“Speak when you are angry – and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
– Laurence J. Peter
Today we have with us Kirtida Gutam whose debut novel, “I AM 16 I CAN RAPE”, is making raves. The author shares with us some of her best experiences and emotional turmoil that made her write the book. It gave a new meaning to her life as a writer. Lets find out more about her.
- Tell us about yourself as a person.
My name is Kirtida Gautam. I am the author of fiction #IAm16ICanRape. I am a good enough spouse, trying to be as good as I can mother, a loving sister, a very loving Masi- maternal aunt, and an okay-dokay daughter.
In my professional life, I am a psychologist first and a writer second, even though most of my time goes in writing. Human mind is the subject I am most curious about. I believe that a world exists between the two ears.
Aham Brahmashmi! Which essentially means that I am Brahma! In other words, every single human is the creator of his/her subjective universe.
- What inspired you to be a writer?
Writing is something I have partly inherited in my genes. My father Parukant Desai is a poet and professor of Hindi literature. Under his wings, I started to write Doha, couplets, at the age of four. I have created stories in my head for as long as I remember my life. As a child, I used to think it is normal behaviour and every child must have been spending all his waking hours with his/her imaginary characters. Later I realized that most of the children don’t live their lives with imaginarily people.
So, I was different. I still am figuring out if it is good different or bad different.
- How would you like to describe your journey, as an author, so far ?
I can write a Hero’s journey story about my journey as a writer. I am not kidding! I do have well established stages of how I reached where I reached.
As I said, writing bug bit me quite early in life, but due to an emotional set back, I stopped writing poems when I was twelve. During my school days, I was very good with studies. I had scored 92.29% marks in class tenth and stood seventh in my city as the topper. So naturally, I decided to pursue science stream, but after studying engineering for a year, I decided it’s not for me.
I enrolled to study Arts- psychology and linguistics. I also did diploma in performing arts in Dramatics. After my post graduation in psychology, I went to Mumbai and worked in movies as an assistant director.
My husband, who was my boyfriend at that time, gave me an advice, if you are serious about making a career in movies, you must have to obtain formal education in the field. So, I decided to study cinema from the best institute of this country, Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. I went ahead to study screenplay writing course because it was the shortest duration full time course.
It’s at FTII, under the guidance of Anjum Rajabali Sir that I realized that I am a writer. He made me trust my voice and encouraged me to follow the path of intuitive writing, a method he teaches in which the writer lets the characters dictate the story.
After leaving FTII, I worked in television industry writing shows like Dharampatni and Jodha Akbar.
- Who is your pillar of support in this journey?
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that my parents gave me birth, but my husband Mrityunjay Gautam created the person I am today. We know each other for eleven years now. When he met me, I was a kind of nut-case tomboy with lot of un-channelled energy. Thanks to his timely advices and constant support, I finally managed to bring discipline in my life that is the cornerstone of achieving anything in life.
As Rudransh Kashyap says in the book #IAm16ICanRape, discipline is a way to reduce life’s suffering.
The other pillars of support are my sisters, Payal and Purabi. Payal is my fellow traveller on the mad journey of imaginary characters. I can’t imagine my writing life without her. We discuss my characters with as much intensity as if they are real people. Purabi inspires me by being who she is, she is my Rockstar.
And then my kids- Agrima, my daughter, whom I rightly call my Goddess, she inspires me by her sere presence in my life. I also derive lots of strength in company of my nephew Malay Prajapati, who at the age of thirteen is a better writer than what I am in my thirties. Jiya and Aanya, my nieces are my battery chargers; their company fills me up with joy.
- You have done Yoga Instructor course from Bangalore. What are your other interests besides writing?
Yoga is not just a hobby to me. It is a way of life to me. It is a science I vouch for. I have been practicing Yoga since I was in school. I won’t say I practice it in form of Aashana every day, but I practice Yoga more like a philosophy of life.
