Interview with Merrybrains – Meet Debajani Mohanty, Author of the book ‘The Curse of Damini’

So we reviewed her debut book and we loved it and is proudly placed in my library. We had a quick talk with Debajani about the book

1. The book talks about a spirited young freedom fighter. What made you write this book?

Debajani with Nirbhaya's mother during book release at India International Center in Delhi on 29th December 2015 i.e. 3rd death anniversary of Nirbhaya

Debajani with Nirbhaya’s mother during book release at India International Center in Delhi on 29th December 2015 i.e. 3rd death anniversary of Nirbhaya

 

The story was conceptualized after the Nirbhaya incident in Delhi more than 3 years back. Those were the days when like many women of the national capital I lost my appetite, sleep and was totally depressed. And that was the time. As the verses of Bhagvad Gita says “Yada Yada hi Dharmasya..” in my mind the protagonist Renuka Pal came forth. To make this iconic character sound real and believable, I presented her as a freedom-fighter in the introductory chapter.
The essence of the novel lies in its message that I wished to pass on to the world especially women, “Arise, awake! Gone are the days to be damsel in distress. Take Ownership of Your Life, take control.”

Financial independence of women plays a vital role in this novel as I strongly believe it can end most of the pain (such as Sati, female foeticide, infanticide, dowry, domestic violence) women had to bear and still doing even in today’s day-to-day life. With a strong will, adequate planning and dedication, we can bring about a great social reform affecting millions of people during the process.

2. Setting a perfect plot and blending facts and fictions are never easy. You did a great job there. What are the things you take care when you mix facts and fiction?

Many incidents quoted in this novel are real, extracted from the life of my legendary grandparents; for example the sea-voyage, my late grandfather’s education in BHU, his work as a pioneer Hydro Electrical engineer in early-independent India, my feisty as well as kind grandmother who initiated a small business on her own that multiplied manifolds in her lifetime.
To be honest with you, more than 80% incidents in the novel are real that I have heard either from my grandmother or women of similar age-group. One can easily feel the pain when a young, helpless Damini casting her curse, Papia committing suicide or when Renuka’s widowed mother is asking for meat in her death-bed. Those were first-hand experiences of real people; bloody events that could not be conveyed through their tongue but with my pen.
Assembling so many real incidents and to give it the shape of fiction was not easy. It needed lots of research beyond simple search on Google. I had to read more than 50 distinguished books of that era that also includes “My experiment with Trust” by Mahatma Gandhi, “The Discovery of India” by Pandit Nehru and many more to gather finer details of life of that era.

3. Debut book writing is never easy. How tough was this one for you?

Many years back an acclaimed astrologer had predicted I would beget three children in life. “The Curse of Damini” is my third child, my brainchild and instead of nine months I hold her with me for three long years. The pangs of childbirth are painful, yet it’s a memorable and pleasing event in a woman’s life. So was “The Curse of Damini”.

©Megha Jain

©Megha Jain

4. There are many books that I read that have changed my life. What are your life changing books?

As an avid reader I love stories that stay with me for weeks, months or even years. Saying so I think the tales that inspired me at so many different fronts are definitely Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvad Gita, Bible and Quran as they are derived from some of the first and foremost fables of mankind and offer so much to learn on history and humanities.
Among the hundreds of legendary books I have read so far, I would like to name one that came to me early in life and set footprint in me forever. “Gone with the wind” was one such a novel that I read during the days of my adolescence and found my character so much similar to the fiercely independent protagonist Scarlett O’Hara. That was the first time in life I came to know, there are other women in this world who have similar attitude towards life the way I do. I also learnt life is kind enough to give us a first, a second, even a third chance; one should never lose hope and strive for greatness without having any room for regret.

Debajani-Engineering days

Debajani-Engineering days

5. How do you see the art of creating the Protagonist?

Creation of an absorbing protagonist with flesh and blood remains the biggest challenge for an author.

A great protagonist is one who has
i. An unique character that makes a reader curious to know more about him/her
ii. A problem or a secret that needs solving
iii. A will to act bravely when thrust into an extraordinary situation and overcome insurmountable odds by simply being bold
iv. And last but not least who has an interesting flaw. Maybe this flaw is the very thing that will allow her/him to survive and overcome his problems.

Also I feel it’s equally important to create a very fascinating as well as a more powerful antagonist to match as well as challenge the lead character. Being a female-centric story my lead characters are all women. While we may claim Renuka is my protagonist and Mandira the antagonist, I have tried to portray both characters with equal weightage where both have their virtues and vices, and in a third-person point of view nobody is an evil as we often come across in family dramas.

6. We loved your book . When are we getting your next work?

Writing can be fun, but it goes best if spontaneous. Of course I have started thinking over my next novel which would be a contemporary fiction, but at the moment my scribbling are in pieces of art that are just random splatters of paint. With time I will gather them to another picturesque tale of progress of womanhood. It’s a bit hard to commit on a timeline as its too early now.

