Satish B. Agnihotri

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Dr. Satish B. Agnihotri, formerly a career bureaucrat, is now Professor at IIT Bombay at the Centre for Technology Alternatives in Rural Areas (CTARA). He retired as Secretary (Coordination & Public Grievances), Cabinet Secretariat. Prior to this he was also Secretary, Ministry of New & Renewable Energy.
Dr Agnihotri is an IAS officer of Odisha cadre from the 1980 batch. He has done his Master’s degree in Physics followed by M.Tech in Environment Science and Engineering from IIT, Bombay. He later did an MA in Rural Development followed by a Ph.D on sex ratio patterns in Indian Population from School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich UK.

He has written popular science articles and science fiction in Hindi in reputed Hindi Magazines like Dharmayug, Saptahik Hindustan and Ravivar, political Satire in Hindi in Dharmayug, Prabhat Khabar and Lafz. He also makes cross word puzzles in Hindi. His collection of political satires was first published as a book “Mitti Ke Raston kaa Desh” (Alokparva Prakashan) and later as “Tahan Tahan Bhrashtrachaar” by Rajkamal, New Delhi which was also translated by the author in Marathi as “Zopi Gelaa Kumbhakarna” by Parchure Prakashan, Mumbai.

GARHWAL POST INTERVIEW

How did your interest in satire writing develop?

I have been writing since my college days and the fact that I come from IIT makes my familiarity with crossword puzzles pretty obvious. My interest first materialized when I took the opportunity to translate a crossword puzzle into Hindi along with one of my friends. I continued to take this interest forward into writing satire where I began with converting the protagonist of one of the stories of Chandamama, Vikram, into that of my choice named ‘High Funda’. This picked recognition from students as they started relating to something that was popular amongst them back then.

At an age where access to people was not easy and quick, how did you manage to circulate your writings around?

I was able to disseminate my work as it had started getting published in a couple of magazines and newspapers. I remember that I used to visit Mr. Dharamveer Bharati who had once refused to accept my idea to incorporate science fiction in his magazine. However, soon after, he yielded to the idea and instantly had me published. I requested him to give me an opportunity to start writing for them. He was kind enough to consider my application, hence, counted me in.

You translate your work into other languages, like Marathi, yourself. Do you think this is a suitable option to retain the essence of one's translated work?

The fact whether a writer’s command over the other language is as good determines the scope of his translated work. It also becomes a matter of choice as although I know the other language well, I may not want to spend all my time translating my stories, with no time left to write new. I was able to translate all my stories earlier only because I had plenty of time to. If one can manage to shoulder the responsibility of even a translator besides being a writer, consider it the cherry on top.

There are not many Hindi writers coming up, perhaps because of the lack of as many role models as that of English. What is your take on that?

We have observed that writers abroad do not follow aggressive techniques of selling their books, they rather have them displayed in libraries where readers themselves take the initiative to dig in. Whereas, here the writer is expected to undertake vigorous promotion agendas for his book to be known among readers. However, this being the case, I feel that it becomes the promoter’s responsibility to understand readers’ inclination and endorse the right texts at the right place. If we can have numerous viewers for Hindi, we are sure to mobilize enough readers also

How far do you think this sudden spurt of literature festivals will succeed in retaining or promoting the reading culture of our country?

I would like to cite a very important observation here that I made years ago, that people did bounce back on to books after the cult of TV in foreign lands. They did not choose to remain seated before a TV all the time. They soon realized the essence of books. It is only in India that people give up their reading habits for technological advancements. I, hence, feel that in a world of technology, these festivals remind people of one beautiful reason to celebrate that is the existence of literature.


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