Sagarika Chakraborty – ISB Alumni & Author, A Calendar Too Crowded
We have a new author in the block, Sagarika Chakraborty. Sagarika is out with her first book on womanhood called A Calendar Too Crowded – that deals with conditions and stories of women from India. The book focusses on human rights, gender studies and sustainable development through stories.
Sagarika, belongs to the new age management graduates and recently graduated from the Indian School of Business (Hyd). Sagarika, who is using her education to carve a niche for herself while bringing out an important message to the society, is certainly a role model for Indian Youth!
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
SC: Sagarika Chakraborty – Author, A Calendar too Crowded and Alumni, ISB Hyderabad!
Me: Hello Sagarika, Welcome to the show on CWS! You are a law graduate from National Law University in Jodhpur and you have completed your MBA from ISB Hyderabad. You are now an author. How did this journey come about.. Can you please speak about yourself, your family background, childhood days and your academic journey..
SC: A full matrimonial answer coming up here! Lol! I spent majority of my childhood in Kolkata, and loved it. However, growing up I detested school for chained route to education was never for me. My childhood was speckled with more activities outside classroom and being fairly good in studies my parents never complained. Thus like a typical Indian kid I learnt how to pursue a degree in classical dance, creative arts from Shantiniketan and swim across public pools. However, unlike many others my family urged me to open up my mind to the external world and that helped me take up my love for debate and quizzing and go to become a national level winner in both. Law school was again a conscious decision and I lived my dream there. However, despite being into policy making and nation building I felt that somewhere the approach wouldn’t suffice unless I know how the economy works and the businesses flow here. Thus it was B School and ISB again was the first choice. In between, before I realized I had written enough research papers and had also decided to use my non fiction base to spin fiction stories that would reflect the social vices and make people think and act.
Me: When did you decide to become an author.. What was the inspiration? When you were a child, did you dream of writing a book?
SC: I always tell people that I never found the pen, instead the pen found me. My mother still recalls that I write my first short story at the age of 4, when I could barely write. However, she says that it clearly reflected my imagination and thus growing up she always urged me to write. It was her and my grand mother who later became the inspiration behind this book. As a child I was always urged to dream big not in terms of materialistic goals but to think beyond self. Both of them always asked me to contribute to the society and thus I always think of my actions on a broader scale. I could have easily stuck to popular fiction but to me writing is the catharsis of my dreams. – of someday making a difference to the society and justifying the gift called nationality this country has given me. As a child I knew that the pen was mightier than the sword and as an adult now am proving that through my words.
Me: Can you please speak about the central theme of the book and how the book is organized.. What was the inspiration for the book?
SC: A Calendar Too Crowded is a collection of short stories and poems that are spun around important days on the calendar dedicated to women ad children. While I respect the thought behind these days what kills me is the fact that today these days exist more for the commercialization around them instead of the spirit. Thus the book has anti stories – in June it takes on the day against eve teasing and molestation, but the story seems to speak of the déjà vu situations where the girl is said to invite it through her dresses.
The book is an attempt to look into houses where everything looks picture perfect on the surface, but there are blatant cases of domestic violence and gender inequality that have been swept under the carpet for fear of tainting the family name and image. The attempt is to bring forth the bruises hidden beneath each lavishly draped body that need to be highlighted even on days which are not dedicated to campaigns against domestic violence. All the voices that have found expression in this book through their stories are nameless, because no name would justify a voice which represents millions. They transgress all boundaries of geography, religion, age and caste to become one voice— the voice of womanhood.
Each and every voice in these stories can be connected to any woman you see around you and they seek to say that all women deserve to be happy every day of the year, because every day in the calendar of every woman’s life is precious, just like yours.
Me: How did you go about doing the necessary research for writing the book..
SC: I have been researching in the public policy domain for about 8 years now and have written papers for various international journals and being quote by World Bank, UNESCO, Indian and Australian Government, UK to name a few. However a couple of years back I stopped and wondered if my writing for big names was enough when it is the common masses who should be inspired to bring about the change. Apart from that I travelled to the unassuming parts of various cities I have lived in, interacted with people, understood their concerns and the read a lot about the social structure that awe will in and the one that we aspire to be in. The case studies were there in front of me. Thus, I decided to use my non fiction research base to churn out stories that would instigate people to stop, think and question the vices around them and make them ask aloud if they were doing enough. The first step towards change my grandmother used to say is the acceptance of the wrongs that are happening, then change becomes a natural by product. The aim of my book is to aid that first process.
