Printed words are eternal!
–says Uma Vasudev, celebrated journalist, writer and documentary film maker
With three political biographies on Indira Gandhi, numerous novels, several books on culture, music and the arts, Uma Vasudev still continues to explore a wide and unusual creative range from history to fiction. Currently, she is working on two books alternating between politics and short stories. Smita Dwivedi in a long conversation with this inspiring octogenarian discovers her love for words, music and art. And how Delhi during 60s-70s was the best place in the world for creative writers and much more.
Uma Vasudev was the first editor of the magazine India Today. Author of two best selling biographies, Uma Vasudev is a popular Indian novelist and a well renowned columnist on political issues. She has also written, produced and directed several documentaries and television serials. Her biographies Indira Gandhi: Courage Under Fire and Indira Gandhi: Revolution in Restraint are worth reading. Some more books of Uma Vasudev include: The Song of Anasuya, Shreya of Sonagarh, Satish Gurjal: Where the Silence Speaks, Paintings, Kranthijia, Hariprasad Chaurasia and more.
As a freelance columnist, Uma has continued to cover topics ranging from politics to the arts, both in the literary field and for radio and television. Her particular interest has been Indian Classical music, in which she herself took vocal training at Delhi’s Gandharava Mahavidalaya. Her portraits of India’s great ustads and gurus were the earliest to be published in the Illustrated Weekly of India in the form of personal interviews, which are now of archival value.
On first book…
“My first book was The Song of Anasuya, which investigates and recesses around the complex human psyche. I had written this book in my 20s and it was based on male narration. This book is in Punjab University curriculum as well. So, it is close to my heart,” She shared.
The biographies written by Uma Vasudev are comprehensive. So, how it actually happened that she ended up with many such works. To which she laughed and added, “Even I am still wondering about this.”
Explaining it further, she added, “I was the only female journalist in 1970s to handle political beat. I got to interact a lot with Indira Ji and travel across the world with her. So, it was an obvious decision to write her biography, which was so comprehensive that we decided it into two different books. One is based on her life before emergency and another one after emergency. While, the biography on Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia was due to my immense interest in music and Satish Gujral was a good friend, so his biography was much easier.”
On Indira Gandhi…
Uma feels that her biographies on Indira Gandhi were actually an attempt to identify the country’s history through a woman who governed it. According to her, she was a gifted person, with so much of courage. “She is one of the most magnificent Indian personalities of 20th century and I am lucky to spend so much time with her. It was really a great experience to trace her story from a young girl, who developed herself against the background of her grandfather Motilal Nehru’s rich fortune and early beginning in freedom struggle, to complete plunging into Indian politics and finally her fall after emergency. Also her personal life, her love life and her relationship with Mahatama Gandhi were worth knowing,” she narrated.
Characters…inspired from life!
Uma Vasudev deals with fictional as well as non-fictional approach while writing. For instance, none of the characters of her novels are entirely fictitious. She feels that fiction is basically a truth even it seems like complete fantasy. “The characters of any novel are created from within and not from outside of oneself,” shares Uma.
Uma loves Delhi and Delhi loves Uma; she maintained her loyalties with the city for her whole life. She spent her childhood in Delhi and was national level sportsperson too. She shared fond memories of this beautiful green city, with lots of space all over. “Coffee Shop in CP was the cradle for most of us. We were young and creative people, discussing change all the time. During 70s, it was a great place. We saw ministers…even prime minster sharing coffee with us. There are numerous great authors, writers, politicians, poets, industrialist and entrepreneurs which this city has given to India. There was something in the air; we were living freedom in true sense.”
In today’s era, when whole world is on web, the charm of watching artisans live has lost in sheen. And she shared her experiences of the time, when Delhi was a culture capital. “There was a time, when all the big artists used to have their concert in Delhi and it was pack house with all the top citizens. I was such a music fan that I used to write reviews, while I was coming back home in my car and it was published in next day newspaper. It was great fun!”
Message to readers…
“Read more and make your own opinion and learn something new every day. No matter what, books were…are…and will be our best friends,” concludes Uma enthusiastically.