Hey ya! Readers! I’m here with my very first Author Interview on my Blog with Sujata Parashar, author of The Temple Bar Woman.
About the Author:
Sujata Parashar is a popular Indian Novelist, poet, short story writer and a psychosocial trainer. She has written seven books so far including a poetry series and a short-story collection. The Temple Bar Woman is her fourth novel and her eighth book. Sujata holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights. In 2016 she was presented the prestigious Karamaveer Chakra Award-instituted by iCongo (instituted with UN) conferred to individuals who bring about positive social impact in the lives of people and planet.
You can know more about the author at sujataparashar.in
Tell something about the author in you.
She is curious, experimental, her own worst critic, highly sensitive and also a bit silly.
What are the challenges you faced while writing this book?
I’ve faced multiple challenges while writing this book. All my previous novels fall in the category of romance/relationships genre. So this was the first time I was attempting to write in an unfamiliar category; a socio – political thriller. I’ve experimented with short – stories but that is a different kind of writing altogether. This book was a huge challenge also because of the theme I’d chosen – sexual violence and abuse; an offbeat and restricted topic. My research for the book ranged from studying about and interviewing sex workers, to gathering information about sexual assault survivors. Even the geographic backdrop in the book shifts from a small village to an upscale brothel to a politician’s house in the city (and politics). All the things I’ve mentioned above were completely unfamiliar grounds for me. I had to be very – very sure of what I was writing. Initial reviews of the book makes me feel happy that I’ve at least succeeded in creating a plot that is plausible and not completely over the top. In fiction – writing we have the liberty to be superfluous but how much we stretch it varies from writer to writer.
In your novel, the protagonist decides to join politics to avenge her rapists which took her more than 15 years instead of going to the law of the country. How do you justify this thought?
In fiction we don’t need to justify a thought. But human nature is such that even in stories, we look for justifications. However, let me try and explain why Radha took it upon herself to punish her perpetrators. Firstly, in life things do not happen as we expect or want. It presents us with unexpected events or situations and we have to deal with them to the best of our ability. That’s exactly what Radha did. She was a simple village school teacher out to enjoy herself with her friend. Her whole life turned upside down that fateful evening. Later, she’d not yet fully recovered from her initial trauma when she got another jolt and learnt that she’d landed in a brothel. Things might have been different if her loved ones were around her to support and counsel her. But she was alone facing a most painful and desperate situation and she decided to do what she thought would be the right course of action. She knew that it would be a mighty task to escape from Temple Bar and even if she managed to do so, nobody outside would believe her tale, least of all the police. Her astute mind inner fortitude and gumption helped her put her plan into action. It took time but finally she achieved what she had set out to do but how and at what cost, who all came along to help her et al is what the story about.
Moreover, as a storyteller, I was sure I wanted to highlight the aftermath of sexual violence/rape on the victim’s psyche (while also talking about the immense human potential) and the plight of sex workers in the country. This was also the main reason I gave out the idea or the main conflict in the beginning. It was the ‘how’ and ‘why’ not the ‘what’ I wanted to focus on. Also, I wanted to end the story on a conclusive note. So it was an absolutely deliberate move to end the way I did. Some things that seem impossible in fact are possible in fiction. Crime against women is high in the country and often not reported. Those who dare to report don’t fare better either. We know the patriarchal mind-set which blames the victim and even if someone takes a stand our sluggish judicial system rarely works in the victim’s favour in such cases. It’s a vicious cycle. What I did in the book was to tell the survivors that they’re not alone in their struggle and giving up isn’t an option.
In your book, you also talked about the miserable life of sex workers. What do you think what could be done to improve their situation in India?
This is a kind of profession in which most people don’t get into willingly. Circumstances force them to become sex – workers. There are some who know what they are getting into and are okay with what it entails. And then there are innocent minors who have no idea why or when they entered the trade. Whatever maybe the case, a vibrant civil society like ours has a responsibility towards these excluded lot. It should not even be implied that such people are unworthy of empathy or human kindness. So all I would urge everyone is to respect them as fellow – humans. I think even this little step would go a long way in improving their lot in the country.
Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
I almost destroyed this one. In fact, I had abandoned it until the Nirbhaya gang – rape incident came to light and shook the entire nation including me, and that is when I decided to pick up the threads again and complete the story.
How do you deal with bad reviews?
I’ve to yet meet a writer who says bad reviews don’t affect them. They do. We just learn to accept them, take the constructive feedbacks in our stride and try not to repeat the same mistakes. However, I also feel reviewers have a huge responsibility towards the books they review. You see, liking or not liking a book is a subjective matter. The problem is when reviewers start using harsh and strongly negative terms while sharing their thoughts. That is avoidable.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
The Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood. Powerful, moving and an extremely disturbing read.
Who are some of your favourite authors? Name one book or author who has affected your writing style?
My favourite authors and poets; 1.)Jane Austen. 2.) Vikram Seth 3.) Khaled Hosseini 4.) Elizabeth Gilbert 5.) Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay 6.) Manju Kapur 7.) Kamala Das 7.) Maya Angelou 8.) Robert Frost 9.) Sara Kay 10.) Mohan Das K. Gandhi 11.) Malcolm Gladwell 12.) Gurcharan Das the list is endless…
I’ve been influenced by Gandhi Ji’s, ‘My Experiments with Truth’. I found his writing style simple, clear and without any artificial or superfluous tone to it. It was an endearing read. I still recall how at one place, he uses the term “innocent” to describe an ignorant person. However, I’m not aware if my writing style has been affected by any one book or writer.
How many hours a day do you write?
It depends on what I’m writing and when I need to submit the work. Generally I spend about 4 to 5 hours in a day when I’m working on a novel.
What message you wish to give to the aspiring writers?
Every one of us has stories. But not everyone can write. You need three attributes to be a great writer – passion, compassion and imagination, rest of the skills can be acquired.
Tell us one reason why the reader must pick up your book.
The answer can be found in the questions you have asked me during this interview. However, the only reason I wrote this book was to get people talking about sexual violence, harassment and abuse openly – in schools and colleges, during coffee – breaks in offices, even in drawing room conversations and certainly at important platforms. And the hope is that it is not restricted to talks but is followed up by concrete actions. Like discouraging sexual jokes and innuendos that are so much a part of our culture, stop victim blaming and people must also start speaking out against such crimes without guilt or fear. Of course, the novel is written in a bollywoodish style and is an engaging read as the Australian actor Tosh Greenslade also says while endorsing the book, “Read this book before it becomes the next blockbuster movie.”
Thank you so much for agreeing to this Interview.
It was a pleasure answering such interesting questions. Thank you!
I hope you enjoyed the Interview. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.