Conversations with writers can range from the ephemeral and the trivial to the erudite and creative. Much depends on the interviewer who engages with the writer because, in an interview, the writer would naturally respond only this much and no more. Most often, it is the interviewer who sets the tone and draws out the writer. So when Sayen Dey and Ananya Sarkar in their Conversations with the pioneering postcolonial theorist, Bill Ashcroft, the theatre and art connoisseur and writer, Shanta Gokhale, and the prolific fiction writer, Shashi Deshpande, choose to focus on academic concerns and theoretical frameworks, it is natural for the explorations to be deep and thoughtful. Many significant questions are raised and the analysis that follows challenges one to take a look again at many of the preconceived and facile academic habits that we as scholars fall into. They jerk one into thinking with newer perspectives on postcolonial theories, feminisms and art and theatre.
It is fortunate that among the many contributions received, a companion piece to the Conversation with Shashi Deshpande could be featured with Debabrata Sardar’s paper on the exploration of widowhood in her short fiction tracing the transition from traditional tropes to modern manifestations of widowhood. In other essays, there are insights into the painfully relevant work of the 2015 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, the great humanist, Svetlana Alexievich (Shikoh Mohsin Mirza). Investigations into the pastoral ethics in Ruskin Bond (Pharmenash Ch Marak & Dwijen Sharma), the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in Amandeep Sandhu’s Roll of Honour (Manjinder Kaur Wratch), folklore of Kashmir (Manzoor Ahmad Najar) and Nagaland (Subhra Roy); they form the core literary discussions in this issue.
One significant point that I would like to raise before signing off this time: ours is an age of massive documentation, what with FB posts documenting personal and professional moments – right from what one has had for lunch, to marriage anniversaries, to the number of times one has ‘graced’ the mike at public functions, to books being published and reviewed, awards being won and returned, and of course the ubiquitous and all- pervading photographs and selfies. This has prompted a wit to comment (again, on FB!) that ours in an age in which we document so much the achievements which are so meagre. But, rigorous documentation of significant material and citation of sources still leaves so much to be desired in scholarly work. And yes, very often, relevant information is just not available: Shanta Gokhale has acted in a TV serial directed by Amol Palekar, says Wikipedia – the ever-ready reference source. I have tried to find out which serial it was and when it was telecast: blank – stray references to Kachchi Dhoop and Kareena, Kareena, but no authentic information!! If this can happen to a visible artist like Shanta Gokhale, it points to the ephemeral nature of the documentation that happens in the virtual world. Also, to the need for more ground level, perhaps, archival work, which grounds itself in facts and authentic information.
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