A Calendar Too Crowded is a collection of poignant stories and poems woven around the theme of womanhood by Sagarika Chakraborty. What makes this work of fiction different from other books that highlight the plight of women is the unique approach.
There are quite a few days on the calendar that are devoted to women. The aim of remembering such days is simple enough; they serve the purpose of spreading awareness thereby attempting to protect the rights of women. Some of these marked days in the calendar have been imaginatively used as a starting point for the stories and poems in this book.
So while the theme of a story under the month of January is inspired by national Day for the Girl Child in India (24 January) another story under the month of November takes up Elimination of Violence Against Women Day (25 November) as its focal point.
The intent, however, is to probe further and discover the ugly truth of women’s continuing subjugation. Some stories and poems explore the reality underlying popular misconceptions and misleading statistics that sometimes paint a rosy picture of women’s emancipation and liberation. Others use simple and undeniable facts to hold up to scrutiny many of the fallacies used against women in society.
On the occasion of Mother’s Day our columnist Nosheen Kapoor caught up with Sagarika Chakraborty to find out more about her first book on womanhood.
Nosheen: A Calender Too Crowded – So did the title come first or the stories?
Sagarika: I guess this is like the question of chicken and egg! Both happened in synch – courtesy the over methodical me! I had decided that my stories would have a social issue connect, but then three stories down the line I realized that they are more than that. They were actually an anti thesis take on the various days that clutter the calendar. Thus, I decided to take the thought forward, stopped writing for a bit and researched instead on the days of the calendar and the ones I wanted to write about.
Nosheen: Writing requires time and motivation – What was yours for penning down stories on women?
Sagarika: Writing to me is like thinking – if you are a passionate thinker somewhere there’s an urge to pen things down. My grandmother passed on her thinking genes to me I think and thus I live by the promise I made to her – that I will not get so engrossed in living my life that I forget all those around me. I picked the pen up to make a difference.
Surprisingly every adversity or criticism inspires me to write even more, it gives me the glimpse of the human nature that shouldn’t be and utopia is good on paper right? Having been an active researcher in gender studies my work helped me meet women from all genres of the society and their life stories somewhere made me think if we are doing enough.
As for time, I am an anti-social recluse and thus can squeeze in 48 hours in my day!
Nosheen: Would like to make the story genre your metier or we can see a poetry collection in the future?
Sagarika: I would love to write poetry but don’t think I can sustain it. Poetry and novel writing are the two most mature genres and I have a long way to go before I graduate to that level. For a long time now I feel I’ll stick to short stories and occasional poetry.
Nosheen: Do you think being a woman yourself helped encompass a wider range of womanly struggles, emotions and experiences?
Sagarika: Yes it did, it helped me step into a lot of shoes and attempt to think what they felt when they experienced the rage or atrocity I write about. Similarly it helped me have that sensitivity towards the little details that make or break a woman but often go unnoticed. My own life stories also gave me a lot of food for thought.
All my stories have a real life connect and they all in my mind depict different faces I have met, including a familiar face in the mirror. Being a woman I knew that it is okay not to have a valid reason yet cry the heart out, or it is fine to have days when you just want to sit with your coffee mug and look at the world go by. A woman myself, I knew how much she craves the love of family, the bond of a mother, the cherishing of siblings, the fear of menstrual cycle, the craving of first love, the rush of marriage, the dream of motherhood and the scare of a lonely old age – being a woman I knew exactly what to write!
Nosheen: Did being a lawyer then an ISB graduate contribute or interfere in your creative output?
Sagarika: No way! Instead it was just the opposite I wouldn’t have ever managed to write had it not been for my alma matter and the exposure it gave me. My law school education helped me develop the passion for policy research which led me to amass material for my book and ISB helped me to realize the ways in which the book should hit the market and set my expectations from it. Both the schools have made me discover myself in their own way and yes made me realize that in life no one gives anything on a platter and nothing happens by chance – thus the edits at 4 AM with an exam at 8 AM was an accepted deal. Thus, when I actually wrote the book while working nobody at work had a whiff of it, because my education taught me to be professional like that!
Nosheen: Do you fear the danger of being classified and approached as a Feminist writer?
Sagarika: I feared it and then faced it and now I think I have come to terms with it. I have lost my voice in the process of crying out that I am not a feminist – as per the prevalent definitions. If you mean to connect the tag of feminist for the fact that I stand up for rights, well let me tell you I do but it has got little to do with sexes. I am a humanist in that regard just the way I will not get into male bashing I will not get into female subjugation.
Nosheen: Do you think writing stories on, of and about women will change the general widespread mindset?
Sagarika: That’s like wishing for a winning the battle of Waterloo with a single knife in hand. However, it is indeed a signal that a change is coming and a few of us are waving our books to signal that we are ready with our arms.
My grandmother always harped that the pen is a very powerful arm and if you use it to spin interesting stories they shall live on long after your ink has dried. A lot of people ask me what’s new in my book – it has the same stories a news channel or a newspaper covers. To them I have always smiled and told exactly but then all big movements have started by talking about them first, and this is my way to start a talk for the big change you all just wish for over your evening adda!
Nosheen: Are there more projects in mind or the on table yet?
Sagarika: I have just finished editing my non-fiction manuscript the book (based on law) is to hit the stalls later this year. I am researching on my next fiction project, however I am a very on the field and elaborative researcher, so it’ll be a while before I start spinning stories on paper.
ABOUT AUTHOR SAGARIKA CHAKRABORTY
Sagarika Chakraborty, born in Kolkata, studied law at National Law University, Jodhpur and management at Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Her projects and numerous articles on diverse subjects—corporate governance principles with special emphasis on emerging and transition economies, globalization, ethics, monetary economics, religion—have been published in Indian and international publications. She has presented papers on E-Governance, corporate law principles, sexual harassment, asset pricing models at international conferences and global forums in Sydney, Glasgow, Korea, Wellington and Washington D.C. Her paper on E-Governance in India, has been appreciated in the ‘Working Paper series’ of the World Bank and she has also won the ‘Best Economic Crisis—Paper Award’ at the World Summit on Economic Financial Crisis and International Business, 2009, held at Washington D.C. Looking into her contribution in the domain of policy work she was recently awarded Fellowship by the Royal Society of Arts, UK. Apart from delving into serious research work, she has also written light fiction/poetry for various online and print media, and juggles her love for writing and travel with a full time job. She blogs at www.endowedwithmetis.wordpress.com