Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's in a name?

Hi, Everyone! I thoroughly agree with Shakespeare’s quote:

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet."

When one is a target of name-calling, it is certainly very apt. But when it comes to identity, it is entirely another matter.

Most certainly I am particular re my own name (and those of my kids) and what short-forms of it I shall tolerate. When it came to novel characters, too, I fought tooth and nail—with myself—to avoid changing any names. As you may have realized, I have the same passionate attachment to my characters’ names as to my own.

The dilemma re Keshu I have put before you already. Unfortunately, I had to change the name of Madhavrao’s wife too. It was entirely my fault that I found myself in this situation. I could have kicked myself, but what good was that going to do?

I had fixed on ‘Shantabai’ as being the name of Madhavrao’s wife. She developed into quite a character.

Up until beginning the research and writing of Part II, Narayanrao’s (Savarkar’s younger brother’s) wife had not impinged upon my consciousness. When I read her biography, though, I was most impressed. What a wonderful woman—so gutsy and courageous! She went through so many indignities and horrors as a Savarkar, but came out spirit undaunted.

The scene in 1948—though it may read like my imagination—is entirely true and recorded in her biography.

But naturally she had to have a role in my novel. That is when her name registered—Shantabai . . . !

Now I had two women with strong characters, who were named ‘Shantabai’ in my novel—but one was fictional.

Obviously, the fictional name had to go. The non-Indian reader had enough to grapple with the unfamiliar Indian names without me adding to the problem. (I have to admit, I resisted the change—didn’t change Madhavrao’s wife’s name until the very end, in fact.)

No name was clicking with me. But when I came upon the name Radha, I really took to it. And the switch from ‘Shantabai’ to ‘Radhabai’ was quite painless for me.

Much later I realized why.

I am a deep believer of the Bhagawad Gita and Krishna (though I am not much into temple-going or idol worship.) This fact has revealed itself in my novel.

·         Keshav: Krishna’s name

Lakshmi: Goddess of Wealth, Krishna’s wife

·         Madhav: also Krishna’s name

Radha: Krishna’s childhood friend and lover.

I do think now, that I settled on the names Keshav-Madhav originally (without conscious thought) from the devotional song: “Keshava, Madhava, tujha namatre godva.” It is one of my favorites.

In such ways does writing reveal one’s soul. I have always believed that it would. That was one reason why I had sworn never to write! If it wasn’t for Savarkar, and my need to showcase him to the world, I would never have broken this vow.

Indeed, for this novel I have delved into the depth of my soul and wrung it inside-out—only for Savarkar.


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