Akhila Saroha: I would like to congratulate you on publishing your book, ‘Unlock Shackles, Let her fly’ How has the response of the readers so far?
Saroj Sudan: Thank you very much Akhilaji for congratulating me. Your wishes have warmed my heart and made me very happy. I am glad to tell you that the response of the readers has been overwhelming. I am all the more delighted that my maiden effort of publishing the book has been accepted wholeheartedly by the readers and the book remains a Bestseller.
Akhila Saroha: The title of the book, “Unlock Shackles, let her fly” indicates to letting women being free of any chains that hold them. How did you come up with the name?
Saroj Sudan: It is absolutely correct that the title of the book, “Unlock Shackles, let her fly” indicates to let women be free from the chains of constant oppression, domestic violence, suppression by patriarchy, silencing their voice in the matters of marriage, career or decisions related to their lives and treating them as dumb-driven-cattle. There is a need to unlock these shackles for her and to let her think, decide and grow to the best of her capabilities. There is a dire need of stopping ruthless and inhuman acts like dowry deaths, rapes and killing girl-child in mother’s womb.
The longing and yearning of the women for living unchained life especially in rural areas, touched my heart and became the heart–wrenching story of Pallavi and Sarla in the novel ‘Unlock Shackles, Let Her Fly.’ Hence, the name of the book seemed to me the most apt and suitable for the novel.
Akhila Saroha: What were the circumstances that led you to write “Unlock Shackles, let her fly” were there any events that led to do it?
Saroj Sudan: The very thought of countless dejected women who have lost hopes of a better tomorrow due to their chained lives; stimulated me to write this novel. The inspirational, motivational, moving story of Pallavi and Sarla in the novel may inspire many to explore the ways and means to enhance their quality of life to the best of their capabilities. Besides this, it gives me a hope of bringing a positive change in the mind-sets of the people towards the girl child. I am glad that this endeavour fulfilled my dream in taking the story to the numerous readers across the globe and hopefully may bring some change in their outlook.
Akhila Saroha: There are very few books that talk about the subject you have chosen. How do you think your book would change the lives of many Sarla and Pallavis in the world?
Saroj Sudan: I don’t know exactly about the count of books written on this subject but what has been bothering me the most is the plight of women and their problems on various fronts. Right from the time of Maithali Sharan Gupt’s Pravandh Kavya (1933), Premchand’s story ‘Kafan’ (1935), stories and novels by eminent authors like Jai Nimber, Anita Desai and Sudha Murthy; the timeless and universal problems of gender inequality, domestic disharmony and the suffering of women is delineated in the traditional Indian families and its patriarchal world.
The literary and creative-work of the authors directly or indirectly influence the lives of its readers. Sometimes the impact is so much that they start seeing things with new lenses of optimism. At the struggling stage, such inspiring stories may work as morale-boosters to the disheartened women and on reading these they may get stimulated to start exploring ways and means to live a life of dignity and self-respect. The unusual life of Sarla and Pallavi is an inspiration for all of us. Even after facing so much, they stood tall and made way for themselves and into every one’s heart. They proved that if you are dedicated, nothing can stop you from changing your life and circumstances. So, such books and stories hopefully would bring change in the lives of many Sarlas and Pallavis to some extent.
Akhila Saroha: Sarla and Pallavi have to go through many adversities in one lifetime. Do you believe that fate was too unjust to her?
Saroj Sudan: There is no doubt that Pallavi and Sarla had to go through many adversities in their lifetime. It happened because they accepted these and tolerated the people who had caused them. Initially, they embraced it as their destiny and suffered for long.
Hence, to avoid being exploited, one should be emotionally independent and learn how to stand up for one’s beliefs and principles in and outside home. To achieve the same, one needs to be assertive and make your own-self a priority. You need to take pride in what you are and work persistently towards becoming who you are meant to be which is the first step forward for becoming ‘you’ again.
I would like to quote the Bhagavat Geeta here, “If you don’t fight for what you want, don’t cry for what you lost. Nothing depends on luck; everything depends on work because even luck has to work.” Hence, not believing in myths and fate, I consider their fate was unjust to them only till the time they hadn’t challenged injustice. However, when they stood for it, their life turned increasingly beautiful. As luck supports only when you toil.
Akhila Saroha: Are there any present-day writers you like to read? Or any writer of earlier times?
Saroj Sudan: I would like to read all the novels of Mulk Raj Anand. His novels ‘Untouchable’, ‘Two Leaves and a Bud’, ‘The Old Woman and the Cow’ and ‘The Sword and the Sickle’ show women’s suffering due to dowry-system. Out of all his novels ‘Untouchable’ is the best and is a remarkable portrayal of women’s miserable condition. Be it Sohini, Gauri or Rukmini; each of these suffered from the atrocities of the male-dominated conventional society. By his writings, he has taken a bold stand on behalf of the millions of tortured and hounded Indian women who have been tortured by their unsympathetic husbands, crafty in-laws, fault-finding and censorious relatives. Many Indian writers like Munshi Prem Chand, R. K. Narayan, Raja Rao have also raised this issue in their writings.
Akhila Saroha: In the light “Unlock Shackles, let her fly,” do you think the present-day feminist writing is different from earlier writing?
