brings to you yet another fascinating interview with the literature veteran and author Pushpa Bansal. You can find her book here

How was the experience of writing the first book in English, was a change of language an altogether different experience?

This is my first full-fledged work of fiction in English – that too in verse.  Hey, Ram! How do I enumerate my difficulties, my horrors, and my self-cursings! English….. Yes, I know English.  I can read and understand English– I have read many great English novels…but writing in this language? 

Language is the very life – the form of thoughts. We think not in hollow or in air… we think in words – we feel in words, we emote using a language. We cannot separate stuff from vocals. Vocabulary is needed to know and understand your own self. The apt word comes of itself…. it springs out and gives a form – a body or say life to something vague and formless. Language gives form to the formless.

For me, thinking, arguing and emoting in Hindi is but natural as I have been a student, teacher, and researcher of Hindi literature but to find the same forms for my thoughts in an alien language was a bit of a task. While writing and planning a beautiful line, suddenly there would be a break for the need of an apt rhyming and meaningful English word. Instead, a sweet-smelling, pretty, perfectly rhyming Hindi word would spring out from somewhere and would insist on it being placed there. O’ God! Now, what to do! Perusing the pages of a bulky dictionary would provide little help –would only aggravate my dilemma-wasting a lot of my time! So I would give up and start doing something else and then, suddenly somehow the right word come would come to my mind (sometime in the middle of the night), many times forcing me to change the whole line but in the end, everything would fall in place.

In those difficult moments my revered late father’s words rang in my ears- “Use only simple small words of idiomatic English!” and by acting upon those words of wisdom, I would steer clear of wasting my time and efforts of finding some elusive appropriate heavy English words.

In the process, I could overcome the phobia of writing in English and have made friends with this language, so much so that I am now planning to translate all my Hindi stories in English and get it published, God willing.

How did the study of law help you in standing for the one in need?

Law means to me, the apparatus to understand the woes of a person in grief and to mitigate his sufferings by punishing the responsible person and compensation by providing relief to the victim. Its body consists of the case, arguments, counters, deductions and adjudicating. It works for relief, compensation, and punishment.

‘Hey, Ram!’ presents a case of violation of the rights of a person. Here the plaintiff is Sita, the wronged and robbed wife and the defendant is Ram, the mighty husband. The plaintiff presents her case well, argues forcefully and arouses the emotions of all effortlessly. She supports her arguments with strong un-washable evidence. However, it is a unique case where Sita the plaintiff brings a case forward- but does not demand any compensation or any punishment to the defendant- the trouble maker.  To her, pointing fingers at the system, questioning the ‘shaastras’, revealing the underlying intents of the powerful divine king emperor and demanding the rightful place for her twin sons is enough of punishment to the defendant and sufficient compensation to her! Law says that it is illegal and a crime to usurp and violate the rights of anybody. Restoration of the right of the rightful owner is the motto of law. Sita of ‘Hey, Ram!’ successfully proves her case and wins without making any claims. She is the best self-advocate.

I think this understanding of the law (right or wrong, I don’t know) has helped me in carving my Sita in her present form.

How have you managed to stay focused on expressing your views with writing for such a long time?

Yes! I have remained fully focused on my point of view in the present work. It was not difficult for me to maintain my focus and not let my line of thought slip out of my hands, because my motivation was strong. I always had a strong empathy with Sita, a rebellion’s uprise against the indiscrete husband and a silent but simmering turmoil against the ‘Ram-Katha-singers’ who concentrated on the divine aspects of Sita and ignored Sita – the woman, the living person made of flesh and blood. Even modern Hindi poets have also ignored the wails of Sita, maybe because their concentration on the greatness of the divine Ram and the divine consort was only a divinity incarnate and not a woman with human feelings.

My modern, rational and realistic approach to life came to my rescue so that I could steer clear away from the blame of blaspheme, as I did not bring the divinity of King Ram in my narration. Ram is a king alright. But he is a politician, has to keep his people pleased, always listening and caring about them, ready to sacrifice the rights of his wife! I was so absorbed in listening to the autobiographical story of hurt and deprivation of Sita that I did not even feel the necessity of consulting big or small books available in plenty now, pertaining to the story! My Sita in silhouette was present there. She was talking and I was listening, and I was listening with my pen and pad in my hand. Where was the question of my becoming out of focus?

That is why, I feel, all my characters appear lifelike, consistent and clear.

How does your daily routine look like and what are the essentials of your daily routine?

My daily routine is a very simple one. No rule laying, no fixed timing, no rigidity about my diet, etc.  I get up early morning in Brahm-muhurta, and always relish a cup of tea in the morning. Then a bit of exercise, pranayama, and morning walk. Then, a little bit of Puja, the perusal of newspapers, and a hearty breakfast-invariably consisting of paranthas. The next three hours are for attending to my wardrobe, my room, and some kitchen chores and having a chat with people available around, mostly my daughter in law. Soon, its lunchtime and I enjoy my lunch consisting of Dal, Rice, curds, a vegetable, and chapati. Then it is time to watch TV lying in the bed savoring fresh fruit, and sleeping off, in the process for a couple of hours. Evening tea follows at about 4 PM.  And then I am with my books, pen, and pad and also replying to any calls, messages on phone. I love reading Hindi literature and perhaps I can say ‘I eat literature, I drink literature, I sleep literature and that’s all.’ Dinner is early usually at 7 in the evening and sound sleep of 6 to 7 hours.

