Among the many accomplished literary penmen present at the recently concluded Hyderabad Literary Festival (HLF), was Indian writer and poet, Suniti Namjoshi. Suniti has written several collections of fables, poetry and fantasy fiction, aside from children’s fiction. “I had done a course on the great American poet, Ezra Pound at a young age. I was completely mesmerised by it and started to wonder ‘What does it take to be a poet?’. That’s when I started writing more,” shared Suniti.
The former IAS officer received her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D from Mcgill University. After lecturing at the University of Toronto, she settled in England, where she currently serves as a research fellow at Exeter University. “I started reading from when I was very little, my mother had a huge library and I used to read whatever I could get my hands on a book,” said the 73-year-old.
Some of her works include, The Fabulous Feminist: A Suniti Namjoshi Reader, From the Bedside book of Nightmares, Blue Donkey Fables, among others. Speaking about her favourite genre, she said, “I like writing about two things -- fables and poetry. I will always write them as it’s the way my mind works.”
However, she admits that she enjoys writing for children. “Sometimes, the fables I write for grown-ups work for children as well. The reason myths are so powerful is because every time a poet dictates them, you find something different each time,” she pointed out.
Among her works of fiction for children, Suniti’s series around the character Aditi has been well received. “Earlier, I did not write much for children, instead I would write more of fables and poetry. But, at one point I got tired of bringing back books for my niece every time I visited her. That’s when I decided to write something for children and Aditi happened. Later, when I was in England, I was surprised to see a lot Bangladeshi children reading the novel. They had told me that they loved it. That encouraged me to write more for children,” she explained.
Incidentally, Suniti had met her niece at the festival after a long interval of 40 years.
Kept busy through travel and work, the writer, who has visited different parts of the world, also believes that travelling can influence writing. “I went to Australia and saw the Great Barrier Reef. It was spectacular. I liked it so much that I decided that I wanted to write something about it,” she shared.
Coming to the HLF for the first time, the septuagenarian was also impressed with some of the questions the younger generation threw at her. “India is a nation of story-tellers. Indian poetry in particular is flourishing and while most countries have two to three languages at the most, we have 14 languages. What we are suffering from is an embarrassment of riches and not poverty,” she concluded adding that she believed that Indian literature is in safe hands.