Mamta Kalia


Mamta Kalia (b. 1940) did her post-graduation in English from Delhi University and was Principal of a college in Allahabad for 28 years. Mamta Kalia started writing at the age of nine and has more than 40 published books to her credit.Her novel Beghar was a major success and ran into five editions. She has written a collection of one-act plays, edited several books and is a regular contributor to leading magazines. Mamta Kalia has the unique distinction of writing both in Hindi and English. Her two collections of verse Tribute to Papa and other poems and Poems 78 have been particularly appreciated.
Mamta Kalia has been honoured with the Sahitya Bhushan Samman (2004), the Mahadevi Verma Memorial Award (1998) and the Yashpal Samman (1985)

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You are an accomplished poet and author , both in Hindi and English ? Can you tell us about the your literary journey ?

My father was a very learned man, a scholarly person. He had high aspirations for both his daughters. Like many kids I enjoyed being a prankster , but scored well in all subjects, except maths. The earliest memories of my home are rooms full of book racks, lined up against the walls…. Papa reading well into the night and mom dusting the rows of books and sneezing. Once , her pointed at these rows and said,’Mamta you have to master all these’.

In my teenage years I read many books that made sense. Sometimes the books were older than me and vice versa. One day I hit upon a maroon colored slim book with the title ‘Man Eaters of Kumaon’.I enjoyed reading it .Then I read ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier’.I also read Gunahon Ka Devta Novel by Dharamvir Bharati .All these books made me want to become a writer .Due to school texts, Shakespeare proved to be a great storyteller. Our house was visited by eminent authors like Jainendra Kumar,Dr.Nagendra,Muktibodh and Dinkar. My father’s job at Akashvaani exposed me to an array of artists and writers.

Kindly tell us about your literary endeavours.

Becoming a writer was almost ordained for me, but I wanted to write like none of these. My friends and I were living in an era of anger protest and discontent. The Nehruvian idealism was breaking down.The negative was more powerful than the positive. That was a time to throw away all the codes and modes .It was then that I wrote my poem ‘Tribute to Papa’. Its very first line came as a shock, not only to my father but also to other readers. It was ,’Who cares for you papa, who cares for your clean thoughts, clean words ,clean teeth?’
In hindi too I wrote at that time ,
’Love is now a worthless word’
Living makes some sense to us.’
I started out as a poet and absorbed Agyeya , Bhawani Prasad Mishra, T.S.Eliot, W.H.Auden, Corso and of course John Donne.
Twists of time and fate have made me live in several towns and the flavor is seen in my short stories ,novels and poems from time to time. I have more than 40 published books besides my e-texts and audio tapes. My very first novel ‘Beghar’(1971) dealt with the myth of Virginity. My first collection of poems in English also dates back to 1971.’Tribute to papa and other poems’ by Writers’ Workshop, Kolkata.My latest novel in Hindi has been published in 2017 and is receiving good reviews. My 15th short story collection is about to hit the stands. There is always some or the others unfinished or half done manuscript in my workshop since I know no other art or craft.

What do you think are the features that distinguish your writing from that of the others?

If you don’t regard me rash or brash I would say originality and ‘writing –in-the –present’ may be my plus points. My inclination towards anti-romantic poetry is another feature as the ‘genre of romance’ was generally expected of a young maiden in those days. It was the rage in me that got spurted out in the form of anti-romantic stories and helped me express the ingenious self.

What is your opinion regarding the budding writers of today who aspire for not the best but best sellers?

You must look upon budding writers tenderly and with hope. They must be tended like buds. The problem with them is that they have look upon best selling writers like Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, Anuja Chauhan as role models. They don’t even have patience to study R .K.Narayan .Plus they may be in a hurry. Writing is a long term race not a shotput.

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming Art and Literature Festival, 'Valley of Words'?

Oh! Literary festivals are fun. They are a feast of ideas and idols. One can always look forward to meeting doyens like – to name one and the only One –Ruskin bond. Overall it is a treat to listen to younger authors and peep into their creative minds.

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