1. How old were you when you first realized you had an artist hidden inside you?

A. I don’t quite remember my age when I first began expressing myself. I always loved dance and Ammi often had me dancing on her writing table when she needed a break. I also enjoyed making up stories and often thought up different ends to stale bedtime tales. But I suppose all children do so. Personally I believe that every human being has an artist in themselves; look at the way children copy their elders, try to wear their shoes or produce their gruff voice, they sing and dance on their own. Growing up in a way is a process of forgetting the artist within; the creative is lost and the mundane takes over.

2. How did your family environment affect your creative personality?

A. Any form of self expression was encouraged in my family. I don’t remember an evening without poets, writers, painters, singers, dancers crowding our small drawing room. Everyone had something to recite, to show, to narrate and we the children were never asked to leave and not be part of such gatherings. After a while, participation came naturally. More than anything else, discussion played an important role and having a different perspective of the ordinary to turn it special was never considered being weird; rather it was considered being creative which invited debate and argument. It was this atmosphere that honed skills and talents in several people. I too was fortunate to get first hand lessons from the stalwarts of Indian art and literature.

3. For you having SajjadZaheer, a famous intellectual, as a father was a blessing or a curse or both?

A. Definitely a blessing. He allowed complete freedom of thought and made space for discussion that even went against his own beliefs. After his death, yes some people have pointed out certain shortcomings in me and made me sometimes feel that I have not lived upto his name and stature. With time I have learnt to accept that as an individual I should enjoy the fruits of belonging and not give too much importance to being different from my father. Afterall we are two different people. But even this understanding comes because of Abba and his gentle guidance in making me read not just literature but also psychology, sociology, history and politics.
To be honest I rather like being given importance without having to work much for it. And it is pleasurable to surprise people sometimes by taking a completely different, feminist view than Sajjad Zaheer on certain things. Basically people like to make their own moulds and fit others into it. It is fun to break moulds- this again is something taught by Abba.

4. What inspired you to write your creative autobiography, ‘Mere Hisse Ki Roshnai’?

A. Capitalism in its latest avatar of globalization has taken away from the individual the dreams of unity that would bring about equality and social justice. Unity or organization does not mean giving up of one’s individuality, it is the coming together to fight the forces that put an end to individuality and replace it with uniformity. The present generation believes that such dreams had never existed and even if they had they did not contribute in any way to paving the way to freedom of thought and the flight of creativity. The concept behind writing this book was to present as many great individuals as possible and show how they all belonged to one great movement. That is perhaps the reason why this book remains incomplete, because try as I may I can never count out all the greats of the Indian sub-continent of that era.

5. How did you choose the name of that book?

A. Sajjad Zaheer’s Magnus Opus is name “Roshnai”. This word is made by joining two words ‘rooh’ meaning soul, ‘shanai’ meaning cleansing. In short it means ‘cleansing the soul.’ However this word is used for ‘ink’. In a larger canvas it would mean : a substance that cleanses the soul; so ‘ink’ or ‘knowledge’ cleanses the soul. Here I would add that it is does not refer to the God given ‘soul’ rather it is about the ‘soul’ that one creates or nurtures oneself through the choices one makes, the battles one espouses and the causes one supports. Sajjad Zaheer used that ‘Roshnai’ to build up and later document a movement that changed the course of literature in the Indian subcontinent; my proximity with both Sajjad Zaheer and the Progressive Writers Movement made me an heir to some portion of that ‘ink.’ So ‘My Portion of Ink’ or “Mere Hisse Ki Roshnai.”

6. What was the reaction of other writers to your book?

A. Most writers who have read the book have been very generous in their praise. I am grateful for the acceptance of the book in both Urdu and Hindi literary circles. But more than the writers I am touched by the way the non-writer readers have appreciated it, written back to me and gifted it to their friends. That is what I hoped the book would achieve. Some critics have said that the language of the book is neither Urdu nor Hindi; this is correct because even though I write both in Nastaliq and Devanagari, the language of the book is Hindustani: the people’s language. I would like to clarify that this was not an exercise to take some big names and elaborate on the proximity I enjoyed with them; rather it was an effort to bring them down from the pedestals where history has placed them, portray them as simple, forthright human beings and bring them close to the masses where they really belong. Some writers have not liked the humanization of the ‘gods’and my writing about their flaws; I believe that if this world belongs to the people and they have to begin claiming it then they must also claim these ideals, love them with their shortcomings and understand that they were human beings.