Other than that, I am an avid reader who doesn’t read as much as she wants to read. And a traveller who doesn’t travel as much as she wants to travel. I also love to listen to music, especially Gazals of Jagjit Singh and old Hindi songs in Hemant Kumar’s voice.
I enjoy watching movies, Guru Dutt is my favourite film maker from India. I can watch movie Pyaasa infinite number of times.
- Your book, I am 16 I can rape, is making rave. Can you please tell us more about it?
When I read about Nirbhaya case and how the juvenile was given three years at the rehab, it made me very angry as a woman and as a person. At first, I thought that the anger might die down, but it refused to leave my psychological system.
I went to Anjum Sir, my mentor, with a one page pitch and told him that I plan to write a film about this topic. Yes, being a screenplay writer, my first thought was to transcribe the story for film format. Anjum Sir told me, your anger is a good thing, stay with it. But don’t let it dictate the story. When you will delve in topic of rape, you will open a Pandora’s Box in your mind. You will realize that rape is the final event of a chain of events that starts early in the life with gender discrimination.
He was absolutely right, it took me two years to write the story because as I started doing research on the topic of rape, the nakedness of society that breeds gender discrimination started peeling out in my mind.
The tragedy of Nirbhaya’s life made me write this book. It is unfair that we live in a society in which a 23 years old woman, full of life, who had all the potentials to be a productive member of the society, was brutalized by a bunch of men. And one of the main accused was given in the custody of juvenile justice system of India that chooses to send him to a rehab for three years and is teaching him how to make namakpara. I read in an article that the psychotherapist who works with this boy is very happy with his progress because he has learnt to make namakpara. Is it a joke or an achievement?
India is the only country in which a person can commit a crime of this severity and get away with such minimal punishment.
- Tell us something about the main characters in your book? Who would you relate to more and why?
The story is written from fifteen different points of view. At some point, I was planning to write it either from Rudransh, the protagonist’s point of view. At another point, I thought of writing it from Aarush, the antagonist’s point of view. But as the characters became more alive in my mind, their voices were so distinct that I finally decided to write the stories from fifteen different points of view.
The characters that are most alive in my mind are that of Aarush, Ananya, Rudransh and Samvedana.
It’s quite spooky but at some point while writing the story, I felt that Aarush lives in my mind. His voice was so distinct.
One particular instance which took place while writing this book and which will stay with me for the rest of my life is how I wrote the rape scene of Subhangi. I often hear music when I write. I was hearing this song, lukha chupi bahoot hui, samane aa ja Ram, from Rang De Basanti movie. And I had a strong urge to record a scene. I mostly record my scene before typing them.
I took my mobile recorder in balcony and started recording it. It was 1 a.m. in the morning. By the time I was done, I was shivering like a leaf. My mother thought that something bad has happened to my father and that is the reason why I cry so loudly while holding my mobile phone in hand. In retrospect it sounds very funny! I came back in my room, I hugged my husband and I cried for ten minutes.
I wish something like this will happen to me again as a writer, but even if it won’t happen, this is a memory of a lifetime.
- Tell us about your forthcoming work.
I call my book series Yin-Yang series because it talks about the power struggle and/or synergy of Feminine and Masculine energies present in nature.
My first book’s theme is how feminine energy craves the control of masculine energy’s disciplining power. And how historically the stigma associated with rape was the product of feminine intelligence to keep other women in control.
My second book’s theme is how masculine energy has the power and potential to abuse feminine energy even when feminine energy is the stronger one.
- Any message that you would like to give to our readers and aspiring writers.
I will give 3 advices to writers-
- Write every day. If you don’t have any project on which you are working, simply write 750 words, stream of consciousness writing, but never let a day go by when you don’t write
- Other than writing, try to bring discipline in some of the areas of life, for example, do physical exercise at least for 30 minutes every day and do meditation for 10 minutes a day.
- This advice is only for fiction writers, every single year read the book Hero with a Thousand Faces one time. Plus, read one book of mythology.
Contact Kirtida Gautam