Debajani -England Days




Newsfast TV Interview with Debajani Mohanty

The Forgotten Daminis are the unsung heroes of the yesteryears who had the audacity to continue to thrive despite all odds.

Debajani Mohanty Rastogi is the author of the book Curse of Damini. This maiden book is going to be released on 14 th of November in Bhubaneswar. Before the release of the book Sajjad Badshah , Editor NFTV has taken the exclusive interview of the author.

 

Q 1 . Sajjad : Tell us something about the journey from Debajani to author Debajani ?

Ans 1 . Debajani : Thoughts are immortal. Writing is Nirvana. Since my teens, I have always been a writer in a world of my own i.e. my diary. And through writing I have always managed to de-stress myself, and conserved my thoughts to read it at a later stage of life. After my education, many years of working life and family I have reached a stage of life where I may pay back what life has offered me. So I started with writing, to clean centuries of dust that plague the mankind. Women upliftment being the first in my agenda.

Q 2 . Sajjad : From where you got the inspiration to write a book on the Indian women and those crime took place against them ?

Ans 2 . Debajani : Being a working woman and travelling worldwide on my own, I have had the privilege to assess the plight of Indian women in comparison to women of the west. Even during my 4+ years stay in England I had come to know of the higher rate of forced marriages, domestic as well as “honour” based violences that’s still prevalent among the south asian communities, especially Indians. In past half century the world has advanced in science, technology, medicine; yet when it comes to outlook towards women, how far we have progressed? In my view, we need more and more women writers to come forward and contribute so that together we can build a safe and prosperous world for our little girls tomorrow.

Q 3 . Sajjad : Questions 3 . Is this book is dedicated to Damini, the Delhi rape case victim ?

Ans 3 . Debajani : Of course, and it’s also dedicated to all the Daminis of India who have gone through the horrendous episodes of abuse, widowhood and the trade. These forgotten ladies are the unsung heroes of the yesteryears who had the audacity to continue to thrive despite all odds.

Q 4 . Sajjad : In India the crimes against women are increasing drastically what you say how to tackle this national problem ?

Ans 4 . Debajani :I am not sure whether they have drastically increased or women have started gathering courage to report events and fight against the unjust and tyrants. The change has to come from within. Government can enforce strict laws to punish offenders, however that’s not enough. To stop molestation and female infanticide we have to embrace a solution that is multi-dimensional. Society, government as well as women themselves all have to work together.
Financial independence would save girls from dowry, infanticide.
Introduction of self-defence in schools would make them vigilant and well-prepared against potential attacks.
Strict laws, fast-track courts, forensic labs would discourage molesters
Introduction of moral values in education system would transform the thought process of men from their very childhood.
Employment programs for all would reduce crimes; empty mind after all is devil’s workshop.

Those are some of the points that I have discussed in my novel.

Q 5 . Sajjad : In India male society is still not accepting that women are equal to them, what’s you say to those people who thinks like this ?

Ans 5 . Debajani : Well I am not sure it’s the males or females, it’s our society as a whole. We have numerous social issues like female foeticide, dowry to name a few where women victimise women. Please note most of the brothels in the world are run by women. Movies and TV serials based on Sas-bahu dispute are one of the most talked ones in the industry. Most of the times it’s the women who are not fully aware of their own inner strength, and keep fasting during pregnancy to produce male babies. I think for social equality, both men and women have to come forward and work hand in hand.

Q 6 . Sajjad :Madam you are a professional Person , how do you manage time between the profession and Writing ?

Ans 6 . Debajani :The more a person works, the more efficient he becomes. This also reminds me of Einstein’s law of inertia. First of all I am a workaholic. Living in a joint family (i.e. with my in-laws) has helped me to concentrate on my work with peace of mind, it’s a nice way to share the burden of household. Life through it’s ups and downs, twists and turns, so far has given me it all; love and care, education, career, family support. Now it’s my time to repay. Like Arjun’s aim, now I see only my goal i.e. women upliftment and women empowerment in India.

Q 7 . Sajjad : . Any Upcoming projects in pipeline would you like to share with your readers ?

Ans 7 . Debajani :My next novel would be named “From deepest Canyon to Highest Mountain” which would be based on the real life of a woman of modern India and cover domestic violence & abuse and social treatment towards it.

Q 8 . Sajjad : Mam what is your message to the people of India?

Ans 8 . Debajani :My late paternal grandmother was named “Abala Mohanty”, the word Abala itself means weak. Today Indian parents are naming their daughters after goddess Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati. With programs like “Beti Bachao, Beto Padhao” and “Souchalay”, we Indians have already initiated the path of safety and progress for our daughters. With my efforts I would like to add one more bullet point to this agenda, i.e. Financial independence for all our girls. Financial independence itself would sort out 80% of the issues that our women are facing in day-to-day life. Think about it.

