ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Debajani Mohanty is a senior I.T. professional with an MNC in India. "The Curse of Damini", her debut novel is a supernatural thriller published by Penguin group.
Q. Characterize yourself in one word?
Q. Please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.
Endless struggle of Indian women to achieve the status of equality in society narrated with style, romance, mystery as well as an adventure to get the readers glued to the story.
Q. Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing (and getting published, if applicable) before breaking out with this book?
The book is written with a mindset to eradicate violence and discrimination against women from the society. I started writing this some 3 years back after the horrendous Nirbhaya episode in Delhi that had shamed the country and the world. However, not only sexual abuse, the novel covers almost all the different aspects of suppression on women be it in the form of forced prostitution, widowhood, adultery or negligence of girl child.
Financial independence of Indian women is my dream and “The Curse of Damini” my debut novel is my maiden attempt and a small effort in the same direction.
Q. What was the time frame for writing this book? Tell us an interesting detail or two, if applicable. For example, did you finish the first draft after one week?
“The Curse of Damini” is a historical fiction that covers past seven decades of Indian history. In order to do justice to the story, I had to read 50+ books written on a similar track and communicated in-person with numerous old ladies of Odisha and Bengal to hear their first-hand experience of partition, riots, and norms of society at that time.
For those who have already read the book, there is a suicide track in the novel, also there is an incident where the protagonist’s best friend goes through the process of widowhood where her bangles are broken and she is offered a white Sari to wear. While writing those chapters I had to read many articles on the internet and watched many Bollywood as well as Hollywood video clips of similar sequences. Doing so day after day, and may be a week after week, I got into severe depression and finally wrote those killer lines. I settled back into normal life after some vocal therapy by my dear husband.
The first draft of the novel got completed in four months, and that was only the beginning. The manuscript was then sent to around 100 educated as well as independent female friends across the world for review, followed by critiquing by a leading literary society in England and editing by a top editorial agency in India.
Collecting their thoughts I had sent a summary to PM Modi’s PMO site some 3 years back for the eradication of rape. Construction of toilets was one of my suggestions there and later I was elated when it was implemented as the very well known program “Souchalay”.
The whole process took almost 3 years as the book was released on 29th December 2015 on the third death anniversary of Nirbhaya in presence of Nirbhaya’s parents and many educated & eminent people of Delhi.
Q. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I think the only thing I did right was a will to do something good for society, the rest came to me naturally which I may consider as the grace of God. Be it my associations with Nirbhaya Jyoti trust, goodwill of colleagues at work, helping hand of the Odia community as well as many NGO workers, it all worked for me.
Q. Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing to build a platform and gain readership?
I didn’t have really. I even do not have a blog at the moment and I am yet to use twitter efficiently. So far I have extensively used Goodreads as well as facebook for getting connected to people.
Q. Favorite novel?
There are so many, let me quote a few; Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi. However, there are many others that I forgot to mention or am yet to explore.
Q. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I had a near death experience.
Ha Ha! No personal stuff really, among friends I am widely known as an open book.
I was born in a higher middle-class, educated family of Odisha and was privileged to get good education and training in classical music. I graduated as an Electronics and Telecommunication engineer back in 97 from U.C.E.(current VSSUT) Burla and have been into the I.T. industry ever since. Currently, I am working with NIIT Technologies Ltd in Delhi/NCR as a Technical Architect. Being born to an Odia father, Bengali mother and married to a North-Indian from U.P. I am fortunate enough to know India as a whole. My work profile, long-term stay abroad and passion for traveling has enabled me to travel across half of the globe on my own and open my eyes to the wider world.
Q. What’s next?
My next novel would be named “From deepest Canyon to Highest Mountain” which would be based on the real life of a woman of modern India and cover domestic violence & abuse and social treatment towards it.
Q. Future of SALISMANIA.com through your eyes?
Thanks for all the good work that you are already doing. Hope someday you would emerge as one of the top five e-magazines of India.