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Friday, April 21, 2017

Author Interview : Susmita Bagchi, author of ‘Beneath a Rougher Sea’

Susmita Bagchi

Read up, Interview with Susmita Bagchi, Author of 'Beneath a Rougher Sea'. Prior to this, she had written seventeen books in Odia language, and has now written her eighteenth book in English. So basically, my first introduction to her and her work. The simplicity and her language were the two things, which caught my attention beyond anything else. 

She, who believes that 'to make an impact, the writer has to be sincere, work diligently and work with a purpose. If a manuscript has any merit, it will definitely be published' gives all writers, today, a whole new spectrum, Folks...

How did ‘Beneath a Rougher Sea’ happen?
For a long time, I had no idea about mental health issues or more particularly, mental illness. All I knew was that most people were 'normal' and some were not. They were the 'mad' people. 

When I met Subroto and we decided to get married, he told me that there was something I should know: his father had schizophrenia. I had no real idea what that meant. In those pre-internet days, all I knew was that it was probably something serious and scary.

But, as I actually got to know my father-in-law, I was surprised. He was a brilliant, affectionate and kind-hearted, man who spent most of his time with books and newspapers. Soon I realized that his illness was managed: he was under periodic psychiatric care. Most importantly, the family was not in denial; they loved him and supported him. No one hesitated to talk about his medical condition and were always watchful.

Gradually, I became more aware of mental health issues and felt a strong desire to write a book on the subject.

What kind of research did you put into the writing of this book?
Once I decided to write a book on this subject, I spoke to a psychiatrist friend Dr. Vivek Benegal, who is a Professor in NIMHANS. He spent hours explaining the subject and narrating many cases.
The research came after that. I did eighteen months of intensive research. Finally, I was convinced that I was ready to write this book.

What according to you is different about your book?
'Beneath A Rougher Sea' is a work of fiction, like most of my earlier works.
By the way, it is not for me to explain how this book is different. That feedback should come from my readers. I am grateful that most of my readers feel that I choose unusual subjects and write in a non-pretentious language.

How did you come up with the core idea and develop it?
I have read quite a few books on mental illness. Some, like ‘An Unquiet Mind’ which was written by Kay Redfield Jamison; such books were written by people who live through the illness. Then there were some written by caregivers.
I decided that the protagonist in my book would be a psychiatrist. I wanted to explore a wide range of mental illness, which would be possible if the protagonist were a doctor.
So Aditya, the psychiatrist, treats several disorders in a group of patients that is diverse in age and background.

How would you relate the book and its characters to your day to day lives?
We must realise that mental illness is not limited to a particular class, caste or religion. Similarly, one cannot immediately know about another person's mental state just by meeting or talking a few times.
So, among us there are many who suffer quietly. Once I did my research, a lot of things became clear. I realised that some people that I had interacted over the years, were actually suffering from mental illness - most of which could have been managed.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?
As a writer, obviously I have the maximum weakness for my protagonist. That is Aditya, the psychiatrist. But, having said that, I must admit that I admire the character of Jonathan a lot.
He is self-aware, confident and very humane. I also feel that I know Aditya's wife Prachi very well. I see some of my feminine traits in her.

Could you tell the readers about your experiences and how it was related to what you wrote?

I have seen a few incidents that I have written, first hand. But at that time, I did not know that it was part of the spectrum of mental illness. Take for example, the case of nihilistic delusion that I have written. There was someone who went through that and I was a witness to that.
Similarly, I have met someone whose younger brother went through the same path as Deepa's son Raj. Finally, he had to be institutionalised.
I will repeat again that most of the incidents that I have written are not figments of my imagination.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing this book? And what is the most challenging?

Few people reached out to me to get more information on the subject after the book was released. They were ignorant on the subject of mental illness. They had just assumed that their loved ones were difficult to handle. They had no idea that those persons were actually suffering.

But the one time I had tears coming to my eyes was when a seventy year old lady, who would never talk about her mental illness, told me that she was encouraged to talk about her depression publicly, after reading my book and listening to me talk about the subject. She hoped her suffering and ultimate win would help some people at least.

What is the next book that you have planned?
It is a novel on geriatrics. The research part is not yet over. Once that is done, I have to think through the story line, though I already have a rough idea.

Was it difficult to shift from Odisha to English? If so, how would you rate the experience?

'Beneath A Rougher Sea' is my eighteenth book, though the first in English. I am comfortable in both the languages, but having just proficiency in a language is not enough to become a good writer. One needs perseverance and practice. So, I had to put in quite a bit of extra effort. 

But the fact that a book written in English has a wider reach is quite motivating. I hope to continue writing in both the languages.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

It was my mother, who first got me interested. She was remarkable, in the sense that she never pushed me and motivated me very unobtrusively.
Luckily for me, my father, my in-laws and especially, my husband Subroto have always encouraged me and created the most comfortable environment to hone my skill.

Any advice to writers that would like to be published today? How tough is it to be published?

In our world, books get published very regularly. To make an impact, I feel the writer has to be sincere, work diligently and work with a purpose. If a manuscript has any merit, it will definitely be published.

How was your experience with the publishing house, Leadstart Publishing?