Q 9 . Sajjad : And at last few words for NFTV (www.newsfast.tv) and The Sociocrat .

Ans 9 . Debajani :Thanks for all the good work that you are already doing. Thanks for contacting me when none other knew me in the industry. My suggestion would be to create a separate section in your website for book review and promote authors who write on social issues and moral values. As a successful journalist along with publicising the latest news to public you too have the moral responsibility towards the Indian citizens. Positive thoughts would bring a better and brighter future for all of us.

Interview of Debajani Mohanty – Salis Online interview

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Debajani Mohanty is a senior I.T. professional with an MNC in India. “The Curse of Damini”, her debut novel is a supernatural thriller published by Penguin group.
INTERVIEW: 

Q.  Characterize yourself in one word?
Optimistic
Q.  Please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.
Endless struggle of Indian women to achieve status of equality in society narrated with style, romance, mystery as well as adventure to get the readers glued to the story.
Q. Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing (and getting published, if applicable) before breaking out with this book?
The book is written with a mindset to eradicate violence and discrimination against women from the society. I started writing this some 3 years back after the horrendous Nirbhaya episode in Delhi that had shamed the country and the world. However not only sexual abuse, the novel covers almost all the different aspects of suppression on women be it in the form of forced prostitution, widowhood, adultery or negligence of girl child.
Financial independence of Indian women is my dream and “The Curse of Damini” my debut novel is my maiden attempt and a small effort in the same direction.
Damin - Aiuthor Debajani Mohanty
Q.  What was the time frame for writing this book? Tell us an interesting detail or two, if applicable. For example, did you finish first draft after one week?
“The Curse of Damini” is a historical fiction that covers past seven decades of Indian history. In order to do justice to the story I had to read 50+ books written on similar track and communicated in-person with numerous old ladies of Odisha and Bengal to hear their first hand experience of partition, riots and norms of society at that time.
For those who have already read the book, there is a suicide track in the novel, also there is an incident where the protagonist’s best friend goes through the process of widowhood where her bangles are broken and she is offered a white Sari to wear. While writing those chapters I had to read many articles on the internet and watched many Bollywood as well as Hollywood video clips of similar sequences. Doing so day after day, and may be a week after week, I got into severe depression and finally wrote those killer lines. I settled back into normal life after some vocal therapy by my dear husband.
The first draft of the novel got completed in four months, and that was only the beginning. The manuscript was then sent to around 100 educated as well as independent female friends across the world for review, followed by critiquing by a leading literary society in England and editing by a top editorial agency in India.
Collecting their thoughts I had sent a summary to PM Modi’s PMO site some 3 years back for the eradication of rape. Construction of toilets was one of my suggestions there and later I was elated when it was implemented as the very well known program “Souchalay”.
The whole process took almost 3 years as the book was released on 29th December 2015 on the third death anniversary of Nirbhaya in presence of Nirbhaya’s parents and many educated & eminent people of Delhi.
Q. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I think the only thing I did right was a will to do something good for society, the rest came to me naturally which I may consider as the grace of God. Be it my associations with Nirbhaya Jyoti trust, goodwill of colleagues at work, helping hand of the Odia community as well as many NGO workers, it all worked for me.
Q. Did you have a platform in place?  On this topic, what are you doing to build a platform and gain readership?
I didn’t have really. I even do not have a blog at the moment and I am yet to use twitter efficiently. So far I have extensively used goodreads as well as facebook for getting connected to people.
Q. Favorite novel?
There are so many, let me quote a few; Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell , Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi. However there are many others that I forgot to mention or am yet to explore.
Q. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I had a near death experience.
Ha Ha! No personal stuff really, among friends I am widely known as an open book.
I was born in a higher middle-class, educated family of Odisha and was privileged to get good education and training in classical music. I graduated as an Electronics and Telecommunication engineer back in 97 from U.C.E.(current VSSUT) Burla and have been into the I.T. industry ever since. Currently I am working with NIIT Technologies Ltd in Delhi/NCR as a Technical Architect. Being born to an Odia father, Bengali mother and married to a north-Indian from U.P. I am fortunate enough to know India as a whole. My work profile, long-term stay abroad and passion for travelling has enabled me to travel across half of the globe on my own and open my eyes to the wider world.
Q. What’s next?
My next novel would be named “From deepest Canyon to Highest Mountain” which would be based on the real life of a woman of modern India and cover domestic violence & abuse and social treatment towards it.
Q. Future of SalisOnline.in through your eyes?
Thanks for all the good work that you are already doing. Hope someday you would emerge as one of the top five e-magazines of India.
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Debajani Mohanty’s Interview with BookGeeks

