Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay says only a writer knows how little of what is meant to be written and how much is actually written.
She is a venerated novelist, a newspaper columnist, an essayist and a film critic. She lives and works in Kolkata. She started writing poetry and letters to her friends at the age of 12. Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay professionally began her career in writing at the age of 25 and later started with poetry when she was 30.
She is the author of ‘Abandon’, ‘Panty’ and ‘The Yogini’. She has published nine novels and over fifty short stories since her first controversial novel ‘Shankhini’ which made her an explosive debutante writer. Bandyopadhyay is best known for her novel ‘Panty’(Penguin India, 2015). When it was first published in Bengali, it created a furore, a wide segment of the society including many stalwart writers condemned her and raised questions.
Bandyopadhyay was providing insights into a writer's mind and how she pursues it while interacting with students in a webinar series - christened as #MediaNext 2020, hosted by Adamas University, Kolkata recently. ABP Education was a partner of MediaNext 2020. Here are the excerpts from his talk:
“The only motivation has been the urge to read my own mind,” says Bandyopadhyay. Thinking and giving shape to the idea blooming inside the mind and then exposing it in front of the world makes it even more powerful and simultaneously makes it a better equation with the people. The most important factor is observation. “People from different walks of life have been my inspiration,” says Bandyopadhyay.
Bandyopadhyay, as a published author, feels to be able to think something and aptly planting the seeds of thought are the prime challenges for a writer. “It is vast yet giving shape in words is onerous,” added Bandyopadhyay. Her bold and powerful writings are only 50 percent of what she has implemented. “Even in the most illustrious works there are always some incomplete words of one’s thoughts,” expresses Bandyopadhyay.
“My novels are often very intensively related to my own life and experiences,” says Bandyopadhyay. Out of the protagonists she has written so far, she could mostly relate to ‘Abandon’ as a writer. The story is a blend of magic realism and surrealism which eventually makes it her most favourite. “Novels which talk about mankind, relationships, women empowerment, socio-economic scenarios and its impact on society, attracts me the most. I read and enjoy several other contemporary women writers. Many authors are writing only about the things they derive self-satisfaction from. I have never seen my own writings being influenced by anyone else although I know there are other works too having similarities with my own work. It is my nature to deeply question the very writing that becomes the most acceptable to me,” expresses Bandyopadhyay. Social issues that often haunts can be an interesting story to write for. Even an imagery or a scene that haunts can also be a piece for writing, Bandyopadhyay strongly believes.
“Our predilection is literally powerful than everything else we own”–Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay
“It is difficult to say today exactly what sort of writing I was aiming for. Much of my writing style is something like habitual writing,” says Bandyopadhyay. Only a writer knows how little of what is meant to write and how much is actually written. There is something beyond all these imposed identities. It may not be anything exceptional or specific, or even explicitly great. But not even an entire lifetime is abundant to search for it.
Bandyopadhyay’s Shankhini, Panty, Abandon and The Yogini has also been translated in English and published by Tilted Axis Press, a UK based publishing house. She has been called ‘India’s Elena Ferrante’, and her novel ‘Abandon’ has been compared to Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’.
“Language is not a barrier when the content of my work allures and has similar appeals in every respective society,” expresses Bandyopadhyay. Different countries may have different languages, distinct traditions, dissimilar taste and contrasting culture but an enthralling piece of work always attracts humankind which demonstrates our mental attitude matches somewhere, she says.
“Print industry has nothing to do with the pandemic,” says Bandyopadhyay. Pandemic has led to the modification of many print publications into digital publications. Now first and foremost thing is to survive with proper medical care and having our families secured. In this current scenario when the economic state of affairs in the country is at stake, buying and reading books will definitely become a secondary activity. As far as the publishing houses are concerned, they will suffer for the time being but if we see on a wider picture not much harm will be caused, says Bandyopadhyay.
“People will never stop buying books as it is one’s necessity for life,” she added. Once people are accustomed with the process of sustaining they will again start buying books.
In this era of pandemic, digital education has got an enormous boost and has already started taking shape while maintaining pace with our lives but it cannot act as a substitute for a very long term. “City dwellers can eventually continue with the digital platforms but as far as the villagers are concerned, there lies a wide digital divide,” expresses Bandyopadhyay.
“For proper growth and mind development one needs to interact with the environment, have to mingle with friends, get to know the world, cooperate with other people, need to learn behaviour, decorum, ethics and code of conduct,” says Bandyopadhyay. By some means the system has to rise up again with new methods in order to get back to normal life again.
“The more you know about the past, the better you can implement in your writings” – Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay
If we look back at the history of mankind, the one who wrote fiction was not the only writer but the one who wrote mathematics, philosophy, history, science, media management or any other genre was also a writer. In some way or the other it contributes to our society to help it grow. The one with the greatest minds, the philosopher, the thinker, the historian or even the scientist is considered to be a writer as they all have made the society authoritative and a better place to live in through their knowledge. Every specific field has its own impact on the society and we cannot exclude anyone from it else the community will not exist and may create a void. “Writers can have a direct impact upon every specific community as written words are genuine ways which have shaped the society which in turn shaped our lives,” says Bandyopadhyay.
“Everybody who wants to be a writer needs to have deep knowledge about history, planet, geography, civilization, socio-economic structure, literature and other specific genres of study,” expresses Bandyopadhyay. One needs to understand the inner artistic and creative call first. As we all know, ‘‘knowledge is power’’ so it plays an indispensable role in our lives. People should have a clear understanding of literary works which is an absolute necessity. “With the advent of several social media platforms, there are a handful of young minds coming up with an abundance of writings which are not in a way purely filtered and one cannot consider it to be something credible. Every sort of information comes up with numerous interpretations,” says Bandyopadhyay.
You have to know your core society. It is non-viable to know all the societies around the world because you have never lived there. But you need to have a very strong understanding of the society you have lived in, you are raised in and learned ethics from. You have to know the cults, the great personalities, the great minds and of course where your society straggles behind. “The process of learning is obtuse so one cannot learn it within a day. You have to keep yourself open and keep learning all the while to be able to relate with the society and understand its impact,” signs off Bandyopadhyay.
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