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“And Where Does One Find That Mystical Muse – Tinder?”: Samit Basu Unplugged

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This post is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s coverage of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival:

By Gayaz Ahmed:

Samit Basu

Success is always relative, and I don’t see myself as tremendously successful at all” says Samit Basu, one of the first Indian authors to experiment with the English Fantasy genre in our country by creating the parallel-universes which one had till then only experienced in books like the internationally acclaimed ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ series. His love for writing novels crosses all those multiverses he writes about, as he says “I wrote my first book for the same reason I’m writing my ninth book now: I love writing and telling stories.”

A bestselling author, he has won critical acclaim for his sci-fi novels like the ‘Gameworld Trilogy’, ‘Turbulence’ and ‘Resistance’. For someone whose work is to imagine and create things un-thought of, a passion for what you do matters more than anything else, as he tells us, “Fame, money, and any other happy accidents come and go on a daily basis, and if that’s what you’re writing for you are guaranteed an extremely frustrating time no matter how well your books do. Loving what you do is everything.” His initial projects like ‘Devi’ and ‘The Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma’ with Virgin Comics are perfect examples of what he thinks comics can do, like he says, “Comics teach you what is essential, teach you not to be precious about your words, and give you more sense than any other writing forms of what the skeleton of a story is.”

‘Turbulence’, which was considered as one of the best superhero novels of all time by, was based on the idea of ‘How would you feel if you actually got what you wanted?’ The story develops as a group of passengers in a plane get superpowers, that too the ones they really want. So is there a particular power Samit would like to have? “Everything. I want everything…Though to start with, the superpower that one of the Turbulence characters, Tia, has – the ability to split into multiple selves, live several lives and never really make choices again – would be nice.”

But for now his vote goes to ‘Elastigirl’ – his favourite superhero based on Helen Parr, from the blockbuster Pixar animated movie, The Incredibles. Why we ask, and there is a ready list: “1. She’s a real person, with real-world problems, 2. She’s struggling to cope, but retaining her sanity somehow, and has infinite empathy and warmth of heart, and 3. She is so gorgeous…”

Samit is also currently busy with the script work for the upcoming film-version of Turbulence, to be directed by Rohan Sippy. So what does someone who has created so many superhero characters think of the Indian superhero movie seen? “I think the superhero movies we’ve already made are hilariously bad. But I’ve been trying to get Turbulence made into a film for the last year, and I can understand far better the challenges and limitations that the Indian studio system and star system imposes on films of this nature. So I have a far better understanding of why our Indian superhero movies are the odd behemoths that they are.”

For someone whose work transcends not just geographical boundaries but also demographics, there is only one thing that he desires from people that read him, as he says, “I need my readers to have an imagination and a sense of humour.

Sounds like a reasonable promise for his fans to make!

For more, make sure you catch Samit Basu live in action at the ZEE JLF, speak about ‘From Here To Hogwarts’ on January 23, this Friday!

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What does your writing space look like?

It looks like a laptop. I write everywhere.

The view from your window…

… is a standard South Delhi neighbourhood. But I’ve acquired a flat in Bombay with a fantastic view of the sea and can’t wait to see the effect it has on the writing.

That what keeps you from writing/work…

Life. All the usual distractions everyone has, really. But I really enjoy my work, so if a distraction enters my life I’m usually fine with it.

What aspiring authors must Not do…

Make fools of themselves on social media pushing their work down everyone’s throats. Actually, they’re going to do it anyway, but it’s terribly annoying. Of course super-established writers do it too, so why blame the aspiring ones.

Tea Or Coffee?

Black Coffee and Green Tea.

Early Bird or Creature of the Night?

Any Time of Day or Night Bird, though usually early.

Road trip or Flying?


Okay to sip wine while writing?

I know several writers who have to drink as they write. I don’t, because I think I would produce drunk-text-type writing if I did.

What do you do when you hit the mythical Writer’s Block?

Work on something else. Do something else. Meet people. Read the entire Internet. Writer’s Block is no more precious than Engineer’s Block or Dentist’s Block. It’s just that we’re writers and have a special name for it.

And where does one find that mystical Muse?

Tinder? I don’t know. Most of my heroines owe a lot to people I’ve been in love with at the time of writing, though.

If not a writer, you’d be?

Film director. Video game designer. Actually I want to be these anyway. Maybe when I grow up.

A character of your own creation you have fallen for?

I love them all. I do know they are fiction, though, so I haven’t had a Ruby Sparks situation happen yet.

A character from a movie or book you wish you could be…

That’s a really long list. Right now it’s Tony Stark.

A book’s ending you wish you could change (not yours) and how…

The Ramayana. Ram would actually be a little nice to Sita after all that effort.

The one author you’d be happy to swap lives with?

Neil Gaiman.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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