, an incident, a friend, family, pets, and the supernatural. It's all so wonderfully cohesive.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review : ‘Sita's Sister' by Kavita Kane

Sita’s Sister’ is a rather thought provoking read. Even if we have read the earlier versions of the Ramayana, which basically put Urmila to sleep, one must read this particular piece. It would help truly understand how and what the women’s lives were like at the time of the Ramayana.

It starts off with a prologue, and the tiny Sita holding up Lord Shiv’s bow. Just with those words, Kane establishes the silent strength of the book. Moving on, let us go on to understand who the book is all about. Sita’s Sister.

There are a few versions of what happens to Sita’s sister, Urmila in the main version of the story. Urmila goes to sleep for 14 years in one version, or she goes into penance in another one, but if you have read Kane’s stories before, you would understand why her version is suitably feminist.

Urmila is King Janak and Sunaina's daughter, though till now, we’ve heard the versions of how Sita was taken from the earth and adopted and he had his child later. So, Urmila is the spirited sister of Sita, though you cannot miss the parts where one notices, how protective she is of Sita. 

It becomes obvious, when Sita falls in love with Rama, and then you cannot miss the Urmila-Lakshman’s version either. The story goes on to show how the two cousins of Urmila, Mandavi and Shrutakirti also follow in her stead, marrying Bharat and Shatrughna. You cannot miss the version of Urmila’s mother either.

On to, Ayodhya. Here, we come to meet the other characters, starting with
Kavita Kane
King Dasharath, moving on to his three wives, and then the vamp of the book, Manthara. There is a lot more of Urmila’s character, which comes forward. She is the opposite of Sita, while Sita is described as a beautiful being, so is Urmila with intelligence, quick wit and a deeper understanding of people’s characters.

Even during the time when Lakshman’s character chooses going with Ram and Sita to the forest, she stays strong and helps Shatrugna to handle all the stately affairs, especially when Bharat also decides to become a hermit till Ram returns.

Her intelligence comes into view again, when she is invited by her father to take part in a conference where she would meet other scholars and finally put her learnings into full view.

The book also shows most of the others, such as Kaikeyi angsts, Sumitra’s kindness, Manthara’s vices and Mandavi in her awkward shades, which people have not realised, in all the years of reading the Ramayana.

Lakshman has a whole new role to play in this book, as we try and understand his shades too. The book has been very wisely written. Though changed, at no time does the reader feel like the book has not done the story, justice.

The book does have its feminist moments and gives an ungodly touch to its main character, Ram who is the ultimate cause of Sita’s death.  You cannot miss the temper of Urmila either. A very well-written book and one, which should definitely be read.

Author: Kavita Kane
Genre: Fiction
ISBN : 978812913494
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Price: Rs 295 /-

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review : ‘Lead Tin Yellow' by Doug Gunnery

Lead Tin Yellow’ is not a painter’s dream, but it definitely is, this painter of 'words' dream. Because it seems to be so, considering it is not a writer’s but this pseudonym’s. More about that later.

Oh, well, now to come out with the review. It starts off with the protagonist, Robin Miller. Robin is a journalist working in Massachusetts, and is just about getting ready to go to work, when his reserved father comes to visit. In between a few words, Rob goes in to work, with a fleeting glimpse, of what his father might have said.

His father, a Vietnam veteran, keeps talking of some wartime ‘documents’ that he keeps hinting at showing. Robin finally leaves for work but he keeps wondering at what his father had almost said. He returns in the evening, to find his father missing. Concluding that he had gone for a walk, he sits waiting for him. The wait which turns into a non-stop one, ends up bringing the police home.

The police headed by Captain Cooley, brought some bad news. Found shot dead, was his father. Beside him is a suitcase full of Robin’s old newspapers. The police want to know why. And what was he doing with this suitcase? Coming to grips with the whole situation, Robin, along with his girlfriend, Linda must make the best of it.

As Robin tries to figure it out, he must move closer to his mother and his half-brother. Clue by clue, he figures out more of his father’s double life. He discovers his uncommunicative father and his former love too. He also finds out more about 16th century painters and the process of mixing lead and yellow to not just give this book, its title but also of it, leading to the colour, yellow.

As he tries his best to solve this puzzle, he has to stay ahead of the villains and the police, too. Robin and Linda uncover what the ‘documents’ are and their value, and are not shocked anymore at why they must be kept secret. The adventurous espionage story could be yours if you are looking for a mystery, this afternoon.

The book kept me up and its pace was fairly quick, it also had its various artistic parts, which definitely had my ears up. Does he manage to solve the mystery and become closer to his family? And what of his girlfriend and the police?

The language was very good, though I found a few editorial mistakes, which kind of took me off the story. Overall, a good read.

Okay, now to an interesting point. The book has been written by an acclaimed sociologist, who has for almost thirty years, taught in universities, worldwide. He has authored and edited several books, though this is his first work of fiction. He is currently serving on the Board of his country’s Central Bank. Doug Gunnery is a pseudonym, too. I think, with those surprises, we should not be surprised that he has a love for mystery thrillers and am sure that this book is not the end. He lives in India, though this book was set in the midwest of the US.

Author: Doug Gunnery
Genre: Fiction
ISBN : 9781482833935
Publisher: Partridge
Price: Rs 450 /-