Delhi gang rape or Damini gang rape or Nirbhaya rape case – there were many names given to what happened on that fateful night of 16th December 2012. The incident shook the whole country specially the youth who came out on streets protesting, shouting slogans against people who were involved in the crime.
The topic remained the most discussed one for so many days and months. Another factor that came to the limelight during all those discussions and debates was the fact that one of the person involved in the gang rape was under 16 years of age. Hence, as per rule he belong to the juvenile category and hence had to give special treatments and exemptions during trials. This started the country-wide debate if it was wrong or right. When people were busy discussing, there was this lady Kirtida Gautam who was so much touched and pained by the whole incident that she started penning down her thoughts on a paper which ultimately got converted to a full fledged novel titled #IAm16ICanRape.
Team MTN interviewed Kirtida Gautam to know more about herself and her novel.
Q1 Your formal educational background, any other skill oriented courses taken.
I am a clinical psychologist. I have also done Diploma in Dramatic Arts from Performing Arts Faculty, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Later, I studied screenplay writing from Film and Television Institute of India, Pune.
Q2. Kirtida, Please let us know about your family background.
My father Parukant Desai is a professor of Hindi literature. He is also a renowned poet. My mother Leena Desai is a teacher of Hindi literature. Under their wings, I started writing Doha, Hindi couplets at the age of four.
I am the middle child of my parents. I have an elder sister Purabi and a younger sister Payal. I have spent most of my childhood in the company of Payal when we both kept talking about our imaginary characters for hours and tell each other stories. At first, I thought it is normal for everyone to have N number of imaginary people in their lives. Later I realized that most of the people don’t have imaginary characters whose lives concern them as much as their own lives concern them.
I guess, I should have known that time that I will become a novel writer.
Q3. Career – Everything from finishing up your studies and taking up first job to becoming an author.
I have always been excellent with my studies. After class twelve I went to study engineering but in a year I realized that it is not my field. Fortunately, my parents allowed me to leave it for studying psychology and linguistics
After my post graduation in clinical psychology, I went to Mumbai and worked in movies as assistant director. My boyfriend of that time who is now my husband, Mrityunjay Gautam advised me, if you want to make your career in any field, have formal education in the field from a renowned place.
I went to the FTII as that is the most prestigious place to study film making in India. I chose screenplay writing because that was the shortest duration course.
It’s at FTII, under the tutelage of Anjum Rajabali Sir, sitting under the famous Baudhivriksha of FTII that I realized that I am a writer.
Q4. Major Hobbies.
I practice Yoga. I love travelling. I am a music addict. I enjoy listening to Hemant Kumar’s old Hindi songs and Gazals sung by Jagjit Singh. I also enjoy watching movies.
Guru Dutt is my favorite film maker. I remember I had watched Kagaz Ke Phool for the first time at the age of six and loved it. Now when I think about it, I don’t comprehend what I would have loved in the movie at that age?
Q5. How did transition happened to becoming an author? When did you realize that you could write well to be an author?
Even at FTII, I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I thought I am a filmmaker who studies screenplay writing. I thank Almighty for introducing me to my mentor Anjum Rajabali Sir. His patience with his students is phenomenal. Every few weeks, I would exhibit rebellious behavior in which I would defy some rule and try to do something making it difficult for him to teach me the Art of Dramatic Writing. But he didn’t give up on me.
He continuously told me, there will come a time in your life when the bliss of intuitive writing will overtake everything else, money, reputation, fame, everything will become a byproduct. Your main focus would be to creatively express yourself with the art of writing.
He drilled the discipline of writing regularly in me. He taught me how writing fiction is a science.
He made me understand the Hero’s Journey and said, learn the math, music will follow.
It took me seven years to implement his theory in practice and write a book that represents what I learnt at FTII.
Q6. Books Authored, Any other journals/publications or in general any other contribution towards media/publishing?
I have written for Indian television for about four years now. I wrote a show called Dharampatni for DJ’s Creative Unit. Later I wrote the show Jodha Akbar for Balaji Telefilms which was telecasted on Zee TV.
Q7. Tell us something about your book #IAm16ICanRape? What is it all about?
#IAm16ICanRape is a fiction book. I had very vague idea about the juvenile justice system of India and how it gives an umbrella to the delinquents who are below 18 years of age. This law came in my attention for the first time when I heard about the Nirbhaya Rape Case. I closely followed the case.
The case started a nationwide debate about pros and cons of reducing the age for juvenile offenders for sex crimes. But the juvenile who brutally tortured Nirbhaya and was central in her death, got three years at the rehabilitation center.
As a psychologist, I was appalled by the decision. I know the implication of such a law and the potential of its abuse at the hands of criminal minded youth. By giving this umbrella, state is not doing a great service to its youth. The state is behaving like the blind father Dhritarashtra who is not ready to see the vile of his son Duryodhana.