7. How did you become a Communist?

A. Emergency had been imposed on India a year before I completed school and joined Delhi University as an undergraduate student. It was 1976; I was 18, the atmosphere was charged with anger at the administration and government, there were protests happening everywhere and the student community was an important part of those protests. I became a very involved activist which now that I look back probably happened more because I was a woman, could speak both in English and Hindustani and had no fear of ghettos of any community. Once Emergency came to an end [1977] I began to realize that activism without a theoretical back up had nothing to fall back on. An existing structure can be successfully brought down through activism only if it can be replaced by a well thought out replacement. Otherwise the structure that has been brought down will only resurface again; like feudalism has resurfaced in South Asia in spite of a superficial democracy in the region. It was then that I attended Marxist Study Circles and turned to Communism as the alternative that would replace the feudal, hierarchal democracy.

8. Why do you think some Communists are angry people?

A. Allow me to laugh at this very Capitalist propaganda. How can an ideology be blamed for personal traits in people. First of all no good communist is an angry person and majority of the ones that I have met have been very calm, collected people who have managed to channelize their initial anger at the state of affairs into efforts to bring about the much required change. The changes have been possible because they have not dealt with the need for change with anger but with methodical rationality. Yes, it does incite anger in us when we see injustice, oppression and hegemony being practiced as a way of life; however a communist does not believe in setting fire to the big industry as justice to oppressed workers; we believe it belongs to the people so why should it be burnt down? How will that benefit the masses? Accumulation of Capital is necessary for the growth of capital but why should the capital belong to just one person? Why can’t twenty people pitch in small resources, build a mass ownership that would lead to accumulation of capital, that would then continue to grow and benefit the twenty people instead of one?
I am afraid this answer has turned towards becoming very theoretical but I do think that desire for a social and economic change should not be thought of as anger, because then there is the danger of even interpreting Buddha as an angry person.

9. How did you become a feminist?

A. Again I begin with the meaning of feminism for me. Most people believe that feminism is about fighting men; whereas feminism is a struggle against society that deals with two human beings differently on the basis of their gender. I stand against discrimination by birth and so I stand against patriarchy. Let me also add here that feminism would not have reached where it has and would not have become a force to reckon with if a large number of men had not stood with women in this struggle. Feminism is not about seeing men in the kitchen; a number of them have professionally been there from the traditional ‘bawarchi’ to the ‘chefs’. Feminism is about secularism, feminism is about justified sharing of capital, feminism is about individual security, equal access to education, work opportunities and in the last two decades feminism is also about LGBTQ rights.

I believe I began to turn a feminist when I saw my mother place a full plate of vegetables before the male comrades to be cut, sliced and diced so that food would be quickly done with and she could participate in the discussion happening in the drawing room and not be confined to the kitchen. Later on in study circles I read Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, and both very definitely turned me to becoming a Marxist Feminist. I don’t want to sit back and enjoy while someone slogs for me; I want to be a part of the economic cycle and I know that the labourer on the road is my equal because he/she has the same expectations from the system.

10. What inspired you to write the book titled My God is a Woman?

A. In 1986 the infamous Shah Bano Case came up for hearing at the Supreme Court of India. A seventy plus woman Shah Bano had approached the court for maintenance from her husband who had long divorced her and remarried. I was then a reporter at PATRIOT Daily Newspaper, headed by the legendary Aruna Asif Ali. She asked me to cover the case and write on it. For that I had to read up not just the past history of the case as it had traveled the lower courts, but also the Shariat and the Muslim Personal Law. Shah Bano won the case for maintenance and alimony in Supreme Court where the three judge bench was chaired by the Chief Justice himself, Justice Chandrachud, as she had in the Higher and lower courts; but the Muslim men made such a noise, threatened suicide if this decision of the highest court became a reality that the Indian Government which should have stood by the courts decision, chickened out and overturned the decision. I saw the frustration of the progressives in the Muslim Community, the helplessness of the Hindu Community and the neglect of the just demands of women in a democratic but patriarchal set up. I realized that if women have to change their circumstances they have to take charge of their lives and work towards achieving these goals: in short the woman has to be the god who would create a better life.

