I love talking to the intellectuals, you can learn so much from them. My author for the day is such an intellectual. I had a great time talking to her about the universe and beyond. We could have had the interview in German or Sanskrit, pity I know neither. Allow me to introduce Kathakali Mukherjee, the author of the book “Love in the Battleground”.
Kathakali is an Indian writer and translator by profession. Trained in Sanskrit and German, she is a translation-enthusiast. Experience taught her to observe life and her works reflect her learning and observations. She loves discussing cultural studies, history, literature, and translation; writes short stories, fiction, articles for adults and translates folktales. I had a great time interviewing her.
Q. Tell us something about the protagonist of the book?
A. Raghupati is the protagonist of the book. In my novel, I tried to capture “17th century Maharashtra”- the period tattered in battles and still retaining its human values. Shivaji is an integral part of that time-frame. His existence makes us differentiate 17th century from other periods in Maharashtra. His activities create the background of the story while Raghupati the protagonist plays the role of a war hero, who falls in love and decides the future of his love despite every odd in life.
Q. What was the most difficult part of writing about the legend? Was there any pressure to recreate the larger than life persona of Shivaji?
A. Writing about the legend was not that difficult while many historians already worked on him. Some of them had romanticized vision, but his life story gives you the idea of his personality and management skill. I found him a focused persona – a great team leader with a vision. I see him as a very human character who probably took his failures with positivity better than any other Maratha leader. The story did not demand much information about his family life, relationship with his wives, about which we know very little. Hence I did not have to face much pressure to draw the legend; only opted to illustrate his contribution to Maratha struggle for freedom.
Q. Are all the incidents real or did you take the creative liberty?
A. This is fiction based on history. So I maintained chronological order while describing historical incidents. The wars I told about happened exactly the same way. Their lives in the forts were similar but obviously, I had to imagine dialogues. About Shivaji’s escape from Delhi, there are two opinions among historians, one of which I picked up. Raghupati and his family members and several small characters are imaginary. Also, the story of their personal struggle is imaginary – but yes one needs to understand the cultural history of a geography in a particular period to exercise creative liberty in history. I cannot create a woman character working as a soldier in Shivaji’s army or Rajput Kshatriya woman remarrying after her husband’s death. Inserting completely imaginary characters in history was a challenge here you may say.
Q. What is the one story you cherished as a child? Maybe something that your mother/grandmother read to you?
A. I was exposed to loads of stories in my childhood. I started reading a little early. I remember reading Bengali Krittibasa Ramayana and Russian and Bengali fairy tales by the age of four. My father had a flair for storytelling and went on telling some fantasy tale which I obviously forgot now. But if I have to name a single book, then a translated version of Meghadutam was my childhood companion – clearly not suitable for my level of comprehension at that age but I loved the poems and went on reciting before elders, they had fun. This book was a wedding gift to my Grandma inherited by my mother.
Q. Do you believe in the alternate universe theory? How do you think you are in the other realm?
A. Cosmologically, I think we cannot deny the existence of multiverses while both space and time are infinite. Anyway, I am not a physicist – will go by our Puranic stories instead. Yes, there are multiple universes in our world, each of which carries own versions of reality. I was brought up in different rural districts in West Bengal as well as Kolkata, had a scope to observe the working class and the great Indian middle class from a close distance. Then moved to Bangalore and discovered the corporate universe. Also had a chance to stay in some other states and interact with people from almost all parts of India – all of them come from different universes. Sometimes even at the individual level, a person may stay in own universe – even in the same family two people may stay in two different universes, especially when there is a generation gap. I consider myself a migrant – still traveling like the little prince of Saint-Exupéry exploring different universes – carrying my universe in the laptop and mobile phones these days.
Q. Which qualities do you admire in others?
A. Integrity and sense of responsibility are the qualities I think essential in a human being. Other things differ in case of different humans. Some are lazy, some workaholic, some egoist, some dreamer – all human traits. Even a lazy one can be admirable if trustworthy and responsible.
Q. How do you overcome Writer’s Block?
A. To be honest, I cannot. I imagine plots, note them down, stay with my characters for some time in their realm, try to brush up my observations again and again – finally get bored and publish!
Q. Describe your process for research while writing.
A. I value the credibility of a story. Hence whatever I write, I try to ensure that the characters are doing what they are supposed to do in the environment they stay. My stories are based in India – places, and people I have seen. In case of historical fiction, retelling folktales I first plan the period I want to talk about and then collect information about that period. These days the internet helps a lot – find many books and documents online. Then pick up chapters which describe that particular period. Once I can visualize the story based on the information, writing becomes easy.
Q. Share some valuable tips for publishing and marketing your e-book.
A. I am completely at a loss here. Entering the book market is always difficult for a new author – it always was. We have to send the manuscript to publishers one after another giving them the buffer to react. Nowadays Amazon kindle provides a good scope of self-publishing and if the self-published book works well in terms of sells then traditional publishers show interest. This route worked for some of my author friends. But even to sell a book on Kindle, one needs to do a lot of marketing promo. Social media presence, youtube video, and podcasts help but I am a little lazy here – indulge in reading or listening to other authors forgetting my marketing oath whenever I enter twitter or youtube. Taking support of some book marketing agency helps lazy people I guess.
Book Blurb Content: The novel is based on a 19th century Bengali fiction “Maharashtra Jiban-Prabhat” by R.C. Dutta. Raghupati took up a soldier’s job under Shivaji at a time of political unrest. He falls in love with Saryu but things go wrong.
@KathakaliM, do comment and let us know how this interview experience was for you. And do read, share and comment on your fellow author’s interviews as well. Here’s wishing Kathakali all the best for the eBook and all her future endeavors. Wishing you lots of success!!
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