BENGALURU: Nirmala Govindarajan documents for the social sector, writes novels and conducts workshops via her pioneering Writer’s Yatra and Reader’s Yatra initiatives. She has co-authored Mind Blogs 1.0, written The Community Catalyst, and most recently penned Hunger’s Daughters. Excerpts from an interview:
What was your trigger for writing Hunger’s Daughters?
Six years have passed since I first visited Odisha, where the forest’s people need to contend with poverty. Even as I met the young breadwinners in these regions, especially the little girls, I, who had started earning at the age of 13, identified with them. In December 2014, I sat down to write Hunger’s Daughters. Over a month and a half, I wrote the story of little girls from India’s poorest regions. Two students from Mount Carmel College – Yogita Dakshina and Pascaline Radjou, read my work, and coaxed me to write what came next. When I completed a draft of the book, I knew that the book was beginning to speak to city girls about village girls in my endeavour to create an equitable society.
Have you always seen yourself as a writer?
When I was seven, I started writing poetry in a little brown diary. As a social sector documentarian, I have aligned with my conscience to write about projects that need attention. As a novelist whose stories are inspired by the work I do, I am exploring the ‘activist for equitable living’ via my writing.
What has been your inspiration as a writer?
People and situations that need to be spoken about, especially the underprivileged.
Does your writing draw influence from vernacular books?
I am not able to read vernacular literature because I haven’t learnt to read and write in diverse tongues. But, in Hunger’s Daughters, I have used Kannada, Tamil, Bengali and German to bring out the rawness of the characters.
With the digitisation of books, have you moved to reading books on screen or do you prefer the old-fashioned books?
I like holding a book in my hands and inhaling the scent of paper.
What is your writing process?
I have never faced a writer’s block. I have discovered that it’s best to write every day – some days I end up writing one paragraph, and on others, several pages.
How difficult or easy is it to get published? Have you had to change the content of your book for it to get published?
As a literary fiction writer, finding the right, passionate publisher hasn’t exactly been easy. Having found a fine editor, I haven’t modified my writing very much.
Who is your first reader? And who are your biggest critics?
The first readers of Hunger’s Daughters were a slew of students, including Ranjini Prabu, Jerome R Manuel and Sanskriti Pandey. Also, my mother and Kannada author Chandra Govindarajan, two senior journalists – Zahid H Javali and Jayanth Kodkani, poet and writer Manohar Prabhu, and theatre person Ashish Chandra Sen.
Do you think marketing plays an integral role in the success of a book?
Absolutely! We live in a cluttered world where so much happens all the time. It is very important to build a USP for one’s book, and seek out all possible platforms to spread the word, be it via traditional media, social media or direct engagement with readers.