11. What are your religious beliefs?

A. None. I treat religion as the natural outcome of the growth of civilization and development of society. Since society was moving towards a patriarchal set up that was aimed at confining women and limiting their choices through force and not because of need, religions became more and more ‘male-centric.’ This has always been unacceptable to me leading me to working towards giving up religious beliefs that I was born to and not allowing new ones to take root in the space created.

12. Do you think a Communist has to be an atheist?

A. No. I have several comrades who harbor different levels of  religious beliefs. But I do think that as one reads Marx, Engels, Lenin, Rosa and other theoreticians and communist scholars one does begin to understand that what is happening to the world is created by the human beings— be it problems, development, scientific discoveries, oppression and social systems. This realization leads to an understanding that if problem is human made then surely the cure also lies within our reach. So one tends to take charge of one’s own life to begin with and then society as a whole, an analysis follows and even if the solution does not provide the complete cure one is empowered to continue looking for solutions rather than leaving things to the mercy of an untested, unknown power.

13. In what circumstances did you write the book ‘Denied by Allah’?

A. Formation of the Muslim Personal Law Board in 1986 led me to read the original scriptures and texts related to the practice of Islam. I had read the Quran once with the help of a Maulvi between the age of 10 and 14 and had the conventional understanding that ‘religion’ is right, it is the ‘interpretation’ that is faulty. When I read the original I found that as per our contemporary concept of human rights there is a lot that is non-existent in the original texts, a lot that has been categorically denied to women in Quran itself. I came to understand that no book of law can ever be perfect because society keeps changing and loopholes in the law are always a possibility. Hence no law can have a finality about it. I researched and collected incidents where Muslim women had been denied rights which are available to women of other communities, only because they fall under the Muslim Personal Law. I thought I must highlight these issues, substantiate them with factual incidents and help in a small way. This book takes up only 4 issues: Triple Talaq, Khula, Halala and Muta’ah. Soon, a following book focusing on 4 more issues shall be published.

14. Why did you choose the name Allah rather than God?

A. For me there is no difference between the two-they are equally detrimental to rationality and reason. However the Quran uses the word ‘Allah’ and my book focuses on Quran which specifically states the benevolence and justice of ‘Allah.’ Quran is not just a book of religion it is also a book of law and unifies both, which is in itself contradictory. Since ‘Allah’ is the one responsible for having dictated it, using Muhammad as his stenographer, I do think ‘Allah’ has to be made accountable for the unjust world for women that he has helped create.

15. Do you think all heavenly religions are patriarchal?

A. There are no heavenly religions. All religions have been created on earth and by the human beings. People are fond of saying ‘there is nothing wrong with religion, it is only politicians who misuse them.’ For me religion is politics; why else would one want to have a separate group, with a different following, preach, kill, battle and have treaties to expand one’s own group, consolidate power and wield it for social, moral, economic gains?
Since men have been the founders of all religions known today and came into being to serve certain vested interests they are naturally patriarchal in their perception of humanity, society and economics.

16. If heavenly religions do not give equal rights to women, why do you think so many women are religious, sometimes even more than men?

A. Survival is an inherent desire in every human being. While Darwin gives the theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ in discussing physical adaptability and natural environment, in the human beings the one who adapts to the ways and means of the powers that be, makes space for oneself is the one who manages to survive. Religion is a means to having access to power in a system that makes women powerless. Shocking as it may seem many women who are religious actually need those few minutes of quiet and peace, to be with themselves, to escape the noisy children or even to exercise the one right allowed to them.

Religion for me has always been like a narcotic that helps one to focus attention away from the immediate problem. A number of women are addicted to this drug. It is a small power that they have gained to provide not a solution but an escape.

Also let us be honest and admit that patriarchy does not allow women to enter into a debate on belief and religion. How many times has anyone heard a woman raise questions on a prevalent religious practice and seen a healthy discussion follow? It is my firm belief that no woman who has thought rationally on religion with logic and reason would remain a practicing believer.

17. When did you start writing short stories and what was the reaction of your family and friends?

A. I wrote my first short story at the age of eleven and it was published in ‘Parag’ a Hindi magazine for children. My friends who read it were more excited to see my name in print rather than the content of the story. Family was appreciative, though not over-enthusiastic about it. I suppose they had seen many writers dying within a couple of years of their creative birth. It was only when at the age of 19 I wrote my short story ‘Tri-cycle ‘ and it won an award that Ammi believed that I was serious about writing. Abba had passed away four years before.

