Published On: Mon, Oct 29th, 2012

One Voice To Take The First Step To Make a Difference: Sagarika Chakraborty “A Calendar Too Crowded”


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There are so many days in the calendar which is dedicated to women, such as mother’s day, National day for Girl Child, Sister’s day and so on, however despite this many women are still being ill treated, girls are being abused, and having a girl child is not something which is approved off . When you pick up the paper, there’s news about a girl having been raped uncountable times, a dowry death, or a girl feticide that had occurred. You read it, but many don’t think much of it, because it is has become something rather of a commonality in our society. But you will discuss on the issue, speak your opinions to your friends over coffee, but no action will be taken. So when will our society final take the step to action and decide that there much be a change and voice for women should be louder than it was years ago? Sagarika Chakraborty, is attempting to take the action which many have yet to follow through her writings in the book A Calendar too Crowded. A graduate of law from National Law University, Jodhpur with an MBA from the Indian School of Business, who describes herself as a “narcissist” has become the voice for many women as she writes the stories about the happenings in society which everyone tends to ignore. We talk to her about her career at a author, and about her opinions about women empowerment in today’s society.

1) What is the key to the inspiration which has evoked you to write A Calendar too Crowded? How long did it take for you to write the book?

   I have always been a doer, the one who has believed that there can be no fate without Karma. Nothing happens in life by chance, not even love. It irks me when people just sit and crib about the ills that surround the society, but shall themselves make no attempt to make the society a better place. I have been taught that the greatest use of education is justifying your citizenship, which is a boon and should not be a taken for granted fact. A Calendar Too Crowded, is my attempt to talk about the ills that surround us and how each one of us can in our own way intervene. The stories are all based on themes of rape, sexual abuse, ill treatment of parents, the big dollar dream and other such aspects of life which we read about in the fourth estate and have come to taken them for granted. However, through nameless characters and faceless voices, the stories try to evoke in the reader the sense of “Oh I have faced a similar situation, but did I do enough?” The greatest of all acts begin from self realization of the need for change, the book is my attempt to bring about that first step, which though small is the most important one. 
2) How has each story and poem in your book affected you on a personal level?

  Each story is based on a theme and a cause that I hold close to my heart. From the stories spun on National Day for Girl Child, Sister’s Day, Elder’s Day to Worlds AIDS Awareness Day, there is a little bit of personal connect everywhere. Also, almost all stories have been written keeping in mind people whom I have met during my 8 years of policy research. I have been involved in policy research writing for about 8 years now, specializing mainly on gender studies and issues surrounding transition economies. I have more than two dozens of national and international publication to my name. My Australian work has been accredited by big names like World Bank, UNESCO, Indian Government, UK Media and Government to name a few, and looking into my contribution to research work I have been recently awarded Fellowship by the Royal Society of Arts, UK. I have met people from different walks of life for my research and then in turn used them as inspiration to write my fiction stories. Thus, each one of them is special and each one of them for me stands for a person, who has touched my heart in one way or the other. 
3) Though the fight for women’s right’s has been ongoing for decades, yet in our developing society improvement is lacking, what is your opinion on the matter?

 A society can only progress when it is open for change. Change can only be truly ushered in, when people accept that there is a problem and they need to do something about it. Strangely, we think that to accept that there is a problem is to actually admit that we are going to admit that we are going wrong somewhere, and our ego prevents us from admitting that. Thus, there are utterly disgusting comments from Khap Panchayats, judges of family courts and yes a few erudite people who like to think that the term “vagina” is the new form of trouble. Till we all are humble enough to realize that it is not only enough to pass laws, or make policies or prevent feticides, but there is a need to appreciating where we are going wrong, train our sons to respect women better and believe in equality without confusing gender rights in it, there will always be a form of fighting without end. 
4) What do you think can be done to further help empower women in today’s society?

The first step would be to think that people who are fighting for equality are claiming that women are impersonification of sainthood. No! All that we want to impose is the acceptance that we are just as human as the opposite sex, we come with our shades of grey like them, then why the differentiation and the blame game? Why do we have to be the “fairer and the weaker sex” in names of tradition wherein our rich heritage considers us to be the most powerful form of Shakti? The day we can do away with hypocrisy, stop twisting history and tradition to twist the reigns of this gender power struggle, we shall live in a much better world, filled with humans and not “men and women”! 
5) What is your take on the casual ignorance shown by society when they witness rape, violence against women, and girl feticide?

They say a person is emotionally hardened or turns cold when they either take happenings to be common and for granted which cannot be changed, or when they think that whatever is happen was deserved by those who are sufferings. Unfortunately, in our society too, we are faced with similar mindsets when it comes to atrocities like rape and killings – either we just put away the newspaper and grumble it to be a “common news” or go on to dissect the character and dressing sense of the girl whose modesty was outraged, with no concern to what really happened. Till we stop looking inwards, till we stop making excuses and instead stand up and take onus that this is our country and we need to change it, such an apathy will only increase divides, struggles, brain drain and we can never claim to be a developed nation.
6) What do you think can be done to further help empower women in today’s society?

