Call her the mountain mystic
Author confesses she can’t get over her fascination for Kumaon...
NAMITA PANT GOKHALE was born in Lucknow in 1956. Yet, all she remembers about the city are “those three days” which she spent here during a visit in 1998. Saving that, she has been mostly a stranger to the city of her birth.
Can’t say that about Kumaon, though! The mystic hills fascinate her. It is reflected in her writings (a Himalayan Love Story, for instance!), in her efforts to bring the ‘Golu Devta’ (a revered Lord of the hills) temple to Delhi’s RK Puram area which is now even referred to as ‘Uttaranchal embassy in Delhi!), etc.
“Yeah, I just can’t get over my obsession with the hills. Perhaps, because the Kumaoni society is so close-knit, something you cannot ignore as a writer,” she says, talking to HT Lucknow Live shortly after her arrival on Friday evening for the release of Shobha De’s book, Spouse, on Saturday. The book has been translated into Hindi.
Even in her audio book on Shiva, while dealing with the complexities of the lord of creative destruction, she finds a worldview and a philosophy that reflects the essence of Indian thought….err…Kumaoni thought!!
“I guess as anyone in the hills would testify, you cannot but be inspired by Shiva,” she says. Even in her novel Shakuntala, that portrays the tragic life of a woman, Namita couldn’t escape bringing the hills into the picture.
Needless to add, her ‘Mountain Echoes’ which is a recollection of life in the hills through the eyes of four talented pahadi women—well known Hindi novelist Shivani, her grandmother Shakuntala Pande, Tara Pande and Jeeya (Laxmi Pande), Namita’s works betray her admiration for the hills.
What about her dislike for Delhi’s socialites (“Delhi is basically a small town with large pretensions”) as reflected in her path breaking novel—Paro: Dreams of Passion which created a stir by its frankness in early 80s and perhaps pioneered the sexually frank genre which later made Shobha De famous?
“The plain-speak in Paro wouldn’t come out as striking today as it did then. I do not dislike Delhi. I have lived there for years. But yes, the fascination is definitely for the hills and I can’t help it,” she says. Such was the popularity of Paro, that was essentially a satire about Delhi’s upper class, that Khushwant Singh described as “far more witty and genuinely irreverent than any of De’s novels.” You tell her that despite being attributed with pioneering the sexually frank genre, it’s Shobha De who hits the headlines and she says, “I have great regard for Shobha De. But, our writings are very different. She is more popular and that’s it.”
Tragedies have failed to deter her. She was stricken with the cancer of the uterus while she was finishing writing Paro. She barely survived. Few years later, her husband, Rajiv Gokhale, died of cirrhosis of liver. She continued writing while bringing up her two daughters. So, is she through with her fascination for the hills?
Far from it, for she is about to complete ‘Things to Leave Behind’ that again reflects Kumaoni society with all its eccentricities. And, like most hill people who have a certain eccentric streak, she says she has no control over her books.
“They just happen. I don’t plan. I can’t!”
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