18. How does writing in Urdu, Hindi and English transform you as a writer?

A. Usually it is the content that dictates the language. Most of my plays have been written in Hindi, most short stories in Urdu; though the process of transcription from Urdu to Hindi is very fast here and so most of my stories have appeared in Hindi as well almost at the same time. Research based books are in English even when they are fictional like MY GOD IS A WOMAN or academic like DENIED BY ALLAH, THE DANCING LAMA.

I pursue a piece only as long as it gives me pleasure. Characters, plots, narratives that cannot hold my interest can hardly do so of the reader. I narrate incidents and jokes to myself in all the languages, often loudly; much to the amusement of people around me. I think I should be prepared for a time when their amusement would turn to irritation and then I would definitely have to transform my process of writing or give up on relationships and friendships that become increasing restraining. I do not know now, but I think the second course of giving up on relationships would be easier of the two.

19. How do you think literature brings social change?

A. Literature makes people ponder and reflect on the existing that has been accepted as the norm. Literature makes people explore divergent perspectives and shows them that norms last only till we accept them to do so. Literature helps people to devise a process of sieving and sifting through conventions, traditions and rituals and urges them to give up their herd tendency and look beyond the opinion of the majority. In Ismat Chughtai’s words: there is a lot of filth in society. Some believe that there is no reason to dig out and throw this filth around. I [Ismat] believe, throwing the filth around might make people think up of means of clearing this filth.

20. How can literature bring revolution when most of the people in the community are illiterate and do not read or write?

A. Literature is not only the written word; oral traditions, theatre, films, posters I would say even slogans and advertisements are literature; folk songs and revolutionary lyrics are literature; reaching out to people and they being convinced that a change is needed is the need of the hour. Literature is one of the effective means to do so. Also the concept of revolution has undergone a change with time. No longer will a handful of people, taking over the Radio Station and gaining control of the Parliament bring about a sustainable revolution. It is people who with conviction shall invest in a change of their choice. The romantic takeover that leads to anarchy, bloodshed and civil wars is not going to happen, nor is it desirable. Empowering the people slowly and consistently shall bring the change. One example of this is the implementation of the RTI Act [Right To Information] which has made the state answerable to the people.

21. How did your Communist and feminist philosophy affect your creative writing?

A. Nothing exists in isolation; nor are there ever water tight compartments. Being a communist and a feminist has certainly changed the way I look at events, characters, relationships. So naturally my writing which is part of my being has been affected by my beliefs. A hungry beggar on the street evokes not just pity but also makes me question the system that has brought him to this state; so if I was to write about him my approach to the subject is bound to be different. I have as an exercise, practiced the Brechtian approach [Bertolt Brecht] where one learns to fuse the personal experience with the world experience. Society is an aggregated form of individuals and both affect each other. For example when I see the oppression of the Tribal women, I react both as a feminist and as a communist.

22. When did you start directing plays?

A. I had always been involved with IPTA [Indian Peoples Theatre Association] the theatre and performance wing of Communist party of India. Activism led to the need to analyze and address issues in a manner that would be quick, easily understood and create an awareness that would lead to unity. And theatre was the answer to this. However, just because one was performing at street corners or make shift auditoriums, the quality of the plays one was putting up could not be compromised. So I began conducting short acting, body movement and space use workshops. From these workshops and my desire to adapt good, progressive Urdu literature on stage emerged the first play that I wrote and directed. I was twenty eight years old then and have been directing and writing plays since then. I particularly enjoy doing theatre with children.

23. When did you join active politics?

A. In the present times I don’t think one has a choice to join or stay away from active politics. It is there and even an innocent statement like ‘how expensive wheat has become’, is a political statement because it is a comment on the state of affairs, the incompetence of the government to check rising prices, the oppression the common people are feeling and the latent desire to change things. So joining protests and voicing ones dissent was and has remained a way of life. I like being with people, I enjoy the struggle to gather a crowd and give it a direction, writing pamphlets is an absorbing work and discussion a way of life. All this is under attack in the present regime and so ‘active politics’ is becoming more and more ‘active’.

