Home » Coffee With Experts

Usha Rai – Former President of Karnataka Lekhakiyara Sangha – Part 2

20 August 2010 7 Comments

Hi All,

Today we are having the part 2 of the interview with Usha Rai Maam. Please find the part 1 here.

Brief Introduction to Usha Rai:
The artist K Usha P Rai, born May 23rd 1945 in Udupi, Karnataka , India is a well known personality in the Kanada literary circles and is an accomplished Kanada writer and novelist. In July 2005 a near fatal car accident threatened to ruin her life and confined her to bed for almost 6 months. That was when she took to painting seriously as a therapy to overcome the mental and physical trauma. She immersed herself in painting during those rough times and very soon within a period of two years, she compiled her present collection of over 40 paintings.

Me: Can you speak of some of your interesting experiences which you experienced in your long career as a writer?

UR: Very nice to remember such things. I wrote my first novel in 1972-73 but I did not show it to any one. In 1974 I came to Bangalore to join Vijaya Bank. At that time, I gave the manuscript to my childhood friend to read. She liked it and through her husband she sent it to Prajamatha office which was close to her house, without telling me. I was working at K.G.Road branch at that time as a trainee. One day the editor of the magazine Shri M.N Murthy came to that office and was enquiring about me at the counter. One of my colleagues came and told me some old man is asking for you. I thought there must be some mistake in his account and expecting some shoutings when I went to the counter. He introduced himself and told me that he liked my novel and wanted to publish it in their magazine! I was dumbfounded. I was very happy, I was excited and what not? He asked me to give my photo and bio-data. What was there in my bio-data at that time? I told him I will come to Prajamatha Office and give. I remembered my father who was no more. My mother was very happy. That excitement I can never forget.

I had written an article on ‘how to be successful in life’ which was published in Sudha weekly, somewhere in 1992-93. At that time there were not many books in kannada on the power of mind and how to channelize it. The response I got from the youngsters for that article was very interesting. Some took address my from Sudha office and came home asking me to help them. Some office invited me to talk about this for their staff! Very interesting thing was 6-7 years after publishing that article one day I got a call from a youngster telling me ‘madam, I was keeping your article with me all these years and used to read every now and then to get inspiration. After reading that article I finished my engineering and now I am searching for a job. Suddenly I lost that article. I want it very badly. Can you give me a copy of that?’ What does a writer wants more than this? The boy got my phone no. from the Bunts Sangha Office, Bangalore. I was very happy and I wanted to see that boy. I told him to come home to collect the copy. He came and narrated how that article helped him during his student days and how he could finish his engineering. It was very interesting and I gave him the collection of essays where that article is also included. I never thought writing has such an effect on minds!

I have to tell one more interesting thing. I had written a novel about a girl who became a successful police officer by her own efforts. I got a letter from a girl from a remote village asking me for guidance to appear for the exams. She wanted to become a police officer! If any body is influenced by what you have written that is a great feeling. Nothing can beat that pleasure. There are many more incidents. When you get such responses, you really feel satisfied being a writer.

Me: Wow, they are really inspiring stories. It is indeed satisfying to hear such responses as a writer. So what are the challenges you faced in writing? How did you over come the same?

UR: I have faced the same usual challenges every other woman writer was facing. Like getting publishers, attitude of male critiques etc, etc. 0therwise it was a smooth going. I always wrote without expecting anything. That made me stronger.

Me: Sure, How do you promote your literary work?

UR: Promote? There is nothing like promotion. After the book is published the readers promote it if they like the book. The publishers will see that the books are reached all the libraries. Book releasing function is a sort of promotion.

Me: Can you speak about some of your literary achievements Which has been closest to your heart?

UR: Being able to write and be recognized as a good writer is the greatest achievement. When it reached the readers, success came after me. When I got some awards I was happy. They are all encouraging factors in the journey as a writer. My books are closest to my heart. But, I know my best is yet to come. When and how I don’t know.

