Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Babarao’s deathbed scene

“O Death! I give you leave to end
The script of my life here,
Squandered not I even a moment of my life,
So the day’s end brings no sorrow to me.”
-         V. D. Savarkar, Upon the Deathbed


Hi, Everyone! It would have been easy enough for me to avoid writing the Savarkar-Babarao deathbed meeting. But I decided not to do so.

With this one scene I could show the deep bond of love between the two brothers as well as the dedication and devotion to India despite the dire circumstances. In this scene I could reveal Savarkar as the epitome of the Karmayoga.

Also, historically early 1945 was a landmark. Savarkar had exposed the treacherous Congress politics to the Indians. He had successfully built up the Hindu Mahasabha to counteract it. Everything could have gone very well for India from here on; there were great hopes for it. But instead, the fate of India and Savarkar’s health went on a fast downward spiral immediately after.

There was a lot riding on this scene for me.

As is the case of most of the information on Savarkar, the facts of this scene are available. But what were his thoughts at the time? What was he feeling? What did he say? For me to write the dialogues of this scene it was essential to understand that.

Fortunately for me, Savarkar’s letter to Babarao, written at this time, is available. Also, he has explored death in his poem Marnonmukh Shaiyyewar (Upon the Deathbed.) With great difficulty and much mental gyrations I had managed to translate this poem. This allowed me to dare to have an insight into Savarkar’s mind.

I felt it was a colossal nerve on my part to attempt such a thing. But for the sake of the novel, I had to do it and put aside that feeling, too. I sat for hours pondering over the scene, until it became real to me as if I was there in the room. Only then did the scene flow out and in one go. This was not a scene where one writes a few lines and then chews the pencil thinking, “Okay, what comes next?”

In my novel I have given the quote from my poem translation, but it is the edited version. The poem is complex and I have put together lines that best highlight the scene. Here is the quote:

O Death! I give you leave to end

The script of my life here,

Squandered not I even a moment of my life,

So the day’s end brings no sorrow to me.

I have no fear, for what we sow here today

That blooms and bears fruit, so they say.

With hardship did I sow,

Choosing the best seeds,

Sowing them without expectation of fruit.
Heaven, hell, rebirth, captivity,

Release from the burden of human life—

All are but the consequence of one’s own actions.

Where the door of Death shall open,

Predetermined it is by us, by the down payment paid

By our deeds and actions along the path of Dharma.

O Death! So, I fear not the graveyard,

What is it but an unfamiliar, foreign land?

And to ease the travel in this land,

Have not I from Lord Krishna

An introduction to every house on the way?”




Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Challenging Scene indeed!

"When life puts you in tough situations, don't say why me, just say try me."

- Anonymous

Hi, Everyone! Throughout my novel, Burning for Freedom, there are several scenes that I would—in my personal capacity—much, much rather not have written.

But what kind of novel would it have been, if I deleted essential scenes just because I was too chicken-hearted to write them? Just because I didn’t want to put myself through the horrifying ordeal, the emotional agony, or reveal my heart and soul?

No, not writing them was not an option I ever gave myself. I still wonder to myself with great incredulity, did I really write a gay molestation scene? Me . . . ?!! I remember praying fervently that I wrote realistically and effectively, and that the readers would not laugh themselves silly upon reading it.

1913 was the year when Savarkar saved the first young boy from molestation. This single line from his My Transportation for Life had clung to my brain. The day after I decided to write the novel I woke up with the plot line in my head. This scene was going to be the scene that brought Savarkar and my fictional hero together.

A contrived situation created by an author is anathema to me. I most certainly didn’t want to write any “contrived” scenes. So this Savarkar-Keshu meeting was crucial. There were critical challenges to overcome.

·        making a meeting possible in the vast Cellular Jail where inmates are kept in solitary isolation.

·        bonding Keshu with Savarkar. But that was not enough; Savarkar had to bond with Keshu too. And that was a tricky business indeed!!

·        Absorbing Keshu quickly into the doings of the political prisoners, so I could merge the fictional element with the actual happenings.

The gay molestation scene was an effective answer to all these challenges and had the great plus point of being based on a real incident. This was extremely important to me.