Saroj Sudan: Feminism is a social, economic and political movement and fights for the equality of men and women’s rights. It is the only route to achieve gender equality and to empower men and women equally to live freer and more complete lives. Real feminists such as Suffragettes and Eleanor wanted women to be more than just being a house wife. They believed that women should be allowed to vote and be equal to men. On the basis of her capability and eligibility, she should have the freedom to work on the jobs where men were already working.
Key Feminine Texts – A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) by Mary Wallstone Craft, one of the earliest works of Feminist’s philosophy, emphasized that feminism is to save women from oppression and acknowledgement of women’s contribution to society.
However, today’s feminists’ fight against society is to bring change in the outlook of the people for improving the lives of women. Most of them have turned against men to the extent that they believe men are less superior and women can live without them. It has become a more aggressive movement. Hence, it has created a bigger gap between them instead of bringing men and women together. It is seen that over the last three decades most feminists have grown dissatisfied on seeing the exclusionary way of women and their relationship to patriarchy.
The novel ‘Sultana’s Dream’ – a feminist utopian story written in 1905 by Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, features a reversal of gender roles, where men are secluded inside the house and women run the world, assisted by electrical technology.
Then I read ‘The Power’ (2016) – a science fiction novel written by British writer Naomi Alderman (2017) that won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Its central premise is women developing the ability to release electrical jolts from their fingers, thus becoming the dominant gender.
The difference between two books is not very significant. These reflect how feminism has grown and changed. The early feminists’ fight was against the denial of the most basic rights of women and her abnormally being trapped in the bonds of domesticity. It was a fight for equal opportunities, equal wages and the right to vote. It was to save them from exploitation, oppression and for recognising their contribution to society. Today’s feminists are very aggressive and have turned against men. It is creating a bigger gap between men and women instead of uniting them. They find it pertinent and the need of the hour to take over traditionally male solaces. It is clearly evident in the present and earlier writings of the feminists.
Akhila Saroha: If there are people like Sarla and Pallavi, who have suffered like them in real life, what would be your advice to them?
Akhila Saroha: Life was unfair to Sarla and Pallavi. They were the survivors of domestic violence but they came out of it when they challenged injustice. Under the situation, I would like to make them realise that people would continue to do injustice till the time you accept it. The day you take a stand, no one can harm you. Secondly bearing it with the false hope that things would get better someday is not a correct thought. You have to stand for yourself. Don’t look right and left towards other people to save you from abusers. No one can help you if you are not willing to help yourself. Only you can take action on your own behalf – legally and emotionally. You must have financial, legal and emotional help to get out of the situation before you get another domestic violent attack. You need to extricate yourself from bad situation and negative people who hold you back and abuse you. So be bold to unlock shackles and get a space to fly high towards your goals.
Akhila Saroha: If you have read any present-day writing what would you like to say about it?
Saroj Sudan: I read Anita Desai’s novel ‘Clear Light of Day’ published in 1980. The story describes the tension in a post-partition Indian family. It is a tender, warm and compassionate novel about family scars, forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulation to maintain family love. The novel is about the moving relationships of the Das family members, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teacher at a Women’s College, who lives in her childhood home where she cares for her mentally challenged brother Baba. Tara is her married, younger, unambitious estranged sister living with her children of her own. Raja is their popular, brilliant, and successful brother. Tara returns for a visit with Bimla and Baba. The old memories resurfaced tensions and this blended into a tensely beautiful domestic drama leading to profound self-understanding.
Due to the influence of the western culture, the novel criticizes the women’s role in society that she has to performed in spite of the hardships and her facing true gender inequality. The novel focuses on the struggles among the siblings who notice the inequality between genders. Raja is a successful and independent man while Bimla has dampened her ambitions of finding true independence. Instead she has to accept the responsibility of her autistic younger brother while ensuring that her widowed, alcoholic aunt continues to behave in a manner that is appropriate in Indian society. On the other hand Tara has chosen to follow the traditional expectations of a domesticated house-wife.
Akhila Saroha: “Unlock shackles, let her fly” talks about many aspects and themes, if you were to assign a genre to the book which would it be?
Saroj Sudan: It fits into the genre of ‘Fiction’.
Akhila Saroha: The present day writing is in a boom phase in our country. As a debuting author in “Unlock Shackles, let her fly” how do you see this?
Saroj Sudan: It is true that the present-day writing is in a boom phase in our country. As a debuting author I threw my dreams into space like a kite, not knowing what it would bring back and kept flying the kite of my imagination at its zenith knowing the fact that kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.
Akhila Saroha: Your writing has given a powerful introduction to your potential as a writer. Can the reader expect more from you in the future? Please share about your future projects.
Saroj Sudan: I feel blessed for the recognition of my work and for such a powerful response from the readers. As a debuting author, it is very encouraging for me to find my first published novel as Bestseller since its release. The reviews of the readers have charged me to do more and contribute more to the literature for my readers and I have started working on another novel hoping to get similar love and response again.
Akhila Saroha: Thank you for sparing time for this interview. I wish the best for your future.
Saroj Sudan: It has been a great pleasure for me to be with you for this interview. I appreciate you considering me worthy of it. I look forward to meeting you again after completing my second novel. Thank you very much for your kind words and warm wishes during the interview.
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