I became the president of Karnataka Lekhakiyara Sangha (a State level women writers’ association) after I left the Bank. During that 5 years (2000-2005) I worked for the Sangha, sometimes even forgetting my home. Because of the good work I was able to do during that period, I got lot of name and fame. Still people recognize that period as the best period of Karnataka Lekakiyara sangha. That gives me great satisfaction. Instead of being ‘only writer’, I was able to become a good organizer too because of that position.

Me: So, When did you switch from writing to painting?

Switching over to painting is much unexpected. I never thought I will become an artist one day that too after becoming a senior citizen. I had a flare for drawing when I was in the school. But it was all forgotten while running the race of life. Marriage, bank job and house work kept me busy. Children and their education was my priority. In between that busy life I was writing. I took voluntary retirement and soon I became the president of Karnataka Lekhakiyara sangha. That kept me occupied and very busy. In July, 2005 we met with a serious near fatal road accident. Both I and my husband were almost crippled. We were confined to bed for more than 6 months. That was the period I took up painting. My friend and an art teacher Nimi Ravidranath helped me to brush up my hidden talent. When I was able to sit I started painting mainly to overcome that trauma and pain. It acted like a therapy and I got back my confidence and within 2 years i.e. In 2007 I was able to have an exhibition. I myself can’t believe how I did it. That was a surprise to everyone in the literary field. Now painting has become my passion. I write and paint. It is really satisfying. I should say that this is the bonus gift I got from the almighty in my bonus period of life!

Me: Painting as a therapy? I have never heard that painting could be used as a therapy. Can you explain a little more about it.

UR: Any form of art can be used to boost a person’s mental status. For example soothing music is used to calm down people when they are upset. Even in the treatment of depression, music is used to make them feel happy and to activate their mind cells to come out of depression. Now a days many counselors use music as a therapy to cure depression. Soothing music is an excellent stress reliever. Some well sung shlokas are very effective. If you listen to them daily they will have positive effect on your mind.

Like wise colours also have that effect. They can also activate the mind and make you to forget the ills and pains. When a creative person becomes inactive by sickness or injury, if he sulks and confine himself to the bed or to one corner he will definitely become depressed. A creative mind always needs some outlet for their feelings.

We were very active till we (both me and my husband) met with a near fatal road accident. As the president of Karnataka Lekhakiyara Sangha, I was always on the run – attending meetings, organizing literary programs, attending literary functions, writing etc. The accident suddenly changed my life. We were in the hospital for nearly 2 months taking treatments. We had strong support from our sons Subhash and Sathwik. They both attended to us ignoring their work. We had a strong family support also. My sisters stayed with us at Coimbatore hospital forgetting their family. When we were brought home we could not even sit on the bed. Doctors had a doubt whether I will be able to walk. But after prolonged physiotherapy we started walking slowly inside the house. I was little depressed since all my activities were stopped. At that time I took to painting seriously.

My artist friend Ms Nimi Ravidranath guided me. When I started playing with brushes and colours I realised that I am forgetting the pains and the trauma of the accident and I am gaining confidence. Soon I was the same person as before smiling over my pains and more confident than before. Painting acted as a therapy in my case. Everybody can watch the difference between me and my husband who was also a very active person before the accident. He was not ready to take up some hobby. He was a writer earlier. That also he did not want to pursue despite persuasion. He could never come out of the trauma of the accident. Physically he is fitter than me but mentally I became more fit. That is because of my hobby. I could forget everything at least when am sitting in front of the canvas. I never bothered about the pains. That became the habit. Except going out, in other respects I became like before. Is it not a therapy? Painting has made me a strong person mentally. Now whenever I feel low I sit in front of the canvas with colours and brushes. It gives lot of relief!

Me: Wow! That is one of the most amazing anecdotes I have heard!

Readers, Hope you enjoyed this edition of coffee with experts with Usha Rai. Stay tuned for part 3, where we speak about maam’s painting exploits and also share some of her great works!

Happy Weekend!