I was very impressed with some of the books published by Leadstart publishing. The quality of printing, the paper, the layout - were impeccable. When I reached out to the CEO Swarup Nanda, I was further impressed with his professionalism. He has a very capable team and overall it was a very pleasant experience.

Harper  Lee
Who are your favourite authors and why?

I have always loved the Classics, which my father, a student of English literature, introduced me to at a very young age. It is very difficult to name a single favourite writer. I have loved Charlotte Bronte, RL Stevenson, Mark Twain, W Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee and many others.

Gopinath Mohanty - from communityodia.com
And I worship Gopinath Mohanty in Odia. His books are honest, heart-wrenching and unique. He chose words and phrases from the day to day speech of ordinary men and women. I love all his works, but what stirred me most, were 'Harijan' and 'Paraja'.

Among the contemporary writers, I love books written by Haruki Murakami, Amitav Ghosh and many others.

What else do you do on a daily basis?

Writing is a full-time job. When I am not writing, I read or think about my writing. 

Then there are some charitable organisations that I am associated with. Three years back, Subroto and I set up White Swan Foundation in association with NIMHANS. White Swan foundation disseminates reliable information on mental health and illness aimed at all stake holders. 

It does that through a multi-lingual, content rich portal and outreach. I am very happy that within a short period of time, it has found its place among the mental health community. I have to devote some time to these. Sometimes I wish the days had a few more hours.

 You can  Read the Review, too and Buy the Book, here as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review : 'Beneath a Rougher Sea ' by Susmita Bagchi

I got this book at the time, when so many people are talking about it. Susmita Bagchi’s ‘Beneath a Rougher Sea’ talks of an illness of the mind, with all the simplicity and subtle judgement, it could muster. 

It is not an untouched subject here, with Deepika Padukone talking about it. It was a previously unspoken about subject, for which the actor raised enough publicity and talk, saying that she, herself had suffered from depression for a period of time.
John F Nash Jr

Prior to this, we of course had, the famous John Forbes Nash Jr, an American mathematician and a movie around his life, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. His struggles with it are well-known.

Let me talk of the review of this book, Aditya, a psychiatrist who is constantly busy with work. The problems, he faces are many. His patients deal with depression, delusions, sexuality all in the hyper standard.

Taking it all in as part of tread, one day he is surprised to hear of his former love being in town. She is the mother of a young boy, who is suffering from schizophrenia and herself, in denial of the same. It is up to Aditya to deal with his situation, when he finds out more and more about the young boy, his ‘friend’ and father.

The doctor’s own problems are many. His own family had psychiatric problems, even leading to a much loved aunt’s death. On finding out about her problem, he had decided to step away from his family of regular doctors and instead, became a psychiatrist.  

The cases, he deals with are also part of this story. All of them are blended wonderfully into the story. Of course, there were times when I felt the whole thing was a little too much. So, I would recommend that the reader take a break between the pages of the book and finish up the next day :).

With a need for sympathy and empathy, this doctor and his wife, a children’s doctor herself, find little time for themselves. Considering a multi-disciplinary health facility, with the help of his wife, and his friends, a doctor and a patient, this story draws to an end. But, with enough for the readers to think about…

You can Buy the Book, right here. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Book Review : 'Timing : Far from the Spaceports' by Richard Abbott

Timing : Far from the Spaceports’, makes for another interesting read. This book takes up from the last book. Just  as he had promised, this book made it way home, right on time. So, in case you do not remember it…
The two main protagonists remain, Mitnash Thakur and his artificially intelligent companion, Slate. Mitnash is a financial fraud investigator, working for the Economic Crime Review Board, or the ECRB. This organization investigates financial discrepancies and glitches that may happen in the solar system. 

This time, we have the two of them heading from Jupiter to Mars. As Mit makes his way, across the worlds, in a few weeks, you’ve got to wonder, about humankind, which has completely taken over, leaving no space for aliens, as all. :) You remember Scilly Isles, which is a group of asteroids, way beyond Mars’s orbit?

The problems are many. We have a newly formed shady group, called as ‘Robin’s Rebels’. You wonder if womankind has truly made its mark, as there are enough of them and then some more. You have the usual good crowd of Parvati and all the rest, who help Mit with his problems. But this time, we have a nihilist group, called ‘Robin’s Rebels’, who happen to be the main ones.

The scheme is to bring down the financial world and the rebels are at it. You also have Mit’s own problems with his girlfriend, Shayna. And then we are kind of shocked to see Mit kind of looking elsewhere, beyond Shayna at Jocasta. The problems, she could bring are many and is supposedly behind Robin’s Rebels.

Will Mit find his way through the entire problem? Will he and Slate find their way out? Will they also find their way through Mars too? On Mars, they run into a school wherein lies the problem, with the principal refusing to declare anything. A little bit of intimidation and a certain amount of coercion from Mit himself, finds its way into the pages, as well.

One thing is that I still am at it. The thing with this book was that it became
Richard Abbott
pretty difficult to read. In the sense, it becomes tougher to grasp the coding jargon. :)
The book is a little difficult to finish. Earlier, I could finish up in a week, but right now it definitely took me more time, as it took me ages to understand it, and grasping is way tougher and little more to find the last pages before bringing up the end. Mitnash and Slate put themselves in front of the enemy. So, will they get out, safe and sound?

You can Buy the Book, right here.