Respect A Woman As An Individual, Not As A Woman: Author Kavita Kané
How often do you come across books being narrated by a female character? Or let me reframe this question, how often do you see Indian mythological stories being narrated through a female character? Knowing that most of the epics/stories in Indian mythology revolve around a woman, it has seldom been found to be narrated by one.
Author Kavita Kané is doing a marvellous job of keeping her readers engaged by writing books that convey the happiness, the agony and simply put - the life - of some of the important, as well as forgotten, female characters of mythological stories. We caught up with her on all things books and stories.
How did the switch from a senior journalist to an author happen?
Impulsively! Considered writing a book one day, so took a break and finished it through the year. Got it published and resumed work. The success of this debut novel, Karna’s Wife, gave me the courage to write another one - Sita’s Sister. That’s when I decided to quit my job and be a full-time author. And since then it’s been five years and five books!
Were you always fascinated by Indian mythology?
Of course, courtesy Amar Chitra Katha and the vivid illustrations! But it was through C Rajagopalachari‘s Ramayana and Mahabharata, which I read in class VII, that I got to perceive the depth of the epics and recognised them in a coherent perspective. Till then, it was a host of stories I delighted in. Mythology is not mere stories, it is a canvas of human emotions and experience having a socio-political, spiritual, philosophical and moral significance.
In Sita’s Sister, for example, you chose to narrate the Ramayana through Urmila. Why are all your books a narrative by the woman? Any specific reason?
Ramayana seen through the eyes of Urmila is not Ramayana at all. It’s about what happened in the palace in those fourteen years when Ram, Sita and Lakshman were away; while Urmila lived with the three widowed queens and her two cousins in her own private exile. This story of separation is the story of Sita’s Sister.
My books are not just a narrative by women, it’s the overlooked characters which are as fascinating as the protagonists. Is not Satyavati as complicated as Draupadi? Is not Urmila as resilient as Sita, if not more? Besides, we tend to see mythology through the man’s eyes - be it Ram, Krishna, Karna, Arjuna or Ravan - rarely through a woman’s perception. That’s why Karna’s Wife is the story of Karna, not in the first person narrative, but as told by his wife like a sutradhar.
Why did you choose Satyavati from The Mahabharata to narrate this epic?
If you see the Mahabharata as a political drama, then Satyavati can well be seen as the most political person in the epic, whose decisions and actions have ramifications through the epic, through the years, affecting all the people involved. She is where the drama starts - before her arrival, all’s well and peaceful. She is the cause and the effect of things to come. Rarely do we see her as this important character who probably is the most powerful woman in the Mahabharata.
How do you choose your central character for the books?
The character should be fascinating enough to sustain my interest and 300 pages! But I choose while I am researching.
How do you strike a balance between your personal and professional life?
I write daily on a 9 to 5 schedule, no holidays but for Sundays. Never write in the evening or night, that’s family time with husband, daughters, dogs and a cat!
When not writing, what do you do?
Watch movies! I have to see one film a day.
What are your thoughts about gender equality and feminism? Are your books aimed at contributing to the dialogue on these?
Yes, because for me gender equality and feminism is the same. You have to respect a woman not as a woman but as an individual, see her as the person she is, not what’s expected by you or he or others.
Kavita Kané is the best-selling author of four books, all based on Indian mythology: Karna’s Wife (2013), Sita’s Sister (2014), Menaka’s Choice (2015) and Lanka’s Princess (2016). A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, she quit her job to write books. With a postgraduate degree in English Literature and Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she has, she confesses, is writing. Born in Mumbai, with a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi, she lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash, two daughters, Kimaya and Amiya, two dogs, Beau and Chic, and the uncurious cat Cotton.
You can buy her book here.