Telling Untold Stories
I messaged her, a few months back regarding a particular post I was going to put up on my social media accounts about one of her books I had just finished reading. I did this wanting to make sure she would not take offence at my use of a particular word to describe her books (as a boarding school kid, my “do not disrespect” meter is always on).
To my delight, renowned Indian author Kavita Kané (and former senior journalist) warmly agreed and pleasantly surprised me by sharing what I had posted on her Facebook page!
The post read as follows, “Just finished “Ahalya’s Awakening” and now soaking in the book. My third book by the author and I just have to say this- she makes mythology sexy! Not only by giving these women a voice and breathing life into these amazing characters, but these mythological women are women of ‘today’ with wants and desires just like us. With each book she writes, we get to know about yet another figure from our mythology who would otherwise probably have stayed buried and unknown. Most of all, I think in giving these women a place and a voice, Kavita Kané is giving so many of us a voice or rather an opportunity to use our voice with dignity.”
Yes, the word I was hesitant about was “sexy”.
“Karna’s Wife”, the author’s first book and an international bestseller, tells the story of Karna through his wife, Uruvi’s eyes. With a refreshing angle on the events in the Mahabharata, it is the untold story of a passionate, headstrong and loyal woman. In Kane’s second book, “Sita’s Sister” we are re-introduced to ‘Urmila’ and her more famous sister ‘Sita’, as ‘women’, who like us, felt lust, love, anger, and every other primary human emotion. All her books that I have read so far are beautifully narrated, simply written yet profound in the way she merges the old world into the new. They explore themes which are very much a part of our lives today as they were yesterday, such as feminism, patriarchy, love, infidelity etc. As a reader, you will be immersed in a world long forgotten yet surprisingly familiar, with complex, captivating and engaging characters (female and male).
I sat (remotely) with the author (to do so in real life would be a dream come true), and asked her a few questions to get to know her better.
What drew you to mythology when you started writing novels?
I had studied mythology as a subject while studying literature; both are inexorably weaved together, telling us tales and stories and anecdotes down the ages. Besides, growing up on a staple diet of Amar Chitra Kathas which introduced detailed stories of the epics and Puranas as well as Indian history at a very early, impressionable age, it did spark the initial interest. It was probably, the rudimentary foundation to choose mythology as a genre for my debut novel.
We tend to dismiss mythology and our epics as old tales and legends of gods and goddesses. They instead tell us with huge moral and philosophical impact, the tales of humans and their mortal follies and foibles, which can be a lesson for all of us today.
Mythology provides the perfect canvas for contemporary revisioning, and reinterpretations reflecting current culture, extrapolating ancient stories into modern metaphors. It enables a writer to recreate and reinterpret characters and events with a view to invest them with contemporary sensibility against the backdrop of socio-political change. Far from being stories of the past, the epics continue to have significance, where we can interpret, explain or extrapolate aspects of one’s and society’s life and human and social inadequacies.
Your books focus more on women who have not taken centre stage in our mythological tales. Any reason why you chose to write about them?
Simply because we rarely view the epics through the women’s eyes. They have been written and told and retold by men, about men, often overlooking all those remarkable women populating the narrative. Besides Sita and Draupadi – the respective female protagonists of the two epics, we are not very familiar with other female characters. The moment the spotlight falls on them, we see them, hear them, register and recognise them for each has a story to tell which we need to listen to.
Is there something, in particular, you want the reader to take away after reading your books?
Just that the story/the book should make them think, not judge.
That it has been able to provide an insight that we all need; that wisdom and a certain empathy can be found in the consequences of the actions of the characters in the book.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Oh! So many, can’t single out one. It wouldn’t be fair on both the authors and their works that have been such major influences – sometimes even unconsciously.
People and things that inspire you in life?
Kindness and goodness in humans. Even one such person can make such a difference to the bleak world we live in. At a more personal level, my idea of happiness is chatting with my family and pets in my garden.
If you weren’t an author or a journalist, what would you be?
Possibly a painter, an artist. Or a filmmaker.
What is the best advice you have received from a mentor or someone you know, about being a writer?
Nissim Ezekiel, when he had visited our college, had gone on to illustrate and emphasise the importance of writing daily as a work discipline. I follow it, religiously!
Something, according to you, women today can learn from past generations?
To usher a certain dignity, courage and conviction in the life that has been handed to you, which involves compromise too.
What would you want your legacy to be?
To make all of us realise that we are all ordinary people each living extraordinary lives. That is the harmony of humanity.