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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Author Interview: Indrani Singha Majumdar

In the effort to bring out stories from nascent and budding writers as they pave their way into telling their stories to the world, I collided with Indrani Singha Majumdar. Her story has a very fresh and novel plot which includes a daring move into having a transgender character live with a journalist in an unforeseen situation. The story that then unfolds in her book The Paradox of Vantage Point is the one close to human behavior, emotions, acceptance and society pressures. How much can we be the person we showcase and prophecise to be, with all our will and grandiloquence? Travelling through these rough territories the story does leave an impression on your mind and the writer behind is surprisingly very young for a plot of such intensity. We admire Indrani for she dared and therefore decided to know what makes her so. Here is the conversation with her. 

1. What does writing mean to you?
A: Till few years back I took writing as a medium to express myself. It still means the same, but the horizon has widen to the extent that now I just not want to weave a tale; I want to tell engaging stories that can bring a wave of change and from which the readers can take back something. I am not here to be a literary god. I just want to pen down a piece of literature which can help readers to get a self-check. I may or may not succeed. That is for the readers to decide. I will try to better myself with each book.

2. Describe your journey into writing?
A: I always loved writing ever since the shift from pencil to ink pen took place. I remember often my essays were read out loud in class as a mark of appreciation. That used to give me a high. I used to write diary entries for the purpose of giving words to my thoughts. However, I lost my track when I opted for Biotechnology as my graduation subject. It took me 3 long years to realize that this is not what I am meant to do. Finally, with great courage, I told my dad that I want to pursue my masters in Mass Communication. I started my career in content writing and many stories started developing in my mind. As a professional writer, writing technical things is fine for me. The Paradox of Vantage Point was an attempt to give a creative outlet to the story of social equality that I wanted to put across.

3. In your debut novel The Paradox of Vantage Point, what was conceived first: the story or its philosophy? 
A: Apart from the philosophy, it was the yearning to envision an idea that will make the readers connect to their inner horizon.  I never wanted to pen down a market driven story. I wanted to talk about the positive energy that still needs to be released from within.

4. What tempted you to write about the transgender ?
A: You know when I was in Kolkata I used to travel in local trains frequently. Every Monday morning I met a eunuch who, like many other eunuchs, used to seek money from the travelers. Some spared 10 Rs note in disgust while some used to turn their face away. That eunuch started interacting with me regarding my work and area of interest on a regular basis. It used to be a very casual chat like you would have with your friends, and the fellow passengers exchanged ‘are you crazy’ glances with me. It was kind of a reality check that even eunuchs are easy to talk. They breathe, eat, think and live just the way we do. It is only the social stigma that lets us think of them in a demeaning way. That thought kind of stayed with me for many years.
5. Was the story conceived from fact or was it fiction?
A: The story was entirely a work of fiction. I wanted to deliver a message without being preachy. Every writer has a unique voice and that should not be compromised in the quest for being the bestselling author of this country.

6. How difficult was it to write about the lead character who is a eunuch in your story? Did you have to resort to doing some ground research on them?
 Although The Paradox of Vantage Point is fiction, I borrowed a lot from real life incidents. Having said that, a writer should always have the ability to dream up situations and tweak those into engaging stuff.

7. Is there a message you wish to give through your story?
A: We have Manabi Bandopadhyay as the world’s first transgender principal. We have Padmini Prakash as India’s first transgender news reader. We have Madhu Kinnar as India’s first transgender Mayor. And many other people who have left behind tales of inspiration. So, you see, we have many people from transgender community who have to potential to rise above the mediocrity if given the right opportunity. But, even the people I mentioned had to undergo lot of misery because of their desire to be different. I hope my story succeeds in bringing a thought to the forefront that they are not misfit. A person’s caliber should always be kept above social expectations. They need our recognition and nothing else.

8. What is your take on the way transgender are treated in our very own country? 
A: There are two diverse pictures that I get. Few months before a group of transgender appealed to Tamil Nadu government for Mercy Killing stating that despite getting the recognition of third gender last year they still struggle everyday to lead a dignified life.  On the other hand, Kolkata welcomed first transgender idol this Durga Puja in order to question the discrimination that society throws. More than anything, I feel, the change has to come from within. We should be more responsible while sharing those “hijra jokes” or remarks. We have to put a lid on things like being judgmental and putting label on people. We will endlessly keep talking about freedom, empowerment, and my choices, but nothing will happen unless we start practicing compassion. Little changes by each one of us can bring the difference.

9.  What are the stories brewing after this one?
 A: There are many going on right now, but I don’t want to rush into things. Unless and until I don’t have a meaningful story, I won’t come back. (Smiles)
10. What are your favorite books and writers?
A: There are many but if I have to pick some then I will start with Pride and Prejudice, Kite Runner, The Pursuit of Happyness and Argo. Khalid Hosseini is one writer that I really admire. I get really mesmerized by his tales of redemption and emotional richness. I took back something from each book of his.

11. Your favorite lines from a book are…. 
A: “Love is a colorless,volatile Liquid.Love ignites n burns.Love Leaves no residue neither smoke nor ash.Love is a poison masquerading as spirit of Wine”—Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair

“I liked to put young and old in the same room, because they would certainly have different takes on the same problem.”—Argo by Antonio J Mendez

12. What to you has been the most difficult part of your journey with this book? 
A: Writing is never easy. To many it looks like a glossy, celebrity-kind-of profession. I am sorry to disappoint; it isn’t. You need to practice discipline, churn out creative juices, explore different possibilities and bring the right impact. It is not at all a mechanical thing so you cannot put a time limit. It is much more than putting string of sentences together. I am already having a corporate life so coming back from office and then starting with the story was extremely difficult. The subject I was pursuing in my book was not the usual college rom-coms. I remember I stopped writing for a while after the ‘laundry scene’( if you have read the book you will understand). It was so painful that I couldn’t muster the courage to write further. There were days when I didn’t want to write and there were also days when I was so engrossed that I refused to eat/sleep/talk and just bleed in front of my laptop. In the hindsight, writing makes you grow into a purposeful person. It makes you more humble and enriched.

13.  An advice for the budding authors….
A: I am still no one to give advice to anyone. I am, in fact, a budding author (smiles). However, if I have to suggest one thing for the betterment of storytelling then it would be always keep writing in one flow. Think about editing at a later stage because emotions look best when they are raw. When edited excessively, they look crafted. Story has to be lucid even when delivering a message. 

NV: Thanks a lot Indrani for your time and extremely honest answers.
ISM: The pleasure is mine :).

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