I decided that I would not research this topic. My imagination would have to suffice. And that was terrible for me. The scene started popping in my mind move by move, over and over. I used to have nightmares and woke up sweating and with goose flesh.

Unfortunately, I had not even started writing the Andaman part of the book yet. I was particular about writing the novel sequentially. It was not to be borne! I stocked my home with groceries and just got down to it. I wrote fast and furiously. It still took me exactly sixteen days to nail down the novel, first draft of course, till the end of the scene.

By that time, my fridge was no better than Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, but the nightmares stopped. And that was a great relief to me.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Savarkar's Shackles

“Fetters forever encircling the Feet of our Desire—
Who forges those social fetters,
That impose the laws of decorum?”
- V. D. Savarkar, Shackles
Hi, Everyone! Savarkar’s poem Bedi is very deceptive—not very long and with short sentence structure. Reading it I even felt that it was easy to grasp. That illusion, of course, lasted only until the moment I tried to translate it.
The genius of Savarkar—that rhythm, those speaking yet economical words!—coupled with the genius of the language was really impossible for me to reproduce in translation.
The words of this poem are really the tip of the iceberg. There is a deep philosophy behind them. It took me a very long time (and many scrapped attempts) to get a handle on translating the dialogue-style of the poem without putting in my interpretations.
" उजळित उजळित जें I काय करीं
लालिसी तूं दिवसभरी
      बंदी, चांदीचे I किंवा ते
      अलंकार सोनेरी ?"
अजि नचि I केवल ती I लोखंडी
बेडी माझी, खंडी
      जखडोनी माझ्या I या पायां
      स्वेच्छ गती जी चंडी
"फोडुनि तोडुनि जी I जाळावी
तीच कशी उजळावी
     आपण अपुलिची I रे बेडी ?
     हौस तुझी ही वेडी !"
सुटते सुटते ही I नचि हो ती
परि जोंवरी तोंवरतीं
     गंजे ती तरि कीं I गांजी या
     अधिक आपल्या पायां
"चरणासि  सतत इच्छेच्या I जी वेढी
डि कवण विधिनिषेधांची I ही बेडी "  
जाणे कोण अजी I निश्चित तें
      परंतु कीं मज गमतें
इच्छे घडि त्याची I इच्छाची
वा बेडी तदिच्छेची ! 
“O how you polish them, over and over,
Pampering them all day!
What think you —
Ornaments of silver and gold they are?”
My iron fetters—not just for today are they here!
O, break these shackles, do
They destroy my free will to move so!
“Fit only to be shattered and burnt they are—
Why then lavish care upon our very own fetters?
‘Tis an insane fancy you cherish!”
Break they will one day,
For ever they are not! Until then
Why let the fetters rust?
That will only add to the distress.
“Fetters forever encircling the Feet of our Desire—
Who forges those social fetters,
That impose the laws of decorum?”
Who knows that today? Ordained it be.
But think so do I,
We have the power to choose betwixt
Desire or Fetters for that Desire!
Most difficult of all were the last lines of the poem! Every week I would come back to them. Every week I would gaze at them for a long time and change what I had written. Finally, inspiration struck one day, and I nailed them down—but I did come this close to giving up! Now when I look at my lines I wonder what all the agony was about.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Savarkar: "Take the oath, O Youths!"

“Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.”

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Hi, Everyone! I had always loved Savakar’s poems sagaras and jayostute. In fact Jayostute was in my school (St. Columba High School, Mumbai) prayer book and though I didn’t know it was Savarkar’s poem, I had always crooned it to myself over the years. I didn’t quite understand the meaning, but I could feel the emotions in the poems. I was determined to quote them in my novel.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any poetic translation of the poems. As in everything, when no help is available I have to buckle down to do it myself. And that was certainly easier said than done!! My Marathi is feeble at best. But I had a great asset on my side—my mother, Dr. Indrayani Sawkar. She is a Sanskrit scholar and her command over Marathi and English is excellent, too. I roped her in to give me meanings of Savarkar’s words.

