Women’s Day Special: Author Sudipta Mukherjee shares her thoughts
Category : Interviews
Sudipta Mukherjee was born on 19th of July, in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand and raised in a Bengali household of South Kolkata. Her father Samir Mukherjee was a banker and mother, Neena Mukherjee, a home maker. She has an elder brother, Sandip who once had been her partner in crime, but now is her chief confidant. “Together, we are a world,” she says reflecting on some of the delightful moments she had spent with him.Sudipta did her schooling from St. Helen School (Secondary) and National High School (High Secondary) Kolkata. For college, she went to Dinabandhu Andrews College, Kolkata, and did her post graduations from Central Sericultural Research and Training Institute, Mysore. She had been awarded with Rudrappa Memorial Medal (Gold) for her outstanding academic performance in MSc.After her formal education, Sudipta spent some years working for multiple organizations, banking sector predominantly, in different cities to enrich her experiences of life and living.These experiences and explorations eventually transformed themselves and metamorphosed inside her mind, breeding within her the desire to write and tell stories. Today she calls herself a storyteller.In 2015, Sudipta published her debut novel, The Crossroads, which is a story of self-discovery of a young girl Aparajita Basu.Three years later, in Pune International Literary Festival, 2018, she launched her first non-fiction, Turning Towards Light (part of an Anthology called The Wind In Our Sails). A few of her novels are due for release, but will talk more about them later. Sudipta lives with her husband, Amitkumar Bhattacharya and daughter Ananya and writes full-time. She divides her time between Pune, Kolkata, and everywhere else. “I would like to see myself in every city of the world,” she says and smiles.
What is the most important challenge that women face today?
Safety to begin with, given the ridiculous rise in cases of violence against womenising cases of vilolence on w. Be it sexual or domestic, in the house or on the job. All of it falls under the patriarchy and the ways it affects women, economically, physically and professionally.
Secondly, the perpetual juggle between home and work. The choices that women make, at times, are forced to make, in the name of priority. Be a high performing professional, or be a good wife. The demand of it. The artificially created necessity to perform, constantly and consistently, in both. The need to excel! The need to prove yourself, round the clock, 365 days a year. If you work from home because your child is not well, you are being unprofessional. If you disregard your ailing mother-in-law and rush for a meeting, you are an irresponsible homemaker, you are being selfish. You cannot be good at both. Worse still, you cannot be good at either.
- What needs to change in the next 5 years?
People’s attitude, across the country; globally if possible. We don’t strive to attain female dominance; what we are truly seeking is equality. Men should be with us, not against us. Men should add to our strength, and not demean us. We are worthy, and men should understand it. It’s more about creating space for one another, respecting each other, and not proving one’s superiority over the other.
While we continue to support women at home and around the world, we need to pay attention to our boys as well, especially while raising them. A mother does not raise a son, she raises a future husband, a future father, and of course a future citizen of a country. So dear mother, you can teach him a lot more and a lot better.
Secondly, and more importantly, the world needs to be less violent and more loving, more all-encompassing. The only way to achieve this is to erase all the harrowingly cruel stories of rape, abuse and harassment, be it sexual, be it another kind. And fill it with stories of love, of hope, of relationships of every kind. Life is good, and love, divine. Let’s love one another and live happily ever after, and not continue this endless debate of who is better.
- What is your greatest strength?
My family, of course. The people, the men, who surround me, immediate and distant. And those, who support me, believe in my dreams, salute my ambitions, and respect me the way that I am.
A part of my strength does come from the ordinary, the mundane women I meet on a daily basis. Some such women, for whom Woman’s Day is not too different from Children’s Day or Republic Day, or even their birthdays (if at all they care to know or remember one). It is just another day of their long and laborious lives. Neither does the day bring forth any extra or extravagant message to them; nor do they spend a second contemplating on topics like women’s liberation and gender inequality. The domestic help, who cleans my home, who toils from sunup to sundown, tirelessly, in order to earn a living, honestly and with pride. The moushis, who are twice my age, but works incessantly in my apartment complex, denying their age, defying their ability. The elderly bhajiwali of my neighborhood, who stands the entire day in her shop and does mental calculations in a flash. She always greets me with a smile. I draw my ability to smile from her, from all of them. They fill me with hope, and a kind of inner strength that is well felt but difficult to describe.
