I am rather a Global, Cosmopolitan Citizen:

My message for the creative writers and readers is to be free-spirited and inclusive in expressing their thoughts and conviction into words. The purpose of writing may differ from person to person, but the singular intent should be to uphold the values of the society by producing intellectually sound and just work that adheres to the literary standards as well.

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Professor Nandini Sahu, the Amazon Bestselling Author(2022), is a major voice in contemporary Indian English literature. She has accomplished her doctorate in English literature under the guidance of Late Prof. Niranjan Mohanty, Prof. of English, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan. She has been widely published in India, U.S.A, U.K., Africa, Italy, Australia and Pakistan. Apart from numerous other literary awards, she is a triple gold medalist in English literature; she has received the Gold Medal from the hon’ble Vice-President of India for her contributions to English Studies in India in the year 2019. She is the author and editor of eighteen books, The Other Voice, The, Recollection as Redemption, The Post-Modernist Delegation to English Language Teaching, The Post Colonial Space: Writing the Self and the Nation, Silver Poems on My Lips, Folklore and the Alternative Modernities (Vol.I), Folklore and the Alternative Modernities (Vol. II), Sukamaa and Other Poems, Suvarnarekha, Sita(A Poem), Dynamics of Children’s Literature, Zero Point and Selected Poems of Nandini Sahu(Winter-2020), Selected Poems of Nandini Sahu(Spring-2021), Re-reading Jayanta Mahapatra, A Song, Half & Half and Shedding the Metaphors. She is the Former Director, School of Foreign Languages and currently a Professor of English at Indira Gandhi National Open University [IGNOU], New Delhi, India. Her areas of research interest cover Indian Literature, New Literatures, Folklore and Culture Studies, American Literature, Children’s Literature and Critical Theory. She is the Chief Editor/Founder Editor of Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Language (IJLL), a bi-annual peer-reviewed journal in English. Professor Sahu has designed multiple academic programmes on Culture Studies, American Literature, Postcolonial Literatures, Children’s Literature, Indian Folk Literature and Indian Philosophical Thoughts for IGNOU and many other universities.
In an exclusive interview with the Heaven Mail, she talks to Rameez Makhdoomi.
Rameez Makhdoomi: Madam, please tell me a bit about your childhood days.
Nandini Sahu: Thank you Rameez! I was born and brought up in a humble family of six girls in rural Odisha. Both my parents were high school teachers, who took special care to impart value systems in us. I have written about it in detail in my memoir ‘Being God’s Wife’, which is recently published from Black Eagle Publications, USA, in my book Shedding the Metaphor(2023)
RM: How was academic life like?
NS: My academic life was very fulfilling. I have always been a committed student and researcher. After completion of my PhD in English, I worked in Odisha, India, for a couple of years, after which I shifted to New Delhi as a Professor of English in the world’s largest university, IGNOU. I teach Literary Theories, New Literatures, American Literature, Postcolonial Literature, British Literature, Children’s Literature and most importantly, Folklore and Culture Studies in the University. Keeping in view the requirements of UGC and NEP, I take care of endangered languages preservation and the conservation of the dying cultures, indigenous knowledge systems. I am passionate about my work—to me, teaching is a noble profession and I am blessed to have got an opportunity to be a teacher.
RM: Your favourite authors ? Your inspirations?
NS: For my theoretical approaches, I read Theodor Adorno, Michael Bakhtin, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvior, Cleanth Brooks, Jaques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jaques Lacan, Luce Irigaray, Plato, Aristotle, Elaine Showalter, Raymond Williams, Helen Cixous, and many more. Among the Indian theorists, I presser to read Arjun Appadurai, and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Kumkum Sangari, Bharata, and many others.
Apart from that, I read lot of novels, poetry and stories from world literatures.
RM: What topics you like to write on?
NS: I am a folklorist, poet and story writer. In my writings, one can easily find a poetry-theory symbiosis. The theorist in me peeps into my poetry, the poet in me willy-nilly enters my classrooms. The folklorist in me believes in the preservation of traditional knowledge systems of India.
Also, my poems appear to have an unremitting relation with various aspects of isolation, loneliness, solitude, alienation of the self from external realities in a world without any apparent resolution. This is the existential dilemma of most modern literature. While my world is filled with personal pain, guilt, remorse, hunger, desire and moments of renewal,my environment is filled with symbols of belief drawn from the ordinary lives of the people of Odisha, the temples, the Indian festivals and folklores, the ancient monuments. It will appear to anyone that I am a poet with a tall fidelity to my native environment—but the fact is, I am rather a global, cosmopolitan citizen. In my case, a poet’s positive response to her geographical as well as cultural backgrounds plays a significant role in assuming a mask of the personal. It is a sort of ‘supra-mundane identity’ developing from my physical identity. By virtue of my birth and upbringing, I am firmly rooted in the landscape of my native land Odisha. I am a product of my circumstances, both historical and literary, one with a largely rural and romantic sensibility that is totally Indian in its thematic and ethical orientations, as Indian as my contemporaries in the other Indian languages. My world is coloured with the historicity and religiosity of the cultural connotations of India which can be exemplified from my poetry collections like Sukamaa and Other Poems, Sita, Zero Point, The Other Voice, Silver Poems on My Lips, The Silence and A Song, Half & Half. Also, my recent story collection Shedding the Metaphors has many stories that talk about my Indian sensibilities.
RM: Your goals madam?
