At BookArt101, we are delighted to have Yugal Joshi, Author of the new novel – ‘Boons & Curses’
We had the good fortune of interviewing him, and we are certain his answers are going to inspire the inner writer in you! 🙂
Q) Firstly, congratulations on your new book, “Boons and Curses”. It really looks amazing! Tell us a little about how this story came to be. What was your inspiration?
Thank you so much. Until her children become independent, a mother cannot afford to die. Ever since procreation bloomed first in this universe, a mother’s biggest worry is to steer away death from her progenies. Brahma, the progenitor was too besieged by this question and scared of the end of his creations. Thus begins a mother’s eternal quest to make her children immortal. A mother manoeuvres her social interactions to further such desire. Her social engagements at individual level bring out the best of her ambitions, happiness, sorrows, resolve, exploits, revenge, sacrifices and unguarded affection.
Inspired by the mothers in our traditional and classic literature, this book is an attempt to portray a mother in the midst of her varied dilemmas, through testing situations, and most importantly- her decisive judgements.
Q) Who are your main characters? Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
The Mahabharata war ended with the establishment of Pandava rule- something that Kunti should have been pleased with. However, the Queen Mother is frustrated- the book opens with Kunti’s question: ‘Why am I not at peace, Krishna? What makes a mother happy?’
Krishna, whom Kunti perceived to be her moral guardian, begins the conversation which brings out the fascinating tales of women in mythology.
These intriguing women include Aditi, the mother of gods; Diti, the mother of demons; Jabala, the mother of Satyakam; Parvati, the mother of Ganesha; Anusuya, the mother of the moon; Sanjana, the mother of Yama; Chhaya, the mother of Shani; Taara, the mother of Budha; Kaikeyee, the mother of Bharat; Soorpanakha, the mother of Jambumali; Tara, the mother of Angad; Sita; Gandhari; the mother of Duryodhana; Devaki and Yashoda, mothers of Krishna, and others.
It is difficult to pick one character as the most challenging one to recreate. Just as we all contain within ourselves a myriad contradiction of traits and tendencies, these mothers exhibit all kinds of human instinct and emotion- Kunti with her ambition, Sanjana with her prioritised independence, Taara with her self- focused drive. Kaikeyee and Tara fight for their rights, and Soorpanakha wages a lone battle to revenge her husband’s death.
All the characters become my favourites at some point with their own nuances and journeys. It is hard to dote on a single character. Usually, the character that I relate to and can reflect on most in a given life-situation is my favourite. That being said, the rich diversity these characters display makes each of them a fine candidate for the mood of the moment.
For example, this morning when I heard the news about the oppression of an old age mother in UP, my thoughts instantly resonated with how the story of Taara was developed in the book. It begins with Kunti’s question:
“Krishna, throughout my life, I struggled with the doctrine of Shwetaketu. Everyone accepts it for the sake of social order. Therefore, Karna was always ridiculed as suta-putra. The sons of Indra, Dharma, Vayu and Ashwini Kumars were called the Pandavas. Why does everyone discard a mother’s right over her son?”
Q) What book or author from your childhood has shaped you most as a writer today? Do you have a specific memory attached to the same?
Dr Lalit Joshi, my elder brother was an avid book-lover and it was he who introduced me to reading. He would buy all the latest magazines from the local hawker and at least one novel per week.
In those days, a plethora of children magazines and books were available that showcased good stories, author interviews, travelogues and mythology. We could buy inexpensive USSR/ Russian novels and read Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and others. Popular magazines like Dharmyug, Sarika, Hans, The illustrated Weekly of India and Kadambini introduced us to the Indian Authors. Western authors and their classics were to be found in libraries.
My favourite authors in those days were Chekhov, O’Henry, Agyeya and Swadesh Deepak. Each one of them had a different style. Among these, Swadesh Deepak is the least known. Often, critics have suggested that Deepak walks alongside his characters with a loaded gun—recoiled and ready to fire.
I still remember reading his one long story ‘Court Martial’ published in Dharmyug at least fifty times.
Q) As we all know, you have several responsibilities at hand all the time. How do you balance the demands of writing with other responsibilities?
The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is the world’s biggest behaviour change programme. In the last five years, it successfully changed the behaviour of more than 550 million people who used to defecate in open. The success of SBM stems from sustained and innovative Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign. I am proud and humbled to have contributed to SBM while serving as Director (IEC) for the last four years. I was also awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration for the innovative methods developed in IEC for SBM.
With such a huge and engaging responsibility time remained elusive for writing a mythological fiction. I would say that the time crunch made me a 4 am author with early morning writings.
A big credit for this time management goes to my wife Dr. Adita Joshi who shouldered all responsibilities of running the household and encouraged me to write.
Q) What writing resources have been most useful to you? Why?
Traditional resources like Mahabharata, varied versions of Ramayana, Upanishads, classical Sanskrit texts, and Puranas are a treasure trove of thousands of stories. These stories have immense value in traditional context.
The Royal Society of London has invaluable and well-researched information on Indian Mythology and related subjects. Many westerners have reproduced our mythological stories in their own way. These publications are written from the eighteenth century onwards and have adopted a scientific approach for analysing the Indian mythological stories.
Currently, we have ample vernacular mythological literature available in Hindi and English, which provides an entirely different perspective to traditional stories.
Q) What would you advise young writers who have just started their journey or about to embark on the same?
Read, read and read. Read whatever you get your hands on, explore the subject and enjoy genres. Any aspiring writer must have a good sense of history. Meet people, speak to them and most importantly listen to them. Travel as much as you can.
Pick up a subject that is closest to your heart. Never force yourself to craft a paragraph or a story. Let your writing follow your heart and allow your thoughts to appear on paper in an organic manner. Be original and have faith in yourself.
If you enjoyed this interview, you will also enjoy our interview with Henry N. Neff, here.