- Women Empowerment: how pertinent the idea is?
Great idea! But the question that still lurks is what percentage of the women population of our country is truly empowered? In an urban setting, it could be possible. Yes, however small the fraction is. It is possible. But what about the rural sectors, the acres and acres of villages, where women are still meant to breed and cook, wash clothes and wash utensils.
Two concepts: Education and Economic independence. Educate your girl child. Let her learn, let her grow. Let her earn a living, let her be economically independent. Let her decide for herself, what is wrong and what is right. When she should marry, and to whom? Let he be. Her life should be her choice, and not a decision thrust on her by society. That’s real empowerment. When every girl of our country would be free to speak her mind, to choose from one billion choices, to be the exact person she wants to be, that day we could say that yes, our women are empowered.
- Rape cases are on a rise in India in spite of rampant protestations. Who is to be blamed according to you?
Rape is the obvious outcome of a defective society. It’s a disagreeable product of an obnoxious and perverted mind. Protestation; however rampant and relevant they apparently appear, is no solution. Neither could it bring one. We need more stringent laws, to protect women against rape. We need justice; immediate and impartial. We need punishment for the convicts; speedy and severe. The convict deserves to be punished, and deserves to be punished at once, without fuss, without mass or media bantering.
It is easy to blame the boy who attempts rape; difficult to understand the psychology that plays behind it. Precautions should be taken to prevent it from happening. Boys should be educated in the real sense of the meaning. They should be well schooled in value system. They should be taught to value women, and not abduct her modesty.
- On the recent #MeToo movement, your opinion?
Pertinent. I am surprised that it started so late. Why did these women keep their mouth shut, and for so long? I am even more surprised that it vanished so abruptly, almost silently. What could be the reason for its sudden disappearance? Women who spoke out are brave. I salute their bravado. It is not easy to talk about sexual harassment, so openly, that too against men who are apparently powerful. It takes courage to rip open that façade at brutal costs. It might have cost them a lot in their personal lives. But in the end, nothing substantial came out of it. Other than a handful of cases, where the guilty was deserve-fully punished, the movement dissipated into the oblivion. And so did the accusers. I wonder why.
- Peaceful single parenting v/s dysfunctional couple parenting?
For the healthy development of a child, role of each of the parents cannot be denied. A child needs a father, as much as he needs a mother. Choosing one of the two should not be the case, especially in the formative years of his life. But a child certainly does not need a father, who is an abusive husband, or a mother, who is abused and silenced. A child does not need a mother, who is dominating and bossy, or a father who lacks self-esteem. Teaching a child the power of a slap, showing a child the defenselessness of an abused victim is like turning him into a person, who could be capable of either being an abuser or a victim, if not both. For him, relationship would be a farce, and forever.
I am not averse to the idea of single parenting. If it ensures an all-round development of a child, then why not? But the question that still remains, what does the child want? How complete his growth would be if he does not see his father ever since he opens his eyes? In future, would he turn out to be a good father? Or would he continue the wrong legacy?
- Your take on the recent film, “Thappad”, that is meant to be slap on chauvinism.
Relevant! It’s a need of the hour. Women have suffered in silence for too long. It’s time to pay back. I am happy that somebody, especially a man (Anubhav Sinha) has at last come up with the idea of a strong Thappad to chauvinism, to incorrect parenting, to the idea that it is okay to hit your wife. Bollywood is not famous for women centric films, let alone the ones that cast a straight and strident slap on the patriarchy. I would love to see many more films like “Thappad” in the years to come. Cinema is a mass media, and has the potential to appeal and move the masses. Films focusing on women’s issues could go a long way in altering the mindset of people, in changing their perspectives, and shaping the history of women’s evolution.
- What advice would you give to young women of today?
I resolutely don’t advice. But I can certainly opine.
Women, look beyond your mobile cameras. There is more to life than a well filtered selfie. I am at once amazed and bewildered to see the ridiculous number of selfies posted in instagram and facebook, by young women on a daily basis, with the determined intention of creating a sensation through photo-shopped looks. You are worth a lot more than those thousands of likes and fake comments put together. The invention of camera phones is a brilliant idea. Use, and not abuse them. Let selfie be just a word and not an obsession. Let our true beauty shine through our work, our compassion, and our insurmountable ability to empathize.