Increasingly, across a range of fields, success in cyberspace is enabling a smoother entry into the mainstream
‘The Internet sensation’ is no longer confined to the Internet. Bloggers, writers and musicians, having earned their hits in the virtual world, are now making rapid inroads into the real world. And publishers and recording labels are chasing them eagerly too. It would seem the days of aspirants trudging around with a portfolio tucked under the arm are about over. We bring you stories of three such individuals, belonging to different fields and languages.
Writing her own script
In the literary circles, she intruded as the housewife who brought Hindi literature to cyberspace. Today, 14 years after Manisha Kulshreshtha Hindi’s first e-magazine hindinest.com made it to the Internet, Manisha has seven collections of short stories and three novels to her credit. This winner of Rangeya Raghav Award of Rajasthan Sahitya Akademi recalls how after marriage when her husband, an Air Force officer, brought computer home she questioned its use. “He said it can put my talent of story writing to good use. He pushed me to create a Hindi website dedicated to literature and once I got going I found it infectious. The pressure of daily deadlines made me more organised. The response was good but at that time Hindi writers were not used to the computer. So I used to type all the content that I got. Simultaneously, I also pushed for a common font for Hindi through my write ups,” says Manisha who is a postgraduate in Hindi literature. “The thing with writing is that you want to know the response as soon as possible. And with social media you get a quick reaction.” It proved to be a decent business model as well. “Google tied up with us for ads and it was the first time that it associated with a Hindi website. It is not very profitable considering the amount of time I put in but yes, it adds butter to the bread that my husband earns.”
Soon her popularity grew beyond the cyberspace and Manisha was offered to write a novel by Raj Kamal Prakashan. Manisha came up with “Shigaf” (The Slit), a novel on Kashmiri women created a buzz in the literary circles. It was shortlisted for Gitanjali Indo – French Jury Prize in 2012 and Manisha was invited to Jaipur Literary Festival. “It talked about how the fate of women of Kashmiri Pundits is no different from that of Kashmiri Muslims.” She wrote in the form of a blog, which was something new for the Hindi literary landscape. “Writers used to write in the form of diary but blog gives you the liberty to play with comments. It was appreciated.”
Some critics tried to brand it as feminine literature but she was categorical that it was a political novel. “Women writers are often put into brackets and I want to break that.” Her latest novel “Panchkanya” is another step in that direction. It draws from five women from Indian mythology, namely Draupadi, Kunti, Mandodari, Tara and Ahalya. They are considered chaste from one point of view while from the other they are not considered ideal examples because they spent time with more than one man.
“These women represent an Indian femininity that we choose to ignore. They lived with more than one man and never accepted their domination. These women were empowered and sacrificed personal interests for national welfare. And more importantly, they were not trying to become masculine. My characters are contemporary but I want to suggest that the women of today carry the essence of these mythical women.” The novel is getting a good response from women who are straddling between Facebook and cookbook.
Manisha holds that like many things our concept of feminism is also borrowed from the West. “Either we nod to the Victorian idea of chastity, where the izzat of the family is associated with women or we tend to believe that a woman is liberated when she is in a position to caress her moustache!” Drawing a parallel, Manisha adds, similarly, we realised the importance of writing in Hindi when the market believed that if it has to reach the consumer it has to talk in his language. Now we are borrowing environment conservation when it exists in Vedas for centuries.”
When she started she was not in the good books of the purists. “They criticised how can a girl clad in jeans can be part of Hindi literary scenes. Then, they questioned my husband’s Air Force background but now there is acceptance. Namwar Singh is reading my novel and has some good things to say.”
Under the Raza Foundation fellowship, Manisha is writing a book on Kathak and Birju Maharaj. “It is a critique on Kathak and how an ordinary 14-year-old boy went on to the capture the imagination of the connoisseurs,” says Manisha, who is a visharad in Kathak.
She is also writing a book on Internet and Hindi for Gyanodaya. Manisha uses words like faded jeans in her writing and is not sorry about it. “The language is a river and is bound to take elements of the areas where it flows. There is no exact Hindi equivalent which can convey the meaning of faded jeans. However, I am not against using Sanskrit words. Like I have used sadhyasnata for a freshly bathed woman. The idea is to use a word which is closest to what I have in mind. If I don’t use such words, they will fade away,” she notes.
She is concerned about the lack of editorial rigour on the Internet, though. “Sometimes trash comes and it gets published as it is. However, it has democratised the space. If you have the talent you don’t have to necessarily run after the publisher. The likes on Facebook can do the job for you,” says Manisha eager to pass on the baton to many bloggers that dot the cyber space.