American journalist and poet Christopher Morley (1890-1957) once said: “When you sell a man a book, you don’t sell him 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.” This quote sums up the outstanding work that Indian author Kavita Kané has been doing since 2013. She is specialized in mythology fiction and has a keen interest to tell stories about the lesser known characters in Puranic scriptures: Meneka, Uruvi, Satyavati, Surpanakha, Ahalya, Urmila and Goddess Sarasvati. All of these characters have one thing in common: they explore the beauty and complexity of emotions that the modern women of today can relate to.
It has been a year now that we decided to expand our cultural platform DesiYUP. Where music heals the heart, books give us the opportunity to live a million lives. Hence, we started our DesiYUP online bookshop. Our aim is to introduce inspiring Indian (diaspora) authors, especially females, who share fresh ideas, innovative insights and inspirational stories.
Relevance of ancient stories
Kavita is one such author who inspired me through her books. ‘Meneka’s Choice’ was the first novel I have read written by Kané. It’s a beautiful story that brings together heaven and earth. The impossible love story between celestial (apsara) Meneka and sage Vishwamitra was in fact the first seed leading to the theater production ‘Many Faces of Love‘, which was organized in 2020 and 2022. In this multidisciplinary production involving storytelling, music, dance and visuals, we portrayed nine ancient love stories, which delved into the interaction of female and male emotions.
“We tend to see these stories as ancient stories, but the stories have a relevance today. They are a living existence in our lives. There are so many women oriented stories, but nobody is going to talk about us, except us. As a writer I feel it’s my responsibility to write about women and encourage other female authors to do the same. I see it as a duty, because no one is going to tell our story.”
Different point of view
Kavita debuted with the novel ‘Karna’s Wife’, where she tells the story of Karna, a character in the epic Mahabharata, through the eyes of his wife. For this she created a whole new character who is the storyteller, his wife, his consciousness and his biggest critic. The process how she builds up her protagonist is quite interesting. According to Kavita every minor character has its importance, they are not just there to populate the epics, there is a reason why they are there. She uses the skeleton of the epic to provide a narration from the minor character’s point of view. Kané’s research completely relies on the major characters, folk stories, epics, which the minor characters are surrounded by. “We can relate to all these characters in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, because they talk about all the human relations, dilemmas, and emotions you can think of and in my books you see the entire story through the protagonist in a completely different point of view.”
Goddess Saravati inspires modern women
The most difficult character that Kavita wrote about till now, is her favorite Goddess Sarasvati. She is different from any other character that she wrote about, because all the other stories were about women, who did not have the lofty position of a Goddess. Kavita feels that in today’s world the Goddess of Knowledge is being neglected and knowledge is being misused for power. She questions the use of knowledge and if we have become better human beings with all the information that we have at our disposal.
“I believe that knowledge is not a one way conversation, it’s in fact an interaction. In my book I explored my own existential questions. For example; why do we never say Brahma-Sarasvati, like we do with Shiva-Parvati or Lakshmi-Narayana? Sarasvati is a complicated Goddess to portrait, because of her unconventional nature. She was a rebel but she didn’t fight wars. She didn’t want marriage, she did not have children, she was iconic in every way, she was not part of the regular.”
Through this book Kané indirectly reassures today’s women that it is completely fine to be in charge of your own life, taking Goddess Sarasvati as a prime example. “There is nothing wrong if you do not want to embrace motherhood or marriage. Sarasvati sort of endorses the other side of womanhood, that is most of the time looked upon with disapproval. She completely symbolizes the free thinking, independent women in every way.”
Written by: Mahesvari Autar