24. What do you enjoy more? Being a political activist or an artist?

A. Art is political activity. There has never been ‘art for art’s sake’ for me. Likewise political activity is an art which has to be nurtured, cared for and continuously practiced. I believe academics is an important part of both art and political activity. For me most enjoyable is an academically charged art performance or a vibrant political discussion that has its roots in academics. Unfortunately the space for both has been shrinking fast in the last two decades, at least in India. However the revival of Student Politics based in academic institutions is recharging and reclaiming the space and proving that nothing exists in isolation: academics and politics and art are all linked and interchangeable.

25. What inspired you to get married and have children?

A. By Indian standards I got married quite late in life. I was twenty eight, economically independent, professionally happy and politically attached to an ideology I trusted completely. Amitav was a person who identified with my ideology, atheism and my love for performing arts. We were friends for two years before forming a permanent bond. I would like to clarify here that ours was a public acceptance of our relationship and no legal, religious or social ceremony was performed. In a group of friends we accepted that we were now partners and that was it. All through the 20 years that we lived together, there were friends who loved us for our stand, friends who were indifferent to it and friends who wanted us to be legally married even till the last day. Amitava succumbed to cancer.

26. Have your views about marriage changed over the years?

A. I have no problem with people having an open ended partnership or a legal marriage. My views have changed about the way marriages are forced to last beyond their longevity. People should have the right to move away from whatever kind of relationship they have. Society must accept that everything has a life even a marriage. If it has lasted happily for a very long period for one it does not mean that it would do so for another. The long humiliating court procedure [in India] over a personal choice is quite sick. However I stand against the Islamic way of giving a quick divorce by the man because the same right is not given to the woman, who often spends years getting a ‘khula’.
I also do not believe that a divorce has a negative effect on the children. What does have a negative effect is the constants fights, domestic violence and long frustrating court procedure over custody of children. So even if the marriage was to last it would affect the children. On the other hand a single parent can be a very good parent.
I think marriage as an institution is on its way out because women are becoming self reliant and with a mind of their own and patriarchy is on its last legs. This is not to say that everything positive shall emerge out of this crumbling. Movement or flow is a constant phenomenon and change is happening all the time. Some changes might be very good and long lasting and some not so good; but that is not reason enough to give up on making change happen or fighting to maintain a status quo.

27. How did becoming a mother affect your personality, philosophy and politics?

A. When I look back bringing up my children has been one time that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Amitav never wanted to be the patriarchal father and we both participated equally in mundane chores and specialized attention. It was a time of discovering for both of us; Amitav found that he was very good with lullabies, I discovered that babies of three month liked and responded to stories. As a person I think that I became more patient and caring after I had my children. I also found that other people, my friends and relatives are often as vulnerable as children and one has to reach out to them in the same way. I think my approach to life changed; I began to see it as having a larger future, where my children would be living and functioning and began to think on the lines of construction with longer lasting effects to benefit not just me but the coming generations. Laughingly I would say that as my children grew up I added a number of friends to my immediate circle for whom I am never “Noor”, “Comrade Noor” or “Sister Noor”, I am “Pakhuri’s Mother or Anuran’s Mother or Surdhani’s Mother” and whatever I might do I shall be just that- no more. I have learnt to enjoy this anonymity.
I always took my children to protests and meetings. That was my life and I wanted my children to share it and not be kept away cocooned and protected. Belief in the Marxist ideology is as strong as ever if not stronger, also because I am seeing the economy, industry, agriculture and every other thing going downhill in India and I think Marxism is the only solution. But I am also seeing that the organized left has begun to treat Marxism as a dogma and are as yet unwilling to address some very India specific issues like the question of Dalits or the rights of Muslim women to name a few. Maybe my questioning or clarity has come with age or maybe because of motherhood- I think it is both- I have more at stake now than just me and I have begun to see things from a distance, pondering on the consequences of policies adapted today.

28. How did you feel when you found out that your daughter was on hunger strike challenging the government?

A. I do not believe in hunger strike as a means of protest. A state that is not worried about adopting policies that are clearly anti-people is not going to worry for a few of those people dying. But I do believe that people who go on hunger strike and are able to sustain it are very brave, determined and committed people. Also I can understand that the decision to penalize students was taken at a time when the Jawaharlal Nehru University was only a month away from closure for summer break. So the students had no other way to protest and be heard but for this drastic step. It was heartening that a member from every student organization decided to participate in the hunger strike showing that there was unity in the entire student community. The teachers also stood by the students and it was this unity that brought victory and the very justified demands of the students were accepted.

