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Anita Bhatnagar Jain

Anita Bhatnagar Jain

Anita Bhatnagar Jain

How did you gravitate towards writing?

Writing seriously, came to me by chance! I was in Govt. of India where there is an additional division of official languages. Since everybody is overburdened with work nobody wants to take up the responsibility. By chance, I was given this division of official language. I believe whatever you do, you should do with passion. I thought why celebrate official languages only in September during ‘Hindi Pakhwara’. Therefore I initiated an official magazine, which had not been published in the department since eight years.
This was a magazine for which the officials would write articles, poems, stories and so much more. Since I was the editor I wrote two articles for the magazine. Luckily we brought out the first edition of the magazine,named it ‘Shikshaya’ and our department won the President Award for it. Slowly and steadily with some good feedback, I started realizing that I can write.

You have chosen to write your first book in Hindi, although you’re well versed in both Hindi and English. But why prioritize Hindi?

I have chosen Hindi because I sincerely believe that all the regional languages, should be kept alive otherwise we are losing our culture. If we have to keep dance alive we’ve to teach our children regional dance forms. Similarly, we should speak in our language and we should encourage them to read in that particular language. I have made a habit that whenever I speak; I speak in one language and not mix up languages. In this way I get a control over languages.

‘Dilli Ke Bulbul’ is concentrating on giving a moral message and as well as concentrating on the environment. Why choose this theme?

I’ve been working in the environment sector since I was 18, it’s a long time that I have been connected to this sector. After I got posted as District Magistrate in Kanpur, I saw the pathetic state the river banks were in. I started cleaning the banks myself and then I involved a number of schools and we started applying pragmatic methods to improve the environment, this was the Children Environmental Army which I constituted.
The whole focus was that one needs to start from oneself and not really worry about what the Government does, what the Nagar Nigam does! The focus has to be on children and if we are able to make some dent in children psyche towards the planet,it is going to benefit the generations to come. I have chosen environment since things have changed alarmingly, so what kind of future are these children going to have? They may want to become an engineer or doctor or entrepreneur but if the Earth is not in the state that you can live a healthy and happy life here,what’s the point of it all?

Please enlighten us about your documentary.

As I had already been working on environmental issues with children in Kanpur and making people aware about their duty towards it, somebody suggested that why not make a film or documentary because I already had exposure to Radio and Television. I created this film around 2009 in two languages named ‘Hamari Prithvi, Hamara Ghar’ in Hindi and ‘Our Earth, Our Home’ in English because this earth is our home and if this concept sinks into children’s psychology and even in adults it would be meaningful. I have made this film entirely by myself. This film was noticed by UNESCO in 2010 and they asked permission to screen it in India and in other developing countries too, they got a good response! Its prescribed in the courses of CBSE and NCERT.

What was your experience during publishing process because that’s the hardest thing authors are facing? How did that happen? And what about the amazing illustrations which are in the book that you’ve conceptualized? How was that process?

Luckily I did not face any problems maybe because my articles were already getting published and praised. So I believe I have some kind of credibility. It was the other way around, the publisher read the stories and was convinced that you should come out with these stories. I am thankful that the person had faith in me.
As for the illustrations,I had conceptualized everything, describing in great detail how it should be and what we are trying to portray. When the book was launched by Hon’ble Governor U.P. Shri Ram Naik Ji , he said “You’ll first look at the illustrations they’re so attractive and then you’ll read the story.”

How much time did you require to conceptualize all the illustrations?

I don’t think I needed much time because while I was travelling from one place to another, I would dictate the concept on the phone and once it would come I would go through them number of times. A lot of detailing has gone into it including the kind of expression that have to be portrayed! For instance,on the cover the Bulbul is looking at WhatsApp and she was suppose to look worried because she just got a message that her nieces are going to visit her. Now Bulbul is really worried because the tree on which she lives is going to be cut because an illegal map has been sanctioned for a mall. All of them have to search for new houses. I am really thankful to the artist and the publisher. They’ve really done a terrific job.

The book cover is beautiful! If you could tell us about the background, that is, Delhi and why WhatsApp?

The background is Delhi because for a very long time I was posted in Delhi and number of stories are inspired by Delhi. I wanted to convey the housing problem of birds in a city like Delhi. The concept of WhatsApp is that Earth does not belong only to human beings, it belongs to all the birds, the animals and we’re part of it. Human beings, birds and animals together they’re trying to save the Earth. On the WhatsApp the message is “Namaste Maasi” so my idea was that we’ve forgotten how to greet each other in our traditional ways. Most of the stories are based on true events and in every story I have tried to end it on a positive note. I have tried to give small positive messages.

The book is going to be featured in ‘Valley Of Words 2018’ in November. What is your perspective on lit fests?

I’ve never been to any lit fest but have been reading about them. I think reading habits have drastically decreased and this is also a cause for concern. I feel that literary festivals are very essential because they tend to focus and give platform to authors to come and project what they’re doing and the whole world comes to know about them. It’s a good way to keep the reading habit rejuvenated and keep it alive.

About the Interviewee:

An additional chief secretary-rank officer, Anita Bhatnagar Jain joined the civil services in 1985. She got inclined towards writing during her stint in the department of languages.
Jain has edited two magazines besides writing scores of travelogues.
She has also made a documentary on environment called 'Our Earth Our Home’.
‘Dilli Ki Bulbul’ is her first book.