Sunday, March 14, 2021

Sanskriti Singh: "Karna was not only a man who was wronged by circumstances but he was the only man in the entire epic that was fighting a war with each and every aspect of society" (Interview)


Recently, I read a very good book named “The Flawed Good Man” which was based on the life of Karna during the era of Mahabharat war. I was so happy to read a book based on our ancient history with philosophy being another crux to the writing. I tried knowing a little more about its author, Sanskriti Singh, and got to know that she’s 18 years old. At this age, in her teens, she managed to write about a character like Karna made me more curious about her which led to this interview which is for you to read and enjoy now.


Hi Sanskriti, I have seen that you write majorly on Indian history elements which few people term as mythology these days. Can you please tell us how your interest turned towards this subject?

When I was younger, I had a strong urge to know stories from the ancient Indian Culture. My mother would tell me stories from the epics all the time. Even during Navratri (which is a big affair in Shillong) I would usually go to Ramkrishna Mission and would insist upon buying those illustrated thin story books for children. It was like the more I heard these stories the more I wanted to know and when it comes to Indian culture we can all admit that it is a never-ending flow of beautiful stories and thoughts. I am a strong believer and a spiritual person. I cannot clearly tell as to when was the exact moment I realized how much the subject attracted me towards it but surely the childhood indulgence into this genre made me feel elated So yes I can obviously say that it was a childhood spent in the world of imagination and fantasy that made the love for this subject stronger and also all the time spent listening to stories from my mother. 

You are just 18 years old and you write books on complex characters from our ancient history. How do you find it easy to understand them as not even matured people are able to comprehend the shades behind their characters?
I think when you look around you find a little of every character in those epics somewhere in your surroundings. I have been a loner all along and that made me a very observant person over the years. I paid attention to what a person might be thinking when doing a particular action. The more you read you learn to understand the body language of a person and the psychology. 

It is a misinterpreted fact that it is difficult to understand these characters. People usually put these characters on a pedestal and criticize them but if you want to know them you have to treat them like you would treat a friend. Now that's not easy because you are never made to think like that.  And I would agree that reading made me feel those emotions more clearly. You need to hear your thoughts clearly to understand these characters and the easiest way to do so for me is to distance myself from people. I feel the more people you have the more corrupt your mind gets, they influence your thoughts. I do not like it at all; I like being left alone with my books and thoughts. The more you listen to your natural ideas the more clear these characters become. Every shade of these characters have to be accepted without judgement and you cannot have favourites in these stories you tend to overlook things when favouritism comes in between. 

Tell us something about your latest book - "The Flawed Good Man".

Oh! I can never explain what this book meant to me. The true motive behind writing this book for me was the never-ending news of suicides in and around the world. It's depressing how the numbers are growing. I wanted to write something that can help people understand that no problem can be bigger than the life we have been given. It is easy to kill yourself. It takes mere minutes to kill you but it takes courage to fight back. 

Karna had thousands of reasons to kill him but just one reason to live; his art. I wanted to not tell a story but try and make people realize that it is the most important to find that one reason to live. It is not easy but it cannot be impossible. A man of celestial birth could not escape all the wrongs that happened to him so how can we expect to have our path paved easily?! Karna was a man who never succumbed to the charms of splendour, a throne or power in that case even Narayan because he had his dignity and he knew that he was following his dharma even when he was standing against it. The book is about human emotions and it's pain and suffering and how it's okay to be venerable but that cannot become ones weakness rather make it into strength. I tried my best to bring out emotions of the character that I felt was ignored.

How of all the characters in Mahabharat did you think of picking Karna? 

Karna had a difficult life since he was a child and he faced the consequences of a misinterpreted culture. And for centuries our culture has been subject to such misinterpretation. Karna was not only a man who was wronged by circumstances but he was the only man in the entire epic that was fighting a war with each and every aspect of society. He was not only suffering trauma because the society was unfair to him but he was a symbol of the actual structure of the Indian society when it was first developed. Karnas life stands as an example for all that is wrong and surprisingly it's very relevant in today's world and will continue to be like that. Karnas character was perfect for me to touch the topics that I wanted to address in my second book. Karna is an embodiment of the idea of an ideal society that we want to build while he is also an example of the all the struggle that will go into the making of such a society. Karna was a character through whom I was able to present to people where we went wrong with our culture and how important it is to read and understand the Vedas ourselves than relying on some individuals to spoil it for us.