I studied Savarkar’s poems for hours and didn’t even attempt the poetic translation until I could feel my heart throb with the emotions, until I could feel the pain, the desperation, the love for his motherland that was spilling out of Savarkar’s words.

Here is one poem:

Pratidnya ghya
घ्या घ्या घ्या शपथा I तरुणांनो! मरूही देशाकरिता II घ्या
स्वस्थ कसे बसला I लागेना I तळमळ कारे चिंता II स्वस्थ तळमळत्या पडल्या I टिळकांच्या I पुरवा I हेतूला II तळमळ
हेतूला पुरवा I टिपरुनिया I हिंदुदुंदूभीला II हेतूला  
सांगसांगाता रे I कोरडही I येई कंठनाला II सांग
तरीही I आग कशी I लागेना II तुमच्या हृदयाला II तरीही
नातरी समजाहा I देश जगी I नामशेष झाला II नातरी
Take! Do take  the oath, O Youths,
An oath to die for your Country, do take!
Ah! How rest you with such ease?
Do not you feel pangs of torment?
Strive for Tilak’s Goal!
Writhing helpless in anguish it be!
The Hindu trumpet resounds! The word is spread!
Hear me! My throat is hoarse, very hoarse
Reiterating this refrain.
And yet! Yet your hearts are not ablaze.
Strive for the goal,
Lest Our Country  be destroyed!
Let not a mere name it be worldwide!

Savarkar’s words in this poem just make me cry. My translation can only be a poor imitation. I am not a poet, but I have done my best. I figured that would be better than no translation at all. I really, really do want Savarkar’s poems to be heard by all.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, a man of many talents


“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

-         C. S. Lewis

Hi, Everyone! I had been posting on Gandhi and the Freedom Movement for so many weeks. Researching the horrendous deceit, power-plays, the pain, and the suffering was a burden on my soul.

It felt as if I was floundering around choking in the murky depths of a swampland. The need to come up for a breath of fresh air—recharge my soul, so to say—was paramount.

Which is why I have been writing on anything that comes to mind last few days; letting my spirit run free . . .

 Today my spirit is alighting on facebook.

I frequented facebook purely because it is recommended to use social media sites to promote one’s novel—but I have found it to be a learning and enriching experience.

Through the dark days of researching and writing my Gandhi posts, every morning I woke up to some wonderful photographs posted on facebook by the same person everyday. So many photos were his own. He was certainly talented! There were photographs of flowers and birds, fascinating architechture, wonderful paintings, most unusual nature photos—really a wide, wide variety. The ones that really stole my heart were the cat ones. I love cats.

So for me a window opened to a whole new world that existed beyond the confines of my life. Truly they gave me great joy. They gave me a sense of peace and beauty that there is in the world if one wants to find it. I did so very much need that. I needed that to wash away the darkness that researching on Gandhi enveloped me with.

Out of the all the posts on my facebook Wall, the name Abhijit Rajadhyaksha—the one who was posting these photos—now sprang to my attention. I don’t remember how or when we became facebook “friends.” For a while I just silently enjoyed his photos. Then one day, I couldn’t resist commenting on the cutest photo ever. It always, always brings a smile to my face.


After that we had we had a couple of interactions on facebook, one about my book and the other about Gandhi. I noticed that he was open to reading about something that did not necessarily line up with his thinking.

It was most refreshing I can tell you!!

Especially when it comes to Gandhi, I have found so many just don’t want to know. I think it was the next day that I discovered an interesting site in my blog stats, one on Indian history. Clicking on it, I was taken to this wonderful website.

Under “My articles” there was a long, long list of the most fascinating subjects. I followed it all the way to the end and to my utmost surprise, bumped into Abhijit’s photo!!

It was his site and he has another one. I was so very excited to see that, too. It gives such details (especially on the historical weapons and forts) and so well presented!!

Abhijit was an author and researcher too and one interested in history!! I don’t know why he didn’t tell me of this, and I had to find out quite by accident. I am just so glad I did find it.

Anyway, I have a shortlist of favored people and Abhijit is most certainly on it.

And as I discovered today, we grew up in the same area and many of his friends and cousins were in my school (St. Columba High School, Mumbai) and even in my grade.

It’s a small world!