“There are consistently good writers in Indian literature,”
–says Namita Gokhale, author, publisher and director Jaipur Lit Fest A multifaceted personality, Namita Gokhale has been associated with Indian Publishing for around four decades. She is one of the stalwarts, who are working hard to make Indian regional literature accessible to everyone. Smita Dwivedi discovers her unwavering urge to follow cross-currents…everlasting affair with books and multitasking…of course in the field of literature. Up till now Namita has written six novels, a collection of short stories, and several works of nonfiction, all in English. Her first novel – Paro: Dreams of Passion, 1984, a satire on the Mumbai and Delhi elite caused uproar due to its candid sexual humour. Gods Graves and Grandmother – an ironic fable about street life in Delhi was adapted into a musical play. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was just thirty-five and her husband died a few years later. The experience of illness and loss can be seen in her later books, A Himalayan Love Story, The Book of Shadows and Shakuntala, the Play of Memory. Namita is also a passionate publisher and one of the founding members of the Jaipur Literature Festival. Donning many hats, she has proved that passion for books and literature has infinite potential. “Unless I am multitasking, am incomplete…just like a jigsaw puzzle, which is in the process of assembled. So, rushing about in different directions has become a part of my personality. I do believe that as we grow older, we wind down a little; but I wish I could do fewer things with more attention rather than more things with less attention,” she concluded.
Namita GokhaleOn asking about the inception of this everlasting affair with books and literature, she added, “I always had a love for literature and books; in my school days, it was equally divided into love for books and arts and I wanted to be a painter. But life has its own momentum and I became a literature student and sadly that aptitude for art totally withered. Despite being a topper, I was held back in my third year in graduation and that was a turning point in my life. This led to the inception of a film magazine called SUPER, which successfully ran for eight years. And from here, I learnt to appreciate the power of popular culture and learnt a lot about publishing. That had really characterised most of the things that I did after that.”
Art of Literature!
Publishing is Gokhale’s other love. The Namita Gokhale Editions, a signature imprint published in association with Roli Books, introduced some notable titles including Rashna Imhasly Gandhy’s The Psychology of Love and Neelima Dalmia Adhar’s Biography of her Father, RK Dalmia. She has conducted two memorable writers’ retreats in Landour, with Roli Books, for the Namita Gokhale editions. She is passionately committed to showcasing and translating the best of Indian writing and engaging the vibrant Bhasha languages of the Indian sub-continent in a creative dialogue with each other and the rest of the world. She is one of the founder directors of Yatra Books which co-publishes with Penguin Books in Hindi, Marathi, Urdu and other Indian languages including English in a ground breaking series.
Further explaining about her achievements, she added, “I believe in deep roots in all that I do…Like studying the subject with depth, at the same time believe that unless it is accessible to the popular imagination, it loses a very important dimension. I prefer whimsical, marginalised voices and make them accessible to people who may not normally have appreciated it. My interdisciplinary work is reflected in my publishing work.”
On asking about genesis of JLF, which began in 2006, she shared, “It was a self born phenomenon… in beginning we had small audience of 40 people. We invited 18 people to speak, out of which two dropped out. So, we had to get emergency replacements. Even then, it was a brilliant and beautiful festival…but that particular intimacy has been lost over the years. The greatest thing about JLF is the quality of audience. From Nobel laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, every January the most remarkable, witty, sensitive and brilliant collection of authors come together for five days of readings, debates and discussions at the beautiful Diggi Palace in Jaipur.”
“As clouds of buzzing creative energy gather around Jaipur, readers from around the world arrive for this annual pilgrimage, to attempt to make sense of our multiple and changing worlds through the prism of literature. The Jaipur Yatra will continue to celebrate books and ideas, readers and writers, in an open, joyous and spontaneous space, and to uphold the spirit of democratic debate and dialogue,” she further added.
On a concluding note!
According to Namita, curiosity is one of the greatest qualities in human being and reading a good well written book is a way to enter another reality and expand one’s horizon. “Today, we are exposed to so many types of narratives, be it films, TV or internet; still book is unique in its own way. Reader has to work hard to understand a good book, not just author,” she said.
Further asking about her views on changes in publishing world, “As we grow older all changes look negative, it’s a state of mind, I would rather look at the positive changes. The greatest thing that has happened is the democratisation of publishing. Technology has made publishing available to anybody who has a voice and can share it. I think self publishing is of great importance and at the same time the curator model has its own strengths. And they are not at all contradictory to each other. It’s like cinema and TV…they both are complementing each other. Also, there are consistently good writings in Indian literature. I wish I could contribute to translate across all Indian and international languages,” concluded Namita.