Very often we come across women who not only have made it big in almost every aspect of life but reaching the top has not stopped them from pushing ahead and scale new heights. It was not the zenith that intrigued them to gather all they could and reach there but the dream to see many others to climb and share that space with them that kept them moving. One such woman is Vinita Sharma Bakshi, an award winning sociologist and a passionate social entrepreneur whose stories has been inspiring many around her. In her latest foray, she has decided to tell tales, tales that inspire many others like her.
An alumnus of the prestigious Delhi School of Economics, Vinita has always been the perfect example of a modern-age Indian woman who worked for the uplifting of the community at large. Her services have been recognised by various prestigious organisations world over. She is the founder, architect and the brain behind AAMBRA Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to women empowerment and skill development. The foundation, besides other works, organises a tri-annual seminar series dealing with the issues faced by contemporary South Asian women. She has also founded AAMBROTSAVE, an annual cultural festival which brings to the fore not only literature but also the visual and performing arts, crafts, cuisines and weaves.
The multi-faceted persona of Vinita hides within her another talent that has given us the opportunity to have a chat for our newspaper. Creative and passionate, Vinita also has a deep love for the written word. She has vast experience, working for women’s rights and empowerment, which has brought her in contact with hundreds of individuals who aspire to emancipate themselves economically and socially using channels of education, awareness and work ethic. She has published a myriad of papers on gender and feminism, all of which were appreciated widely by readers and critics across the globe. Taking a step further in this direction, Vinita has now come out with a fiction novel. Her debut book goes by the name ‘31 Miles- Can We Ever Win Against Ourselves?’ and was released worldwide in the month of November last year.
Based on the hot topic of ‘online dating’, the book has garnered rave reviews from readers all over the world. Not only is the book a commercial hit, keeping Vinita busy with book-signing all over the globe, the tales she has told are acclaimed critically as well. The book has been characterized as an astonishing work of literature by someone who had never published a book before. We asked Vinita to tell us more about the book to which she answers, “The novel-‘31 Miles- Can We Ever Win Against Ourselves?’- is a journey of a woman who finds herself immersed in admiration of an online Non-resident Indian friend Rajan despite being married to a caring husband with two loving daughters. A new concept, particularly to women here in India and South Asia, Technical literacy has certainly created new dimensions, more so in the life of educated female homemakers, who are an amalgamation of tradition and modernity. In the era of social media having a separate Internet image is in vogue but the kind of profile which people have is what people want to be or want to look like, not what they actually are.”
She continues, “Technology is pervasive and if not used wisely it slowly crawls in our private spheres to eventually choke and push us into an abyss. Internet is available but the information of its pros and cons, the territory which you are entering, how to cope with it emotionally, and such information is lacking. Even though Mansa, the protagonist of the novel, is empowered and educated but technology impacts her institution of marriage. Her inability to acknowledge the emptiness in her relationship and subsequent inclination towards new found friend on social media traps her in between social customs and so-called modern thoughts. Both Rajan and Mansa try to fill some gap of their individual loneliness. Awareness is mandatory because before diving into deep waters it’s better to know what you are diving in.”
While for many of us, the book has been the best of Vinita we know but there is more to her journey in the literary world. Her voice has been heard by many prestigious mediums all over the world, time and again. She has been interviewed and reviewed by ITV NewYork, Huffington Post, DD National, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Millennium Post, The Tribune, The Pioneer, The Asian Age Savvy and a host of other big and small news papers, TV channels and magazines. Her book launch in Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 was a big attraction of the festival. She has also been a regular participant of World Book Fair and Delhi Lit Fest, the 2017 editions of both these event being landmark of Vinita in a significant way.
So where does Vinita’s creative drive come from? I have always been writing something or the other. “My papers on feminism have got much appreciation from the experts world over. But this was the first time I thought of publishing and God was kind that it has so far came out to be such a success. My creative drive comes from empathy and a desire to present complicated and under the carpet issues in a healthy and interesting manner so as to connect with a maximum number of people,” she shares.
While Vinita has been a voracious reader and a Roald Dahl fan since childhood, she has no favourite in particular. However a few characters across literature have stayed in her mind since forever. One of the main subjects of admiration for Vinita has been inspiring and touching quotes. A few such quotes by Hafez, Rumi, Gabriel Garcia Marquez have been able to occupy their place as epigraphs. One of her favourite quotes is- “The wound is the place where the light enters you” for which she enthusiastically adds, “Catharsis and empathising gives you ability to understand the other person and if you cannot empathise you cannot express it through creative mediums whether it’s dance, music or writing.”
Where she herself is a great motivation for women pan India, Vinita doesn’t make a fuss about it as she says, “Working woman is nothing new. Women have always worked, at home and outside, whether in fields or elsewhere. It’s a different story that it isn’t suitably acknowledged and rewarded. I hope, however, that the things change for good.”
It is astonishing to note that even the splendid reception to her novel has had Vinita unaffected by the praise. It is even more significant and probably more understandable when we consider that Vinita also holds down a day job, albeit an influential one. She is the Director of the prestigious National Institute of Jewellery. Astonishing that she is so grounded and so unnerved despite being at the helm of a sector which generates income second only to petroleum products.
The general mindset for almost everyone around us is that for a debut writer, it is easier to write a book than to get it published but Vinita has managed to break this myth as she managed to clinch the book deal with a prestigious publishing house. We asked her how did she go about doing that? Vinita smiles and answers in very few words, “It has been a long and arduous journey. Three Mantras to success that worked for me are- Quality work, Persistence and Patience!
A believer of the concept- ‘Where we are coming from and where we will go’, the inclusion of the elements of mysticism, past life, Nirvana, the cycle of life and death in the novel strengthen the South Asian mindset which strongly believes in age old customs. Vinita for now is engrossed with the success ‘31 Miles’ has brought her way. However, she looks forward to come out with other novels very soon, this time in Hindi. Readers are surely in for a huge cornucopia of literary treats.