[Issue 9 / May 2014]
THE INHERITANCE OF POWER AND POVERTY, FARMER SUICIDES & WRITING FICTION AS A JOURNALIST: AN INTERVIEW WITH KOTA NEELIMA
By Kulpreet Yadav
Shoes of the Dead (Rupa publications), a novel by Kota Neelima, was published in April 2013. She works as the political editor with The Sunday Guardian. This short interview was conducted over e mail.
Kulpreet Yadav: Shoes of the Dead, why such a title? Sounds more like horror. But it is not.
Kota Neelima: `Shoes of the Dead’ is a story about inheritance of two different kinds. On the one hand, is the inherited political power of the son of a politician in Delhi, and on the other, is the desperate poverty inherited by the family of a poor farmer who had committed suicide due to debt. It is not easy stepping into the shoes of those who have walked on the difficult paths of life before; it takes courage to make the same sacrifices and strength to bear the same pain. But once in a while, there is someone who fits these shoes perfectly and that is what this book is about.
KY: Who is the protagonist in the novel: The journalist Nazar Prabhakar, the first time Member of Parliament Keyur Kashinath, or the farmer activist Gangiri Bhadra? I wasn’t quite sure even after I had finished reading.
KN: That is an important element in the book. Every person is a constantly changing combination of the good and the bad, the hero and the villain. The good can also be bad sometimes and the bad can be sometimes good. Lines do not mark territories of our thought and reason. The characters in the book are alive to all possibilities of the human behaviour.
KY: Farmer suicides in central India have been covered extensively in mainstream media. What a book of fiction on the subject?
KN: Journalists reporting in all languages across the nation have done an exceptional service to the farmer community by writing about their problems. My books are written from the perspective of the farmers and their families, and the politicians in Delhi who represent such constituencies. These are important factors that needed to be communicated and constitute the main reason why I write about politics and farmer suicides.
KY: Your career as a journalist, how easy is it for you to fictionalize political or social issues?
KN: `Shoes of the Dead’ is my third book on politics and farmer suicides. As a journalist, one is trained to explore an issue and locate it in the larger picture to discover the causative factors. This remains the basis of my books in which there is limited deviation from reality, even though the works are fiction.
KY: What is you writing process like and what can we expect from your next book?
KN: My writing process is a little different. As a journalist for 19 years, I am used to the stress of deadlines and noise of newsrooms. People and conversations don’t distract me and, in fact, help in concentrating on my writing. Each book takes two to three years of research for me but once that phase is over, the writing itself takes just a few months.