But it was a very anxious and worrying time for me. I was away in Canada; with lectures and meets arranged. Pankhuri did not want me to drop everything and come back. Thankfully my other two children took good care of all their comrades and of Pankhuri; the teachers kept me informed everyday, complete strangers sent me emails of her health; the entire 17 days have helped to make me realize ever more strongly, the strength of movement in shaping the beliefs and mindset of the people.

29. Do you believe in armed struggle in bringing social change?

A. I can speak only about India. Here the society is extremely divided and hierarchal which has resulted in centuries of oppression of the poor and the have-nots purely on the basis of caste, education, land ownership; and now possession of big capital has been added to it. In this kind of a situation it is sometimes necessary to take to arms as a show of strength. In the tribal belts in India it has brought about some positive results. However weapons do not have a mind of their own and have to be used with care. Armed operations have to be well thought out to achieve long term goals and not immediate small results. Over the years with my involvement in politics I have become more and more convinced of the need to make people sensitive and aware of their rights and of the form of repression that they are facing. This would and has set into motion a process of evolution rather than revolution. I believe sustainable change is possible by a thought out collective will to change rather than a forced armed revolution.

30. Do you agree with those people who believe Communism and Democracy are incompatible as Communism believes in the dictatorship of the proletariat?

A. Of course I do not. Communism is the first process evolved that bring about an equality in the choice of governance and economy. Even if an electoral choice has been available to a state it has denied a section of its own community of this fundamental right. Women, Dalits, minorities, immigrants, slaves have all at some time or the other been kept away from participation in the formation of the legislature. In its functioning, this elected government has often functioned against the same people who have elected them. Yet, it is the dictatorship of the proletariat that is accused of standing against democracy since most people associate dictatorship with the oppression of some of the recent dictators like Hitler, Franco and believe that a people’s dictatorship would be exactly like that.
However let me add that a communist regime headed by the dictatorship of the people would also need to be involved in a process of retrospection and self improvement. That is why Marxism lays great stress on ‘self criticism’. I would personally recommend a balancing of Karl Marx with Rosa Luxemburg and her writings on the concept of ‘Permanent Revolution’ as the way out for creating a ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ that is self analyzing and self corrective.

31. Did you ever feel that your life was in danger because of your politics? If yes, how did you cope with it?

A. My life has been in danger not so much for my political beliefs but because of my religious ones. Islam does not allow any scope for questioning or discussion. Trying to build a woman’ movement to counter the rising Islamization within the community, by far invites Fatwas and all kinds of allegations.
Initially it was a bit tough coping with the continuous tabs and watch over ones movements. But it is much better now when I decided that come what may I did not need police security. One has to deal with these dangers and continue to speak what is right. There is no other way of coping with it. If I keep quiet now over these issues it would mean going against my conscience and if I was to do so I would no longer be the same person.

Friends especially women friends have been a strong support that I could always fall back on. In a way I would say it has always been friends and not the relatives who have risen to the occasion to protect me, look after me and give me the strength to continue.

32. Your short stories reflect the struggles of class, gender and caste. Do you see a relationship between them?

A. All my work is interlinked and reflects one another. All my short stories are the way I see subjugation and repression taking different forms for the continuity of injustice. I cannot give a political speech without narrating stories and I cannot write stories without politics; gender, caste, class is all politics for me. Caste in India goes beyond class; a well to do doctor is still treated as an untouchable by an upper caste man with half his income or education; gender oppression is more evident in the so called lower caste because their women face economic, sexual and social abuse. In India all of these things are linked and so when they manifest themselves in my stories they are naturally linked.

Unfortunately the organized left has not focused at all on gender discrimination and Dalit oppression believing that when class shall be annihilated caste and gender would also get addressed. That is not the way it has happened and this has led to Identity Politics which in my view is bad for the overall change that we hope to achieve one day.

33. Why do you think Religious Fundamentalism is on the rise all over the world?

A. Rise in Religious fundamentalism or right wing politics is the result of the receding of cultural and civilizational Identity and the taking over of religious identity. Rightist forces always come in the garb of cultural revivalism that they link with religion. Wars that are begun for land and end with occupation are justified as clash of culture and civilizations. Now of course, US seems to have taken over the role of Big Brother making everyone else toe the line. It serves the purpose of the privatized arms and ammunition industry to have wars going on and what better way to incite people to war than being able to convince them that their religion is in danger. It is often pointed out that religion is being misused and has been appropriated by people who constantly want a warlike situation. I would only say that religion is being used or misused because it is there.

