Having here, an exclusive interview with Kirtida Gautam, the author of an eye opener book – #IAm16ICanRape
Let’s start with a traditional question – As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? Like any normal child, I wanted to do thousands of things. My most ambitious goal was to bring India and Pakistan together and erase the border. Not kidding, this was one of my ambitions when I was in class 4th. But I guess, you mean what I wanted to do professionally when you ask this question, right? Professionally, I wanted to be a doctor who is also a writer. I am heavily inspired by Anton Chekhov. I am a clinical psychologist who is a writer. I am happy with this position.
Did you have any goals for this novel when you wrote it — to get published, or just to finish, or imply your thoughts on the mass, etc.? As a psychologist, I know that the assumption of sending a below 18 juvenile to a reform home for a couple of years to change his personality and transform him into a socially responsible human being is an endeavor bound to meet failure. And yet the state lets the sex offender walk with negligible punishment based on the hypothesis that they would be “reformed” at an institution in as less as 2-3 years. I have a strong opinion against this practice and when I started writing this novel, all I wanted to achieve was to spread this message widely. I wanted to raise opinion AGAINST this loophole of our legal system.
How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book? Most of the writers read novels for inspiration. I read lot of non-fiction books. In my heart, I am a Methodist, a rational thinker. That is the place from where I write what I write, so yes, you can say that I write with a clear theme for the work engraved in my mind. But because I work very hard to catch the right dramatic beat, what my mentor Anjum Rajabali calls the right Sur– melody for the novel, I end up shedding lots of tears when I write. And fortunately, I also succeed in eliciting the same emotions in the readers. For months, I create a structure for my novel. Then my characters come in the picture and demolish the whole structure. I love the mess they make of the original structure. This mess is the core of my novels!
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you? I get Goosebumps every time I read the Mahabharata. That is my ultimate source of motivation. These days I am reading Geeta for the second time for inspiration. One of my favorite books that I would recommend to any writer is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. My writing is also influenced by the work of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Another favorite book of mine on craft of fiction is, The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. Goddess in Every Woman and Gods in Everyman by Jean Shinoda Bolen are also two books that writers must read to understand character archetypes.
Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)? I write my first draft on a voice-recording machine 🙂 . I record most of the scenes and then I transcribe them on my laptop. But this is the final draft stage. Before this there are 6 other stages my writing goes through. It’s a vigorous process for me and therefore it takes me time to write one novel. I call the whole process Method Writing. The word is inspired by Constantin Stanislavski’s coined term Method Acting.
Do you write every single day? Any upcoming book from your side? I write everyday. Even when I don’t have any ongoing project I still write. In my laptop there are thousands of pages that I have written in stream of consciousness writing. This is one advice I will give to every writer- WRITE. At present, I am writing the third book of Yin Yang series. Technically, it is part 2 of the second book. This book depicts the final stages of Hero’s Journey, phase 17 and phase 18, of Aarush Kashyap’s journey before he walks to his freedom getting rid of his Karma following the steps of monomyth.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? When I am not writing, I daydream. I daydream a lot. Most of the days, my companions are my characters. I hang out with them! For past one year, I have been working 12-14 hours a day, and when I don’t work, I think or talk about my work. So, finally, I am trying to reclaim my sanity. But in my defense, other than work, I try to do many things. I try to be a good mother and spend more time with my daughter. I read 18 sloka of Geeta to her everyday. It’s my aspiration to teach her Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the language in which one of the most intelligent existing literatures of the world is written. And as Noam Chomsky’s theory of language learning suggests, the child can comfortably learn any language if s/he is exposed to the language before age 12. I want that my daughter should be able to read and understand Sanskrit. I also make it a point to read stories to her every night. I spend time with my spouse. These days, I am working hard to lose weight with the help of nutritious food and regular exercise. I practice Yoga and Meditation. I listen songs. Music is my madness and daydreaming instrument.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book? For past seven years I have worked diligently to be a better writer everyday. And while writing this book, I realized that writing comes naturally to me! When I write good, I write in a Zen state. For me it’s like that Kung Fu Panda moments, nothing is there in the Dragon Scroll. I walked a long distance to reach my home.
Your book, #IAm16ICanRape, is creating a lot of buzz amongst the youth of the nation. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say? I hear a lot of things from readers, especially teenagers or parents of teenagers, and I love their feedback. I cherish my conversations with my readers and their feedback more than anything else. An especially heart touching moment for me was when Komal Priyani, who is one of my readers shared the book with her mother. Her mother said, “Listening to the whole rape episode I was crying imagining the pain that poor girl might have gone through. After that my thinking changed. As a parent I can understand the pain Rudransh and Gayatri must have gone through because failing as a parent is very painful. Being Aarush’s Grandfather he want the right punishment for his Grandchild that is what I call A real champ is…I salute Rudransh’s courage and Subhangi’s Fighting spirit.” I want the readers to salute Subhangi and Rudransh. I salute them 🙂
What message would you like to give to the young generation and aspiring writers? Do not take craft of writing lightly. Any person can scribble on paper, type on keyboard, or rent out a narcissist cry and call it work. But if you are serious about making a career as a fiction writer, thoroughly study the Masters of the field. See how they managed to create magic with written words. My mentor Anjum Rajabali has been instrumental in teaching me the science of story telling. I truly believe that a fiction writer must study his/her Art to attain perfection for years, once the grammar of story telling is understood; there is lot of fun in experiencing the mad world created by characters. It’s as entertaining for the writer to be a part of this fictional world, as it is for the reader. So, follow the math, music will follow you!