Me: Can you speak about one or two briefs from the book to give a taste of the book to the audience? Please give us the pitch for your book!
SC: Instead of pitching the book, let me pitch my two favorite stories from the book- When the Ganges Ran dry and Sisters by Choice and Not by Chance. The former is inspired by my relationship with my grandmother who till date despite her physical absence is one of the most influencing factors of my life. Her last days and my understanding her in a new way made me pen that story. The latter is a story about adopted sisters and having experienced sisterhood myself in the most nicest way ever, where my elder sister is still my Hero I decided to connect it to the sphere of adoption, another topic I hold very close.
Me: What would you say is the most challenging aspect to be a writer? What are the joys and anxieties you faced as a first time author?
SC: For me it has been writing without getting too caught up with the negatives that surround us. It is very important for any author to acknowledge the ying and yang theory – that good and evil both reside together. It is only when we can write with the neutral ink color that you can call yourself writer, I feel. This though the highlight of an author’s profile is the most challenging part. Also, it gets difficult when people wonder how can you write beyond your age. A lot of my critics have questioned about how I could write about motherhood when I have never raised a kid, imagination and second hand learning is often questioned in this space too.
SC: I guess the greatest joy has been to see a reader gift the book to her friends, to know of a man who felt that I changed his perspective about feminism and yes also to see the joy in my mother’s eyes that she’s nurtured this mind. Anxieties I still face, every critique makes me think where did I let the reader down and where can I be better. Also, I feel helpless when they tag me as feminist and pity my man and he being the eternal leg puller plays on!
Me: How did you go about publishing the book? Describe the writing and editing process for us.
SC: I have no Godfathers in this industry and I have more horror stories to tell about manuscript rejection than tales of glorious times. However, I never let rejection get to me, I was determined to publish my book on my terms and am glad to have found a rare books publisher like Niyogi books.
I think I wrote the entire book in daze. It was as if something grasped me and made me write the stories, like a dictation from the inner voice. The process of editing made me realize what burning the mid night oil actually means when it comes to a book. However I think the entire process hardened me as a writer and made me more mature as an individual.
Me: Are you working on any other books at the moment.. What are your future plans as a writer..
SC: I have just finished working on a non fiction book and a piece for a collectors edition which is to feature my work alongside big names like Sashi Tharoor and Javed Akhtar. I take a long time to research before I pen down my stories, and right now I am in the research mode for my next book. My readers have to wait a little. However that is only but fair, for I do not write easy reading tales that can be all devoured at one go. My stories have to be savored in their after taste so I can utilize this time to plan my next work.
Me: There are so many out there, who want to put their ideas into writing.. But they just dont manage to do so.. hoping for the right moment.. What is your message for first time authors?
SC: There is no right moment in life for anything. You can’t wait for life to happen to you in love or in your professional work. You have to go and try, grab opportunities and convert every set back into a come back moment, that is the test life sets for you. It is important however to realize your strength when it comes to writing and not give into popular genres just because they sell. Remember writing is as personal as your food habits, you can’t enjoy a chilli chocolate just to please somebody.
Me: Anything else you would like to share with the reader?
SC: I am thankful to each one of you for shaping me to be who I am today. To the ones who critiqued I appreciate you for the strength you’s gave me to become a better writer and to the ones you loved me I hold you close for you keep me going during my dark days!
Me: Are you interested in speaking to the readers of Coffee With Sundar? If so, how can interested parties contact you?
SC: Oh, I am a people’s person, nothing gets me going more than good conversations. They can interact with me over my FB page ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Calendar-Too-Crowded/318541608164764?ref=hl) or drop me a line at Chakraborty.email@example.com. Am waiting!
Me: Thank you Sagarika. Wish you a great success in all your endeavours! Readers, hope you enjoyed this edition of Coffee with Experts.
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