Writer without a pause, pen for a cause

CHITRA MUDGAL, recipient of Sahitya Bhushan Puraskar conferred by the Uttar Pradesh Government, 2001-2002, for contribution to Hindi literature, is synonymous with feminism. The much appreciated novel "Aavaan" -- meaning the potter's kiln - of the 58-year-old writer is one of the best Hindi novels and was awarded the Indu Sharma Samman in 2000 by the South Asian Katha Group in London. On the occasion, noted litterateur Girish Karnad, Director of Nehru Centre, felt that the book deserves an international award akin to the Booker prize. After all, rarely has a person written with such sensitivity about where the older generation went wrong. It is easy to blame the younger generation for the chaotic social milieu today. But is it a justified observation?

The novel deals with women, trade unions and the socio-political makeup of society. Some reviewers of this book thought it important to observe that she was the first woman novelist to write a book comprising 550 pages. Chitra says, "This shows the lack of respect towards works by women novelists."

Chitra's other novel earning rave reviews is "Giligaddu". The term is used in the story by a grandfather for his twin granddaughters. The rising loneliness among the senior citizens has been dealt with rather starkly, hitting out at the younger able-bodied generation.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, Chitra, daughter of a Naval Commodore, has seen the discipline and social life of the Navy. She has also questioned the secluded life her mother, a lady from the Thakur clan, had to lead and has mentioned about the discrimination faced by Thakur women as they had to remain behind the veil and couldn't enter the mansion through the main door. Because of her rebellious attitude Chitra faced stiff opposition from her father but she went ahead with her decision to join the trade unions with Datta Samanta. Those days she was in college.

Chitra joined Jagaran, a social organisation run by the social activist, Mira Tai and took to running the office, which served the cause of the industrial workers. Subsequently she married a Brahmin, much against the wishes of her father. A turning point in life came with the brutal murder of Tai in broad daylight even as eyewitnesses remained mute onlookers to the tragic incident. Each incident in her life has found place in her work.

Inspired by the works of Amritlal Nagar and Premchand, the inspirational flame was however ignited after Chitra read Maxim Gorky's "Mother". Chitra has written innumerable short stories, four novels which include, "Aawaan", "Giligaddu", "Ek Zameen Apni" and "Madhavi Kannagi"; and five short story collections for children and a collection of write ups.

Chitra is perhaps the only writer in the Capital working as a social activist at the grassroot level, looking after under privileged women, children of slums and construction sites.

A staunch believer of equal rights for women, she runs her own organization, Samanvay, which works towards arousing a sense of social responsibility among people. She is also associated with Stree Shakti and the Mahila Manch of Uttar Pradesh.

Chitra says, "Writers today need to go among people to understand them so as to create more life like characters that tug at the reader's heart. Only then will the purpose of writing be served. The reader on his part needs to read to be able to understand people better."