NS: My message for the creative writers and readers is to be free-spirited and inclusive in expressing their thoughts and conviction into words. The purpose of writing may differ from person to person, but the singular intent should be to uphold the values of the society by producing intellectually sound and just work that adheres to the literary standards as well. For example, if it is poetry,then it should follow the constraints of rhyme, meter that it is distinguishable from an ordinary piece of contemporary writing. The modern writer should be able to balance the exchanges between the art’s capacity to communicate the aesthetic truth of the social realities and its complexities within the limits of these rules. As for prose, it should be verbose enough to express everything that is there to be conveyed without being too verbiage. For me, every word, either written or spoken, is part of an endless exchange of politico-cultural context that succeeds or precedes the word. Giving voice to this would create a space for true knowledge-exchange which would create a more humane society for which I strive. To summarise, I can say that “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”RM: How do you see role of women in present Indian society?
NS: It’s very complex. Women have become confident and assertive . Ecofeminism has entered our literary and social settings in a big way. Gone are the days when women were given a secondary status, at least in the urban spaces. In rural India, we still need to do a lot of social mobility. Fortunately, there are powerful voices in literature and all other fields who are voicing for the marginalized.
RM: Your message for the society ?
NS: I am a poet, creative writer, academician and a folklorist. I am yet to discover my true calling in life but all that I have done till this moment has been done with the singular purpose of finding that meaning. The search for that unknown end is still a work in progress, as with every new challenge that I undertake, I discover a novelty of sense and purpose every time. My work and its scope speaks for itself. Besides, for me, the journey is more important and meaningful than the destination itself.
RM: Tell us about your literary journey? Do you consider yourself as a voice for the marginalized?
NS: My literary journey has been rewarding and engaging. Yes, I attempt to be a voice for the voiceless, the subaltern, the marginalized. Ever since human civilization came into existence, there has been some or the other kind of inequality. Not all beings are the same. Humans, flora and fauna, the inanimate aspects of the universe, the planetary bodies, terrestrial and extra-terrestrial beings, are all different, they have always been so. But the essential aspect of the inequalities bestowed upon all of these by divinity is not the one from which emanates inequality amongst fellow human beings. The basis of class divide, a system brought into being by us, is based, ideally, in two grounds: the principles of normativity, and magnitude of wealth and resources possessed. In any case, this kind of distinction is not in assonance with the essentiality of difference that nature bestows upon us. Men and women, animals with so many varieties, trees, plants, and other beings and things are different, created differently. But this is a specific purpose in mind (perhaps, of the divinity that controls all actions – physical or metaphysical). Instead of understanding the core of these differences, as we progressed in time, we began to misinterpret and misuse them. The core of the original idea, or the essentiality of differences, is very simple: some animals eat plants, other animals eat these plant eating animals, and the process goes on, ultimately maintaining a balance in nature. Likewise, speaking with great courage and apprehension, I must admit, because it is tough to say such things these days when everything is assessed in terms of some shady political agenda, men and women were created differently for nature had a plan in mind. The two were created in such a way that one would complement the other and together they would create an organic whole, and together this organic whole would sustain the forces of nature and take upon themselves the responsibility of continuing human life on the planet earth. Based on multiple grounds, boundaries were set by nature for all beings, including men and women. However, with time, these boundaries got blurred, the idea got fuzzy, and things got otherwise. I understand that growth and development are integral parts of evolution and that things do not always remain the same, they are not meant to, but what I fail to understand is the rationale behind meddling with the natural order of things. Well, whatever be the logic, time progressed and we became what we are today, a world with people divided on the basis of gender, race, sexuality, and even economic resources. And no matter how hard I try, I cannot establish any link between the essentiality of difference as affected by the natural order of things and the segregation of people prevalent in current times.
To get to the point, my motive in my creative writing is to talk about the marginalized. Under the broad term of marginalized studies, we talk about the rights and rightful places of such groups of people who have been subjected to biased practices, social ostracization, sub-standard behaviours and have been treated as second class citizens, all because they do not fit into the standard norms of the society or because they are, by design, inferior to a certain group of people. It is important to understand that, in almost all cases, the people who are subjected to social, sexual, political, economic or any other kind of prejudice are in minority. That is, by strength of magnitude, the modern-day-oppressed are outnumbered by the modern-day-oppressor. However, the insignificance of the number of the people being prejudiced, does, by no means, makes the discussion insignificant. And if we are to bring statistics into the play, upon adding up the number of people from among such groups of people who live at the margins of the mainstream society, the figure gains significant magnitude. I take up my pen and voice for them who may not be in a position to voice for themselves.
Because, for me, ‘the personal is political’!

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