This blog used to be views on various things. But in all these years, I find it going a whole new direction.
Something which I have loved all the time. It's BOOKS!! So, presenting a whole new saga, of books and a little about them, whatever I can find, write, visualise and imagine...
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Friday, April 21, 2017
Author Interview : Susmita Bagchi, author of ‘Beneath a Rougher Sea’
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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
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?
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
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
was my mother, who first
got me interested. She was remarkable, in the sense that she never pushed me
and motivated me very unobtrusively.
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 yourexperience 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
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'.
Writing is a full-time
job. When I am not writing, I read or think about
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.