Orthodoxy is good but superstition is a disaster says eminent novelist Kiran Nagarkar

In an exclusive interview with Nitish Raj of The Policy Times, Kiran Nagarkar talks about the widespread orthodoxy, human values and the various facades of Indian literature

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Kiran Nagarkar
Kiran Nagarkar
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Kiran Nagarkar is an Indian novelist, playwright, film and drama critic who rose to prominence with his epic novel, Cuckold (1997). He received the 2001 Sahitya Akademi Award in English by the Sahitya Akademi. Kiran Nagarkar was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, described as the ‘highest tribute Germany can pay to individuals’.

In an exclusive interview with Nitish Raj of The Policy Times, Kiran Nagarkar talks about the widespread orthodoxy, human values and the various facades of Indian literature.

Q1. As you are one of the most prolific writers of post-colonial India, what transformations have you witnessed when it comes to being a  writer born in this age when our country is undergoing a phase of liberalization and modernization?

KN: Born in independent India, I was fortunate to learn the basic principles of non-alignment and secularism which not only formed the constitution but also shaped our thought-process. The technological advancement can never be a symptom of liberalization and modernization which we have failed to understand.

Q2. Your novel “God’s Little Soldier” talks about the fight against orthodoxy. Is it hampering our all-round development when it makes little sense to the modern world?

KN: Orthodoxy and superstitions are two different things. Orthodoxy is good but superstition is a disaster. It undermines the development of a person as an individual along with the nation itself.

Q3. In your recent novel “Jasoda”, you have talked about the various shades of a woman as a mother and her other attributes. A lot has already been written on this subject that claims to decipher a woman’s thought-process. How will this novel standout from the lot?

KN: Of course! A lot has been written on most of the topics mentioned. But every person has his own take on a situation and possesses a different perception.

Q4. Since ages, Ravan has been a subject of our novels and as you have also written a trilogy on this mythological figure, what are your perceptions that have been compelling the authors to go deep into the perceived mind of Ram?

KN: Ravan is a complex character. He has been dealt with different ways in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, we want Ravan to be an evil person. The wonderful thing about our mythology is that it’s insights are incredible.

Q5. Your novel “Cuckold” has talked about the aspects of adultery in a dignified manner. How has adultery been a bone of contention, not only for the couples but for most others?

KN: It is a part of our point of view. There are different ways to look at the same problem. To condemn someone, with whom your values don’t match, makes your life miserable. Very often we commit sins for selfish motives and try to justify it.

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Q6. In your novel “Saat Sakkam Trechalis” which was translated as “Seven Sixes Are Forty Three” talks about the various dimensions of relationships, focusing on empty physicality and loneliness. How much does the void in someone’s physical needs determine our overall thought-process and our personality as a whole?

KN: Each human being is very different from each another. We have universal values but at the same time, people approach it in a different manner, either out of selfish motives or out of circumstances.

Q7. In your play “Bedtime Story” you selected the theme of Mahabharata which eventually led to its ban for a fair period of 17 years by fundamentalists. Does the mythological themes in your novels reflect that we have not been able to come over our past or are we still trapped up in orthodoxy even after claiming ourselves to be modern?

KN: Yes! It is debatable but I was trying not to be controversial. I had mentioned the story of Eklavya where he gives his thumb as Guru Dakshina. We all are ambivalent and this is important to understand.

Q8. In “Widow and Her Friends,” you have talked about the emotional turbulences which a widow has to undergo. Why haven’t we been able to give them the respect they deserve? Is it a by-product of our patriarchal thought-process or something else?

KN: Men are so selfish. We are allowed to remarry but we do not want them to marry. This is the orthodoxy of the worst kind. We want all the freedom for us but not for women. We human beings are contrary. A section of women are also doing greater harm to other wome by participating in patriarchy.