It’s very rare that you come across an author whose writing reminds you of one of India’s favorite children’s authors. An author whose stories talk of the same love for nature and fill you with desire and longing for a much simpler and chaos-free life.

We are talking about author Madhumita Roy and her latest book Bulti’s Adventures in the Dooars. The author currently works as an assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIEST, Shibpur.

When not reviewing and critiquing literature through an academic lens, the author loves to dabble her hands in fiction writing.

A passionate writer herself, Madhumita has published a collection of short stories titled Marigold Stories (2019) with Authorspress, New Delhi. 

While her latest book, Bulti’s Adventures in the Dooars is a children’s adventure fiction set amidst the picturesque forests of the Dooars. The book has been published by Rhino Publishing House, New York, and has received some rave reviews from readers.

She has also published her other creative writings in many national and international magazines. 

A voracious reader herself, she has grown up on a generous dose of fiction by famous authors including Ruskin Bond, Roald Dahl, P.G. Wodehouse, Leela Majumdar, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, and Satyajit Ray. Her current list of favorite authors includes a diverse range from Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Hilary Mantel, Haruki Murakami, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan, Leela Majumdar, to Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay. 

An academic by profession, she has earned her Ph.D. from IIT, Kharagpur, having written her thesis on Salman Rushdie – a writer, who by the sheer complexity and versatility of his writing, has been a subject of much intrigue and study for Madhumita.

We at bookGeeks got a lucky chance for a tete-e-tete with the talented author. Here’s what she has to say about her love for the written word, her writing, and her latest book, Bulti’s Adventures in the Dooars.

Tell us something about yourself. Who is Madhumita as a person, and how is she different as an author?
I am a person who is wholly involved in all the spheres of life, be it my family, my profession, or the socio-political context I inhabit. I believe, as an author, I exhibit the same attachment to my writing. I am committed to whatever I write.

However, when it is published, I also get detached and allow its reception to take its own course. Also, I value silence, curiosity, conviviality, and a positive spirit to overcome adversities despite limitations and suffering. I hope I manage to uphold the same values in my writing as well.

What do you do in your professional sphere? Has it ever conflicted with your writing or has it influenced it?
I am an academic working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIEST Shibpur. I wouldn’t say that my profession has conflicted with my writing.

However, as a teacher and a researcher of literature, I have learned to read literature as a problematic site open for critique. While as an author, I write more innocently with complete devotion to my characters and the plot.

Although it is impossible to completely erase the ‘awareness’ gained from my academic training, I consciously try to make my writing devoid of academic complexity. The complexities should emanate from the narrative itself rather than be imposed through a self-conscious craft.

Tell us about your latest book, Bulti’s Adventure in the Dooars ? Why did you choose the Dooars as the backdrop for Bulti’s adventures?
Bulti’s Adventure in the Dooars is a book about a young girl engaging in an adventure of a lifetime. I wanted to recreate the magic and the wonder that the children today cannot experience as the world has become so fast-paced and competitive.

However, my agenda was not to cash on the nostalgia of a time lost to us. I wanted to retain the charm of a wholesome, carefree childhood and update it with concerns that children face nowadays, such as consumerism, violence, and environmental crises.

In India, children’s literature does not usually have girl protagonists embarking on brave adventures. I also wanted to establish that girls can have fun while being heroes of their own adventures.

I recently visited Dooars with my family and realized it has a unique appeal. I also chose Dooars because it is indeed a pristine location that is unknown to children living in the metropolitan areas in India. It can offer so much delight to city-bred youngsters not only as a tourist spot but also for closely looking into its complex ecology.

I wanted to ignite the imagination of today’s children by describing a location that is both lived and real but at the same time inherently magical because of its natural grandeur.

How long did it take for you to write the book, from the idea inception to the final publication?
It took me around a year from conceptualizing to writing and finally to publishing this book.
Are you a disciplined writer or a spontaneous one?
I am definitely a spontaneous writer. I do not write regularly but in phases. And I often find that ideas develop and modify during writing rather than methodically organizing them before the process starts.

But writing itself is an activity that requires discipline. It involves dedication and hard work to fix treacherous words on the page. However, I suppose no author feels that perfection has been achieved regardless of her accomplishments.

What made you pick up children’s fiction as your preferred genre?
I also write short stories for adults. But when I visited Dooars, I wished I could experience the wonder of this place as a child because that would have done justice to its charm. So, I wrote a children’s story with a girl protagonist exploring Dooars through a beautiful adventure.

Also, when I took up the genre, I wanted to pay my tribute to children’s writers I have grown up reading, such as Ruskin Bond, Roald Dahl, P.G. Wodehouse, Leela Majumdar, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, and Satyajit Ray.

You hold a Ph.D. from IIT Kharagpur and the subject of your thesis is Salman Rushdie? Can you shed some light on this? What made you choose Mr. Rushdie for your research?
Yes, I worked on cities in Salman Rushdie’s novels for my Ph.D. Rushdie is a very interesting writer because his work is a confluence of so many (often contradictory) concepts; let’s say the East and the West, the real-life and the magical, the popular and the literary, the sentimental and the clever satire, traditional art of oral story-telling and studied modernist and postmodernist experimental techniques of writing fiction, and several others. So, his works cohabit several “differences” that offer a very important lesson for our world firmly divided into camps.

He is such a powerful storyteller that despite addressing many complicated concerns of our world, the “story” element remains dominant. For all these reasons and many more, he has always been an inspiration for academic inquiry and writing stories.

Tell us about your first memory related to writing.
I think I was around 6 or 7 years old. I had written a poem, which I vaguely remember. I think it rhymed quite well!
Who is your most important critic, and why?
It would be my immediate family comprising my mother, husband, and sister.
Tell us about your writing influences. Which authors have inspired you the most?
The list would be quite long. It would also include writers who are very different from each other. Let me mention some of them: Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Hilary Mantel, Haruki Murakami, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan, Leela Majumdar, and Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay.
Some tips for aspiring writers.
It is difficult to be a writer now. People have stopped reading. The publishing industry and platforms are getting increasingly exclusive and market-oriented at the same time. Writers need to excel in several extraneous factors that strongly impact getting their works published, recognized, and visible.

However, although not entirely enabling, the digital platforms have opened up new opportunities for aspiring writers to reach out to their audience. But regardless of these, I would say that if you are passionate about telling a story, nothing should stop you from doing so. Eventually, you will find an audience that appreciates you.

In your opinion, how can India make reading more affordable and accessible?
The readers, from their childhood, must be encouraged to read in their mother language. The variety, availability, and affordability of books written in one’s native language cannot be surpassed by writing in English in India.

However, Indian writers writing in English are increasingly reaching out to a broader audience by including topics and characters and writing in a language the young Indians can relate to. However, the quality of the writing, even if belonging to popular literature, needs to be maintained.

It is also essential that parents and schools help children consider reading as a valid form of entertainment and not just a task.

One quote that never fails to inspire you?
“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”— This is the last sentence from “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It never fails to instill hope and faith that life will come full circle and one just needs to work and wait for one’s turn.
Any future projects that you are currently working on?
I have envisioned Bulti’s stories as a series and am working on her next adventure. Additionally, I am working on a new collection of short stories.

Buy a copy of Bulti’s Adventures in the Dooars using the link below.

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