I felt unparallel anger. I went to my mentor Anjum Sir with a one page pitch. He told me, your anger is right and justified, channel it correctly. Don’t fix the story in stone. Try and understand the complexity of rape as a crime.
For next two years, I studied major psychological texts around the topic of rape.
The book #IAm16ICanRape, is a work of fiction that questions the sensibility of juvenile justice system of India and raises strong objection against the growing rape culture.
Q9. Your future projects/books in pipeline and by when can we expect it in book stores?
My next book is again a psychological thriller that questions a certain law of Indian Penal Code. It’s the second book in the series of seven books. #IAm16ICanRape is the first book of this series. I call it Yin-Yang series because the central theme of the books is the power struggle between feminine and masculine energies and how it affects the human society. In nature feminine and masculine energies always works symbiotically. Ideally, human society should observe the nature and imitate its law in their systems. At the moment, humans make arbitrary laws which many a times are not congruent with natural laws.
Q10. Your own favorite authors and books? Share some titles which you have read recently and few you are keen to read?
I read fiction and non-fiction both. My favorite fiction books are Ramayana and Mahabharata; the epic poems have made me understand the pulse of dramatics. I also love the fiction Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and Animal Farm by George Orwell. These two books are the best examples how a gripping story can be told in simplest ways.
Mujhe Chand Chahiye, a Hindi novel written by Surendra Verma, is my favorite contemporary fiction book.
I read lot of plays. My favorite playwrights are Euripides & Sophocles, Anton Chekhov, Vijay Tendulkar, Tennesse Willianms, Mohan Rakesh, Arthur Miller, Tennesse Willianms, Jean Paul Satre, Albert Camus, and Henrik Ibsen.
Some of the non-fiction titles that I read again and again are, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, Notes to myself by Hugh Prather, The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joesph Campbell, and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
The book which I recently read and which stayed with me is Lord of Flies by William Golding.
Q10. Any awards/special recognitions starting from schooling till today?
I have won Gujarat Sahitya Award for best actor for my role in the play, Iss kambakt saathe ka kya karein?
Q11. Future aspirations and objectives?
I plan to write the seven book series, Yin-Yang series. At this moment my focus is on these books. They will need lots of reading and research in Indian literature, especially Veda, Geeta and Upanishada. I will also have to study Yoga in more depth. In addition to the above mentioned subjects, I will also have to study physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, and math. So, yes, lots of reading and research, plus, lots and lots of writing.
Q12. What is your typical daily routine?
While working on #IAm16ICanRape, I had lost track of time. I have been working for twelve to fourteen hours a day for past nine to ten months. So, at the moment, my daily routine is work, work and work. Actually, my second book is a sequel of the first book and it came out quite organically. So, even though my first book is finished and out there in the market, in my mind I am still writing the same story without a break.
But for my future projects, I plan to bring more discipline in my work life. I want to strike a work-life balance which I can sustain during my future projects.
Q13. What advice for women who are home makers but with a strong willingness to do something beside taking care of home and kids?
First, I will tell women that a society that thinks taking care of home and children is a secondary job is a deteriorating society. In a progressive society, the tasks of taking care of home and children would be put ahead of any other task. If we think from evolutionary perspective, making sure that the next generation is stronger than the previous generation is the most critical job. The stay at home women can fulfill this role quite competently. I will say, don’t look down upon this work. IT IS THE MOST CRITICAL WORK.
It’s not difficult to go out, work in some corporate for extended hours of life, bring home money, and spend all of it is buying more and more stuff that we sometimes don’t even need. What is more critical is to stay at home and make sure that the children get the care and nurturance a mother provides. An investment a woman makes in terms of time for her children is the best use of her time from a farsighted perspective.
DO NOT TAKE THE ROLE OF MOTHER LIGHTLY; GIVE YOUR BEST TO YOUR CHILD.
I would also want to add that it is not necessary that in a family a woman only stays back at home and take care of kids. If within the family, the man wants to be a stay-at-home-dad and the women want to go out in the world and make money that is great too. But one of the parents must play the role of the mother and be by the side of the child. The children are the future of this world.
If the stay-at-home parent has more time at hand and s/he wants to work, thanks to the computer age, sky is the limit. There are lots of work-from-home options available in any professional field. A woman or a man can choose from these options and can enjoy a life where s/he has best of both the worlds.
Q14. And, if someone (specially woman) has potential to write (on any subject), then how to go about?
If a person has potential to write on a subject, s/he needs to first do research on the subject. Many a times the research opens the mind of a person to multiple possibilities. The research also gives the incubation time for the mind to brew the best story possible around the subject.
After the writer feels s/he is ready to write on the subject, s/he must make it a point to write every day. There might be the days when a writer will not be able to write a lot, it is okay. Slowness is not a bad thing. Taking regular steps in right direction is almost a guarantee of reaching the goal.
If you still have any questions in mind that you would like to ask Kirtida Gautam, then please feel free to comment below.