Monday, July 15, 2024

In Conversation with Padma Shri Arup Kumar Dutta – Renowned Author

Robin Bhuyan (Editor)

Naba Kumar Sharma (Staff Reporter)

Arup Kumar Dutta is an award winning author from Assam, who has written numerous novels in English for adults, juveniles as well as for children. Due to his contributions to literature he has received several awards during his career, such as the Shankar’s Award in 1979, and the Padma Shri, India’s forth highest civilian honor, in 2018. Some of his well-known works include Kaziranga Trail, The Blind Witness, Revenge, and The Ahoms. Enigmatic Horizon recently had the pleasure of having a conversation with this man, where he talks about how he got into the world of writing, as well as his views of modern literature and journalism in the present day. Let us take a look….

EH: First of all, tell us how exactly you got inspired to start writing and when?

AD: I was always interested in writing as a child, but there was a significant event in my childhood, which made me realize my writing capability. When I was in second standard, our teacher one day asked us to write an essay, and I decided to write one about a journey to Shillong. Next day in the class, our teacher complimented my essay, and praised me for writing so vividly about my trip with so much detail. When I told her that I had actually never been to Shillong, she told me that I have a very strong imagination, and told me that I would become a writer one day. Perhaps, this was when a seed was implanted in my subconscious, which made me take up a writing career later on.

EH: So how did things continue?

AD: During my initial days, I tried to get my works published, but during that time, the number of magazines and newspapers were quite limited, which is why it was very difficult to oneself published. After years of struggle, when I was in my early twenties, I was eventually able to get one of my short stories published.

EH: How many books have you written in your entire career? Out of these, which book has provided you the most satisfaction?

AD: So far, I have written eighteen books, both fiction and nonfiction. I have also written seventeen novels for juveniles. Regarding my books, I would say that every book is significant for a writer. I consider all my books to be equally fulfilling. But there was one book, which had enabled me to pursue writing as a full-time career, which was Kaziranga Trail, which had become quite famous.

EH: You have written in detail not just about historical issues, but also about wildlife and environmental issues. How do you manage to write about so many issues?

AD:  Well, this is because I consider myself as a versatile writer. I write non-fiction as well as fiction for adults as well as juveniles. I write editorials for newspapers, as well as satirical columns. In addition, when I write about a particular subject, I do proper research on it. For instance, I had spent around two years doing research on the Great Indian Rhino. I also use knowledge from my observations and my experiences, combined with my research for my writing.

EH: What are your plans for the future?

AD: Although I turn 77 next month, I don’t plan to put down my pen. Right now, I am writing a book on Mahapurush Sankardev, which will take me around one year to write. I try to write my books in a way which is going to appeal to the common people. For example, my book The Ahoms, has gained immensely popularity, as it was highly imaginative, and highly readable, rather than being a serious book on history.

EH: You may not have been involved directly with the world of journalism. However, is there any major difference that you see between journalism in the modern times and journalism fifty years ago?

AD: Firstly, the number of media outlets have increased. Now as we all know, whenever there is an increase in quantity, the quality generally deteriorates. The kind of journalism that we saw in the 80s or 90s is something that we rarely see today. There was a time when politicians used to be afraid of the editor of a newspaper. But now that time is gone, and journalists have lost their integrity. They tend to support the people in power. Most of them have been purchased and instead of focusing on the truth, they are focused on their own agendas. But there are exceptions. Good and honest journalists do exist. But in general, there is a sign of degeneration when we talk about journalism as a whole.   

EH: Today, we are moving towards the digital era. Do you think that this will make an impact on book reading and print media?

AD: It will definitely make an impact in my opinion. The biggest problem with digital media is that a lot of spurious content has been put out on the internet, and social media has played an important role in this. Many people find it difficult to determine which news is fake and which one is genuine. The advantage of print media is that once you publish something in a newspaper, you are held liable for it. You can’t delete or alter it later on, or say ‘No, we didn’t publish this!”. Print media, therefore, is forced to adhere to certain principles. Thus, I feel that as long as there are honest and sincere readers, I think print media will continue to exist.  

EH: There used to be a time when literary works were on a whole different level. However, today, we can see that a lot of cheap literature is coming out, especially in English. What would you say about it?

AD: There are a group of writers who produce what I would not even call literature, but we can call it cheap entertainment. There is one writer in India, who writes fictional stories based on mythology, and his books sell thousands of copies as soon as they are released. However, if we talk about serious writers, like Vikram Seth or Amitabh Ghosh, even they are not able to sell that many number of copies. There is another writer who engages in very silly writing but his works are quite popular amongst youngsters. Salman Rushdie is someone whom I would consider among my favourite writers.   But how many youngsters even read any of his works today? Therefore, it gets difficult for serious writers like us. However, luckily most of my works are commissioned. Even my book on Ahoms was commissioned, and therefore I am assured payment before I start writing.  

EH: It was a pleasure talking to you, Mr. Dutta. We wish you the best in your future projects.  

AD: Thank you very much!

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