An interview with Shobha Bondre

by Avishek Basu Mallick on December 12, 2013

Shobha Bondre is a famous writer and novelist who has won many awards for her contributions to Marathi literature. Some of her best-selling novels are Uncha Uncha Zoka, Not Only Potels, Sonachya Killa etc. Some of her novels have also been translated into Hindi, English and Gujarati. Her novel ‘Saata Samudrapar’ received Maharashtra’s Best Novel Award in 1997.

Apart from writing novels she also writes columns, articles and short stories in journals such as the Maharashtra Times, Lokprabha, Loksatta etc. She is also very popular thanks to the dialogues she has scripted in many Marathi serials like Abhalmaya, Manasi, Ardhangini and Oon Paaus.

25 years in the field of literature is a very long time by today’s standard. How has it evolved over the years – especially Indian literature?

Indian literature has always been very rich because of the cultural diversity and different languages  in different states. Also our mythology and deep rooted history add special flavor to our literature in regional languages. But English literature by Indian writers bloomed only in last two or three decades. More and more students opted for English medium schools. So more and more writers could express their thoughts in English . Also majority of readers today prefer reading English books than the books in regional languages. According to me this is a major change in the literary  scenario in India.

How do you think have you evolved as an author over these years?

I started writing articles or short stories in newspapers and magazines. This was a platform where I experimented with different forms of literature. I finally found that I take pleasure in writing nonfiction than fiction. I particularly got interested in knowing business and entrepreneurship. The only novel I wrote is also a true story about a young technocrat who wants to be a businessman.

This novel, Saata Samudrapar won Maharashtra State award for Best novel in 1997. Afterwards I wrote many books which depict true life stories of known and unknown businessmen.  I am sure that  today’s reader loves to read about real life heroes, than the reel life heroes and he is interested in knowing the secret of their success.

You seem to have a large fan following in Gujarat even before “Dhanda” was released. To what do you attribute this popularity? Have you ever considering writing something in Gujarati?

I wrote dialogues for a no. of Marathi Tele Serials. This is a purely commercial writing,      which can not satisfy your artistic nature. I was writing for newspapers. But it was not hard core journalism. I used to write about social issues, commenting in a light vein. But I think writing books is what gives me real and creative satisfaction.

Apart from novels, you are also into journalism and script-writing. Which of these hats do you like to don the most?

Like I mentioned above I was not a hard core or professional journalist. But there is a vast difference between writing books and writing for tele serials. While writing dialogues for a serial the writer has no time to even think properly. One has to work like a machine churning out at least one episode every day. Also there is no artistic independence of creating or developing the characters. All the details are decided by the channel or the producer or the script writer. So it’s a mechanical job, not very challenging .Whereas  writing a book gives you total creative satisfaction. Its your idea. You are going to add  some flesh to it, put life in to it and create a whole new world.

How different are the thought processes of an author, a journalist and a scriptwriter? What does it take to switch between these roles?

I experimented with different genres in the initial stage of writing. Now I am convinced that writing true stories is my Forte. So at the moment ,  I am not putting too much of a burden on my imagination. Instead I put in lots of efforts to understand real people from different walks of life and try to portray them as lively as possible.

Question 6- From a celebrated novelist, you seem to have switched tracks to non-fiction with “Dhanda” and “Mumbai’s Dabbawala”. Is it a conscious decision or are you just  experimenting with different genres?

DHANDA is initially published as “ Not only Potels “in Marathi. Gujarati community is well known for its success in business all over the world. I was curious to know the secret behind this phenomenon. While getting to know Gujaratis as businessmen, I came to know some admirable attributes of this community, like their contribution to make their hometowns a better place to live. So along with their businesses I tried to  understand their culture, their beliefs and in general  Gujarati people  to make the picture as perfect as possible.

Tell us something about Shalaka Walimbe. Are you satisfied with her efforts or do you think something has been lost in translation?

  1. Hard work and perseverance.
  2. Helping each other with in the community.
  3. Full and total support of the family
  4. Language or country is not a barrier for a Gujarati. He is comfortable doing business all over the world.

Tell us something about Shalaka Walimbe. Are you satisfied with her efforts or do you think something has been lost in translation?

Shalaka has done her Masters degree in Interpretation and Translation in French from JNU  Delhi. She has done lots of professional interpretation translation jobs.  She understands and reads Marathi very well. I think she has done a very good job of translating two of my books, Mumbais Dabbawla and DHANDA.She has succeeded in keeping the original style and flavor of my writing in the English version.

How did you get Narendra Modi to write the foreword for Dhanda? What are your views about him as an individual and as a leader?

Actually it was the publishers idea. Mr.Narendra Modi is a successful C.M. in whose tenure Gujarat state became a heaven for businesses and attracted  many businesses from other states of India.

Mumbai’s Dabbawala is a first-hand account of your interaction with Mr. Raghunath Medge. Tell us more about him and the experience.

While collecting information about Mumbais dabbawalas , I talked  to Mr. Raghunath Medge, the head of the organization and many of his colleagues. All of them are very simple people .The name and fame has not altered their lifestyle , nor their thinking. For them work is worship of God and they follow the rules of their organization honestly.

What will your next book be about? Can the readers of India Book Store get a sneak peek?

My new book is in Marathi.The name is “ Ek mutthi Asaman!”.  A true story of a courageous  Muslim woman, who fought relentlessly against all odds to survive and give a good life to her daughter.

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