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Nayantara Sahgal_ When the Moon Shines by Day

Nayantara Sahgal_ When the Moon Shines by Day

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Nayantara Sahgal_ When the Moon Shines by Day

There are a bunch of writers who have written about Indira Gandhi how is your book Indira Gandhi – Tryst with Power different in its treatment?

Indira Gandhi was my cousin, we grew up in the same home, Anand Bhawan in Allahabad, and our family was committed to the fight for freedom under Mahatma Gandhi. This made for a strong family bond and devotion to the same political ideals. The reason why I felt compelled to write this book was because I felt she had departed from those ideals in imposing authoritarian rule.

I have been able to give a personal perspective as well as a study of her political style which probably sets my book apart from what others have written about her.  I have added a profile of Indira in the latest edition of the book and this provides some glimpses of the human being she was, a person of sensitivity and with a lovely sense of humour.

Your novels have always been set against political situations.Do you think that contemporary writers are scared to write without being afraid of repercussions?

I cannot speak for other writers but my own fiction will continue to be strongly political. This is so of the new novel I am now writing. I do believe that the best Indian writers have never been afraid of saying what they have to say. One recent example is Perumal Murugan, who was threatened with death if he continued to write, and was forced to give it up for his own and his family’s safety, but he has just brought out a new book and will continue to write. Dictators have always been afraid of art – they see freedom of expression as a threat – but art has survived dictators.

What was the one attribute that differentiated Indira Gandhi from modern leaders across the world?

I admired her great personal courage in dangerous situations. During her Prime Ministership I admired her policy of giving shelter to ten million refugees from (then) East Pakistan and her statesmanship in declaring an immediate end to hostilities as soon as the war for Bangladesh was won.

Please tell us a bit about your latest novel ‘When the Moon Shines by Day’.

The story takes place in today’s India, and not in the future. The characters in the story come up against disturbing signs of change but don’t quite know what to make of them, since such things have not happened before and are alien to the India they have grown up in. They are clearly worried about the changes taking place and the kind of future that lies ahead.

What is the one thing that you admire about bibliophiles/writers from Doon which sets them apart from the others?

I don’t think Doon writers are different from other writers. We are all one community, all in need of the time and space to write and be published and read as widely as possible.



About the Interviewee:

Nayantara Sahgal’s published works include ten novels, a collection of short stories, memoirs, and wide-ranging literary and political commentary in her works of non-fiction.

She has received the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Sinclair Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Leeds.

She has held Fellowships in the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Bunting Institute, and the National Humanities Center.

In 1990 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She is the niece of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Her family fought for independence under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, and her father died of his fourth imprisonment during British rule.

She was associated with the founding of the People’s Union For Civil Liberties in 1980,  and in 2015 she returned her Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against the ongoing assault on freedom of expression and democratic rights in India.