   Raise better sons – teach them that girls are equal counterparts and not fairer and weaker sex! Teach them that their wives are not cradle pulling and lust fulfilling machines, instead are made of desires and emotions just like them. Stand up and talk about the atrocities that are being meted out, don’t shy away in the name of family honor, remember the day the male figure of the houses raises a hand, or even the voice to kill the voice of the females in the house, the honor has been long lost. Stop twisting religion to justify all atrocious acts,  no religion justifies divides of any kinds and yes lastly, take onus that for whatever is happening around, in a small way your silence and apathy is to be blamed for.
7) What is your stand on feminism?

 I am very old fashioned when it comes to definitions and taking a stand with them. I believe in understanding the deep rooted ethos of why a particular ideology was formed. To me, feminism is not all about male bashing, it is not glorifying women and their actions, it is mainly seeking the much needed equality in everything. Equality in the ability to do things, take decision, stand up and be respected, to have choices, to have a voices, and yes to be wrong and have a darker side too.  Feminism to me is also letting go of the age of dogmas that have chained us to believing that women are inferior and that such is the law of nature. To blame everything on the wishes of the supreme force is to succumb to be spine less to not have a justification for the atrocities, feminism seems is attempting to be doing away with just that. 
8) How many years have you been writing? Who are you favorite writers? What genre book do you prefer to read the most?

   I have been writing ever since I can remember. I tell people that, I did not choose the pen, instead the pen chose me. I have had a creative flair with words right since school days, however it was only in law school that I decided to pursue this gift and passion seriously.

My favorite writer is Vikram Seth, I love the way he builds his plot, characters and infuses life into them, never going overboard with either description or emotions. My love for poetry can be attributed to Santoni, Neruda and Rilke. I am an avid vernacular reader and in Bengali I love the works of Sunil Gangopadhya, Nabanita Dev Sen and Suchitra Bhattacharya and in Hindi and Urdu I love to read Prem Chand, Ramdhari SIngh Dinkar and Manto.
9)  Your a law graduate from National Law University, Jodhpur with an MBA from the Indian School of Business, who has finally published your first book, what is your advice to those with so many dreams? How supportive is your family on
your various areas of interests?

There was a poster in the cafeteria of my law school which read “Those who dream, do the most”. I always tell people that I dream, therefore I am. I am a narcissist, who doesn’t believe in giving up on anything without a fair try. Saying that I am my biggest critique and devil’s advocate, i guard my dreams because I had the courage to spin them – all I would like to say is that when you are brave enough to dream, you should be brave enough to live it too. Paucity of time, resources and being too small a fish to make a difference are just excuses we give to the mirror so that we can meet the eye, deep down we know that we are escapists when we are letting go of our passion and dreams. 

My family is extremely supportive in all that I do, with the underlying disclaimer that I should not call them from a police station in the middle of the night. I am known to be extremely passionate and stubborn and do a hundred things at a time, thus majority of the times they let me be. They are very proud of my passion for change, but scared of the struggle the dream endures. They do not agree to all that I do, but they let me do it, for they know that I refuse to learn from second hand experiences. What I love most about them is that I can share anything and everything with them and also choose not to fill them up on things I consider unimportant, they respect my decision of it being my life, the only one I am bestowed with and thus let me live it my way. 
10) What other books are you working on at the current time? Are you interested in writing more of fiction or non-fiction?

  I have just published two of my short stories in 2 anthologies – one for the Chicken Soup Series and the other for the Collector’s Edition of a Travelogue,  called Celebrating India, which contains works of the likes of Gulzaar saab and Shashi Tharoor. I have just finished with the final edits of my first non-fiction compiled work – a legal book which has gone into print and shall hit the stands soon. After finishing with the research, I have started writing the second full length non fiction and also have other projects in my kitty – needless to say as always I have my platter full and I am loving the feel of living by the gush of adrenalin! 
11) You’ve lived all over the place from Kolkata to Jammu and Kashmir to Jamshedpur to Mumbai to Hyderabad, which place would you say is your favorite?

Each place has had a huge influence on me, but saying that I am biased towards Mumbai for the love for life it has infused in me. Calcutta, to me defines the roots, however unfortunately I cannot relate to it anymore. The unprofessional attitude of the people, the laid back mentality and the refusal to progress irks me. Saying that however, someday I would love to write about the lost glory of the city that shaped my literary pursuits. Jodhpur, was an eye opener to the dreams I never thought I could harvest. It gave me the zeal to pursue my passion and stick to my goals. Jamshedpur, has left in me the traits of being a small town girl, who gets lost in a crowd, is not money minded and yes who enjoys little pleasures of life. Hyderabad has given me the bestest of friends ever and also made me believe in the power of facing the world confidently. I don’t remember Jammu much, but yes I want to visit it one day, for it is the land where I was conceived and my mother says that she had the happiest pregnancy ever there – I want to know and thank the land that inspired my mother to beget me, gave me my first laughter and twinkle in the eye!

Denisha Sahadevan

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One Voice To Take The First Step To Make a Difference: Sagarika Chakraborty “A Calendar Too Crowded”