When my husband was alive, we used to walk, talk, eat, and play cards discussing politics, religion, family issues, and anything and everything on this earth together. He departed last year on 8th March. A hollow ensued which is being carefully filled by my children and grandchildren.

What are your thoughts on woman empowerment and what are the things needed to keep in mind while promoting empowerment?

Woman empowerment is a hot subject today involving everyone man- woman, rich-poor, youngsters –elderly, all.

Are we reaching anywhere? Yes and no.  Administration, law, society all are busy in promoting this issue. Much has been achieved. Woman today has transcended the barriers of gender, age, capabilities, etc. She has outsmarted men in almost every field. She is a better scholar, a better administrator, a better homemaker, a better employer and so on. Women has conquered mountains, crossed oceans, flew planes and reached to moon and space and so on. She can go anywhere, do anything, join any profession, even politics, and army, cab and truck driving, etc.

But, still, the question of woman empowerment continues to remain. Why?

In reality, she does not have right over herself. Her earnings, here capabilities, her wallet, even her womb- everything is controlled by others in most of the cases. She is not safe and secure. ‘Nirbhayas’ are in plenty, rather they are multiplying by the day. Even a male escort is not a guarantee for her security outside her home. Insider predators are also so many. High ranking lady police officers meant to provide security to the public are themselves vulnerable and highly insecure. This story is long and the scenario is terrorizing.

The basic fact is that woman is not weak but is different from man. And she is different in terms of her anatomy, biology, chemistry, and ethics.  Everybody, and particularly the woman herself has to understand that trying to do everything that a man does and do, does not necessarily ‘liberate’ her or makes her strong. The insistence of free intermingling by girls, the trend of keeping undressed or underdressed instead of properly dressed, taking to smoking, drugs, and alcohol to establish her equality with the male counterpart are some of the factors, which drag her toward the pit of destruction.   Natural flow cannot be destroyed, but it can be put under a ‘Bandh’.The ignition factors such as drinking, drugs, loss of control of elders, eulogizing the male thrust, etc. to be taken care of. Serious censoring and reprimand of the offender by family and friends will definitely work. Isolation by mother, sister, daughter, and wife will be much effective than solitary confinement in jail.

The woman herself also has to act responsibly. Yes, we cannot change the nature of the calls of nature, but we can control these calls. Auto-stops and auto barriers are to be inculcated and helped. Ways are many. Mostly womenfolk have to apply their minds. We should neither invoke the dictum that ‘boys will be boys’ nor kindle this question that ‘why should boys have all the fun?’

Tell us something about your book ‘Hey, Ram!  Are you listening!!’

This idea of Sita telling her real story first came to me long back which was woven into a novel form of Hindi literature called as Hindi Nayee Kavita – a work of fiction poetry which was published as ‘Prativad Parva’ ( 1994, Lokbharati Prakashan, Allahabad). However, I felt that it was wrong to restrict this story only to the Hindi readers and that English speaking and English- understanding readership would also be interested in knowing this aspect of Sita’s story. So, even though I had never written in English before, I thought it prudent to rewrite this story in English, in the hope that it will reach a larger audience..

In the beginning, I was quite apprehensive about the shape and form it was going to take. But finally, this book, my first venture in the English language, I feel,  has come out beautifully and taken a shape in the form of  ‘Hey, Ram!, Are you listening!!’. I am loving it.

In this book, apart from dramatic irony, a fast-changing situation serves the dose of drama. The epistolary biographical form lends its unique credibility. Nature, trees, leaves, and jungles do not speak but tell us a lot about the life and timely feelings of the characters. All mythical personalities come alive in their normal human form. How a heart – a sincere heart- shrieks, boils and bleeds when kicked! How a wife – a dutiful all surrendering wife reacts bringing out the underlying hidden facts on being treated as dust.

My work ‘Hey, Ram!’ depicts a wronged wife in the garb of Sita, who accuses questions, indicts her husband but does not bear any ill will against him. She just wants Ram to listen to her.

I have tried to use simple vocal words and sweet rhyming in juvenile English to create powerful images, using small singing lines to tell big stories. I have used, expressive similes which paint the subject live. Emotions of shock, desperation, surprise, disgust, breaking of heart, pun, pride, and agony; love for the progeny, self-esteem have been tried to beautifully and powerfully depicted in the fewest words

I love my Sita, Sita loves her Ram, Ram loves his people and the entire world… and in that process must love this work ‘Hey, Ram! Are you listening!! ’

I hope so.

To have more interesting interviews keep watching this space every week.

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