Her work and interests have taken her all over the world and in the process she has interacted with numerous women from different ethnic origins. She intends to bridge the gap between the freedom, safety & security enjoyed by them and by our women through her writing.

bookGeeks: Tell us something about Debajani as a person
Debajani: Bold and unconventional yet kind and loving. Travelled half of the world on my own both for work and also for my passion in travelling. I am also a big foodie and have tried cuisine from almost all continents in the world. Above all I wish to work for women upliftment. Financial independence of every woman is my dream.
bookGeeks: How was “The Curse of Damini” born?
Debajani: “The Curse of Damini” was never born and it’s no individual’s story, it’s life itself that our women have lived through years. I have only fictionalised it. I wrote a very complex story comprising many characters that went on for 70 odd years. However before narrating the stories of so many individuals I heard them. I heard them since my childhood days from numerous women in our society, be it our elderly maids whosoever migrated from Bangladesh in their teens, my grandmother and her contemporaries. I read numerous books written on the horrendous atrocities during the India-Pakistan partition and communal riots or articles on newspapers in yesteryears.
bookGeeks: We learn that you started writing the book after the Nirbhaya episode of Delhi? How do you intend to bring about a change through your words?
Debajani: The night Nirbhaya died in a Singapore hospital 3 years back, the first line that I wrote on my diary was “The Curse of Damini” and then the rest followed.The story points out certain prime issues that are so far not taken seriously either by our people or government. Women constitute half of the manpower, and in a society where they are treated lowly, would lack progress. Rape and discrimination against women is not only a social issue. It weakens the resolve in women to come out of their closed premises of home and embrace education & career. It blocks our progress as a nation. This book is an attempt to bridge the gap between the genders and uplift our society as a whole.
bookGeeks: How do you manage the constant juggle between the professional life, work and writing?
Debajani: Strangely it’s the busy man who always finds time. Every human being I believe is a supreme source of energy. There are people on earth who have created miracles out of their efforts. I only manage three things at the moment; my career, family and writing. Of course I’m blessed with the best husband in the world, and very supportive in-laws with me. Above all I am grateful to the Almighty who showed me the path to complete my work successfully.
bookGeeks: Any upcoming projects you would like to enlighten our readers about?
Debajani: My next venture could be my own auto-biography. Being an I.T. professional I started working quite early. The nature of my work as well as my passion for travelling has taken me to half of the world and many years abroad before I got married and settled down in India. Over the long lone years I have visited several places across the globe, met numerous ladies of different ethnic origins and tried to analyse what makes the women of our country weak in comparison to the west. I am sure my adventurous journey will interest my readers.
bookGeeks: What are your other interests and pursuits apart from writing?
Debajani: I am fun-loving, outgoing and a big foodie. Travelling and looking for new restaurants and trying delicious cuisine have been my passion. My dream is to see all women of my country financially independent, education alone would not be enough. And I wish to see this in my lifetime.
bookGeeks: A few words for your fans
Debajani: As per an UNICEF report released in 2006, India has killed 10 million (i.e. 1 crore) girls between year 1986-2006 through female infanticide. Around 60 million (i.e. 6 CRORES) have been systematically exterminated from India’s population in three generations. That is nearly the entire population of the United Kingdom. They have either been aborted before birth, killed once born, died of neglect because they were girls, or perhaps fell victims to dowry related deaths. My request to my readers, do not just read the book, please pass on my message to the world. We must all contribute so that our girls survive and lead a safe and secure life.
bookGeeks: A few words for bookGeeks.in
Debajani: Thanks so much in your support spreading the message to a wider public. Apart from the good work that you are already doing, we all should do something philanthropic so that our children and grand-children would live in a civilised as well as safer world tomorrow.

Interview Link

The Curse of Damini Book Release Covered by New India Express

Book Release Covered by New India Express Thriller Novel Released

By Express News Service
Published: 15th November 2015
The Curse of Damini, a romantic thriller novel, authored by Debjani Mohanty was released here on Saturday.

book_release_bbsr

The theme of the novel revolves around a woman’s journey to chart her destiny in a harsh and male-dominated world.

The story explores relevant and topical issues like violence and discrimination against women through the experiences of Renuka Pai, a young woman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

Renuka’s journey from a rash teenage freedom fighter to a celebrated writer of the 21st century has been depicted in the novel.

Debjani said the fear of sexual and mental harassment at workplace or during travel prevents even highly educated women to take up a career.

“Financial independence of women can not only empower women significantly but also bring about a social change,” she added. Jnanpith Award winner Pratibha Ray released the novel on the occasion. Among others, MLA Priyadarshi Mishra and Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax, Government of India, Priyadarshi Mishra were present.

Indian Express Link