There is however a silver lining to the rise of any kind of fundamentalism and is true for religious fundamentalism as well. Sooner than later, the war becomes internalized; factions vie with each other at being ‘holier than thou.’ Already there are groups and factions that claim to be the real Hindus, true Muslims etc. I think religion and fundamentalism are like the two snakes who held each other by the tail and each ate away the other.

34. If you had to give advice to young female writers, what would you say?

A. Only one thing: write without fear; find out what are your fears and which are the ones that have been planted inside you by society, relations, religion, literary critics and the rest; it will take time but only someone writing without fear shall be expressing oneself honestly.

35. What advice do you give to young Communists?

A. Interact across class; have a dialogue with the security guard of your building, the person who collects the trash, school teachers around; capitalism evolves a process to isolates people and our best bet is to keep them interacting with each other; learn what the society would rather cover up; keep yourself informed and this awareness should range from the immediate to the international events; above all do not preach always exchange.

36. What do you think is the rational basis of ethics and morality?

A. All meaningful human acts have moral dimensions and this is based in the ethics that have either been inculcated in us or we have developed ourselves slowly over time and experience. In a word I should say that ‘humanity’ should be the basis of ethics and morality. As an example I would say that science needs to stop progressing in the direction that harms or endangers humanity- and I include both the physical and the emotional concept of humanity. Yet it is not considered restricting research since it can yield something that might be extremely beneficial for humanity. Thus this is a double edged sword- personal commitment for one might be their highest level of ethical behavior while for another a bit of legal paper would be required. Even the definition of rationality would differ from person to person.
I a dilemma I would recommend Buddha’s Middle Path [not to be confused with the religion Buddhism] for finding a means to finding balance between the three.

37. What are your views about Scandinavian Socialism?

A. Scandinavian socialism, is propagated as a socioeconomic system that seems to be working very well in the Scandinavian countries. But democratic socialism must combine majority rule with state control of the means of production. However this is not happening in the Scandinavian countries where like all other developed nations, the means of production are primarily owned by private individuals, not the community or the government, and resources are allocated to their respective uses by the market, not government or community planning.

It is true that the Scandinavian countries provide a generous social safety net and universal healthcare, an extensive welfare state is not the same thing as socialism. Democratic socialists are opponents of global capitalism and free trade, but the Scandinavian countries have fully embraced these things and the government aims to promote the public welfare through heavy taxation and spending, within the framework of a capitalist economy.

With that the so called  “Scandinavian socialist nations”  have some of the highest wealth inequality in Europe. The top 10% of wealth holders in three Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden and Denmark) hold between 65 and 69 per cent of those nations’ wealth way above the other developed economies in Europe,  like British, French, Italian or Spanish economies.

38. Do you think angry people can create a peaceful world?

A. Peace is a much misunderstood word. It is often confused with inaction and calm. A person owning an arms and weapons producing, shipping, supplying company can be completely peaceful and against war. Yet he/she thrives and demands wars. How can one accept people to remain at peace when a multi-national company pollutes their only source of water, erodes their rain forests and usurps their ancestral land. It is all very well to propagate a peaceful world from the comfort zone of urban cities, when one is not forced to make a choice between surviving and living. One cannot just wish away anger without having created the circumstances for a movement towards a peaceful world.

39. Do you have any regrets about life?

A. No regrets as such but do wish to travel more. With family and children, one thing that a woman has to forgo is spontaneous traveling. Especially to regions like South America or places that are getting destroyed like Syria and Iraq or are under threat of destruction like Turkey. I hope to make up for it sometime soon.

40. Do you consider yourself a successful woman and writer?

A. I have not thought about whether I am successful as a woman; I do not even know what would count in measuring success as a woman: family, children, cooking ability, house-keeping? As far as being successful as a writer is concerned it is for the readers and critics to judge. In my youth I desired fame and success. Over the years I realized that it was better to work on myself as a person. I have successfully managed to control my temper, I have learnt to listen more and speak only when required; I have a large number of friends who love me and accept me with all my faults and short comings. In the last few years IU have begun a process of reducing my personal possessions. Maybe if the question had been how I perceive myself as a human being, I would have been in a better position to answer.