How difficult it was for you to sideline the character of Krishna as whenever we think of Mahabharat, his prominence and character is most talked no matter what?

Krishna I feel is a very charming character to read about apart from the fact that he is worshipped as well. It was not very difficult to put aside his character because there were rare instances when Karna or Krishna met. Though Krishna knew a lot about what Karna was facing we must also remember that Karna’s dream was to learn from the king of Dwarka but he couldn’t. You can never put apart any character when talking about the other as lives as we see in Mahabharat are intertwined with each other in strange patterns. You can stress over one character and that is what I tried to do. Since, I was dealing with Karna I tried to make sure it remained about him while not forgetting to reflect how others impacted his life. That became a little stressful sometimes because as you said that Krishna is prominent and the moment we talk about Mahabharat, Krishna becomes important. More than difficult it was stressful I would say because instead of Lord Krishna I had to stress over the brilliant Strategist Krishna. Other than a charming mediator Krishna was a very shrewd and complex politician of the epic war. You have to lay your plan well when dealing with such distinguished characters.  

Who are you more inclined towards- Lord Ram or Lord Krishna?

First of all I think both Lord Ram and Krishna are such beautiful characters so distinct from each other yet connected together strangely. I am a Bundela Rajput and my roots from Orchha gives me a unique sense of inclination towards Ram whom we most of the time address as Raja Ram than Lord Ram. Also, over the course of years my ancestors settled in Bhagalpur in Bihar not far away from Mithila made me understand the culture of Ramayan more than that of Mahabharat as a young girl. Orchha being the second Ayodhya of India has a strong cultural influence over the Bundela’s and Ram being the King there is always a strong sense of belongingness that connects me more to Ram ji. I admire Krishna very much though; clever, witty, intelligent, sharp and so-so shrewd that it might annoy you and also make you wonder.

Do you think Ramayan and Mahabharat are just stories or it really happened on our planet?

I do not think that these are mere stories. I am studying Archaeology and frankly speaking there might not be traces of so many people fighting a war or whatever reason people use to deny the existence of the characters I would like to rather say that we must remember that we had an oral culture. Most of the knowledge being translated orally we cannot be sure that facts were not exaggerated. You know human tendency is to exaggerate things and then these stories have been a part of our culture since a very long time. Now you know gossip is more reliable sometimes than documents. There is a clear possibility that the Shaunaks and Vachaks did make things larger than life but that does not end the possibility of truth behind these stories.

I really term these as History than mythology so yes I believe that these characters might have existed in the past sometime.

How easy or hard it is for you to embed philosophy between your storyline?
It is frustrating actually because if you want to reach to a larger mass you must simplify everything and then present it, in the course of doing that you tend to lose control over your own ideas sometimes. Also, I believe in keeping the language lucid so that even if a beginner is reading they will not have to struggle. Philosophy is something very difficult to simplify truly because the ideas come from a complex living culture older than any other culture in the world. Also, people sometimes do not want to hear these philosophies so it becomes a task to inculcate those little aspects of spirituality and philosophy in between the story. It even takes about a month sometimes to finish just one chapter what is again not thrilling. Imagine thinking about the same one line for over a month day and night. But the best part comes when I finally finish it; the satisfaction is beyond words of course.

Which are your favorite Indian authors who write in the same genre as you?

I love reading Kavita Kane mam’s books. She is a brilliant story teller. Amish Tripathi is again wonderful without debate; the originality of his ideas is beautiful. Not precisely mythology but the philosophy that comes from it is also beautifully explained by Osho.

What is the next book that you are working upon and how soon we can read it?

My next book is about a character from Ramayan, I am still working on it but I think I will soon complete it in about a month. I am not sure if I can reveal the name of the character right now but I can surely speak about the central idea.

I am basically trying to bring out the growth of Feminism in our Epics through the new character. Trying to explore the various shades of human character their change in behaviour in different circumstances and also how philosophy and power can be balanced with just how you are mentally.

I hope it comes out this year itself and is also loved by the readers.

Any words for your readers who love reading your book..

Nothing is more important to a writer than their readers. I can only thank each and every person who read the book and sent me their comments. I love reading what the readers think of my book and I can never thank anyone enough for all the responses I got. And every review I received made me realize where I can make things better and I can only try and make the next read better for all. “With not typos and mistakes to be precise” haha…







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