by R K Biswas

Pervin Reading from Urmila at Mumbai Launch 2

Pervin Saket is the author of a collection of poems A Tinge of Turmeric‘, (Writers Workshop, India) and her poetry has been featured in Kritya, Platform, ‘The Binnacle’ (University of Maine, USA) and others. Her short fiction has appeared in ‘Journeys’ (Sampad, UK)  ‘Breaking the Bow – Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana’, (Zubaan, India) ‘The Asian Writer Collection’ (Dahlia, UK), ‘Aliens’ (Prime Books, USA), ‘Earthen Lamp Journal’, ‘Khabar’, ‘Love Across Borders – An Anthology by Indian and Pakistani Writers’, ‘Page Forty Seven’ and others. Her fiction was shortlisted for the Random House India ‘Writers Bloc’ Award 2013 and her debut novel, ‘Urmila’ (Jaico) hit the bookstores in January 2016. It is also available on Amazon and on Flipkart.

RK Biswas: Why Urmila? Give us the story behind your inspiration

Pervin Saket: This is a question I’ve asked myself often since Urmila is not typically the kind of heroine I would be inspired by. As a child, I found her rather passive; she didn’t have the feisty assertiveness of Surpanakha or the stoic wisdom of Mandodari. However, in a text like the Ramayana that dwells so much on right and wrong, on the ideal man, the ideal woman and the ideal king, in a narrative that is not just descriptive but also prescriptive about how one must conduct themselves, it is important to examine not just what is said, but also what is left out. And this is the space that Urmila occupies. The margins, the footnotes, the silences. I find that the silences have a story as much as the rhetoric. And this is the space that I am drawn towards.

This is probably a reflection of the kind of person I am; very often I find myself tuning out the talk and listening to the silent person in the room. And I’m quite convinced that all sounds such as speech, discussion, music, noise are actually background; the foreground, the little bursts that actually mean anything, is silence. This perspective finds its way into my reading as well, and probably explains why I find my themes and concerns reflecting in the silent or silenced story of Urmila.

(Read a review of Urmila here)

Pervin's Book Urmila Cover Page ImageRKB: What were the initial days like, when you began the book? Your writing world, routine, thoughts and interactions with friends and family.

PS: When I first began working on Urmila, it was like the start of a love affair. There was some shyness, a few hesitant explorations, the temptation to dress up the text, sleepless nights, questions of “will this last” or “where is this going”. At that point, the direction of the narrative was so uncertain that the very act of writing seemed like an indulgence. I remember for instance, my husband returning home every evening after a very long day at office, having been through a dozen crises, and he’d ask me “So how was your day? What did you do?” And all I could say was “I thought of a new scene” or “I wrote a page of dialogue”, all of which sounded terribly inadequate.

My biggest help at that time was a sense of routine. I set weekly targets (daily targets I found too unpredictable with the responsibilities of a day job and many other factors) and I made sure to meet them. I’m very fortunate in my friends, and am part of a wonderful group of talented writers; we initiated a system of sharing our experiences, the writing process, writing goals, giving feedback etc. We called this “the writing sprint” – though sometimes it seemed less like a sprint and more like a craw! Urmila, in many ways, was nurtured by this process. Anil Menon’s recently released Half of What I Say (Bloomsbury) was also drafted and redrafted during the sprint, so clearly it was a very enriching and rewarding process.