Author Interview

Dr. Santosh Singh

the author of SHE: The Forgotten Epoch

SHE - The Forgotten Epoch by Dr Santosh SinghSantosh Singh, who was born and brought up in Uttar Pradesh, currently lives in Agra; and when she is not writing she enjoys travelling, managing her potted plants on the terrace, reading and some more reading! Santosh began her working life as a teacher and then joined the Institute of Social Sciences in New Delhi. She spent twenty years as a social researcher in the Institute exploring the socio-political processes that greatly affect women and their aspirations in a rural milieu. During her career as a social scientist, she penned academic books such as ‘Violence Against Rural Women’, ‘Combatant Women’, ‘Learning Societies – Shifting Patterns’ and ‘Passion for Flames’.

She was long tempted to try her hand at fiction. Before becoming a full-time fiction writer, being a bilingual she first began writing stories, both in English and Hindi, which were accepted by the magazines and newspapers’ story section.

After a gap of years, she was drawn to the idea of historical fiction and finally set out to write the sort of books she liked to read. She thinks it is really easy to get lost in our lives and forget what is important… What is important to her is her family and her work. To her, the world of books is fascinating and she is dabbling in it.

Her debut novel, Zenani Deordhi, is a plot driven by character, whereas her latest novel, She – The Forgotten Epoch, is driven by circumstances that build a character.


TBE: Tell us something about ‘SHE – The Forgotten Epoch’ that isn’t in the blurb?

Santosh Singh: All human history presupposes two types of basic roles which a woman is expected to perform:  procreation and management of household chores. The first one is necessary to ensure perpetuation of family, clan and society from generation to generation, the second role is essential to satisfy human needs.

Udaymati transcends beyond the traditional roles and cuts out a niche for herself. For sustenance of a society, cooperation between male and female genders is a sine qua non, irrespective of diverse geographical, social and physical conditions they live in and the ultimate goal they set for themselves. Udaymati, a well-born and a gorgeous queen of Anuhilwara fits well in the concept of cooperation and   emerges as a legendary figure. She: The forgotten Epoch seeks to examine these relations and linkages and dig deep into her multidimensional personality.

We often read tales of valour of royal women, who happily embraced death for the sake of their own honour and that of their kingdom. But fewer are the tales of women who are substantial achievers. Udaymati is endowed with the rare combination of the two qualities: besides being an embodiment of dignity and honour, she is an accomplished statesperson, a visionary, a warrior and an architect. All combined together. She is a very compassionate woman but at the same time she is not swayed by emotions but ruled by her mind.  She is an enigma to be to be explored more and more.


TBE: What led you to the story of Queen Udaymati? In your opinion, what makes her story relevant for our times?

Santosh Singh: Grit, determination, bravery, faithfulness to her country, even under most trying circumstances and her commitment to the State of Patan are the hall-marks of her personality. Her ability to withstand any onslaught – be it emotional, mental or physical is laudable. She has fair idea of problematic issues that have been hindering the growth of her State. For example, water scarcity being a perennial problem in her State, she prepares a blue-print of the action-plan and executes them with precision for resolving it once and for all. She has set the benchmark for an ideal woman by following certain ideals even under most trying times. Thus, the relevance of her character is timeless.


TBE: In your previous book ‘Zenani Deordhi’, you told the story of Fateh Kanwar, the princess of Bikaner. In your latest book ‘SHE – The Forgotten Epoch’, you’re telling a tale of Udaymati, an elegant queen of Anuhilwara. How did you get introduced to these historical and powerful women and what made you write about them?

Santosh Singh: Indian history is replete with the stories of iconic heroes and heroines which have been obscured by the layers of dust of time. Being a passionate reader of ancient and medieval history, when I was flipping through the pages of works of reputed historians, I came across brief but eye-catching reference of this character. I then explored more and more about this character in the texts of history. When I pieced together the information that I collected from various sources, I found her character fascinating enough to do a fiction.


TBE: All your stories revolve around strong women. What/who is your inspiration?

Santosh Singh: During childhood my mother and grandmother made a deep imprint on my mind. The character of Katnis Everdeen the female protagonist in the novel ‘The Hunger Games’ authored by Suzanne Collins, Elizabeth Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and that of  Jane Eyre in the novel ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Kapaal Kundala’ and ‘Devi Chaudhrani’ of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, ‘Kannagi’ of Amrit Lal Nagar and most of the characters in the stories of Sharat Chandra, and many more, left an enduring impression on my mind and inspired me to do fictions of this type.

For me, any woman, be it a rural or urban, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, who-so-ever she is, matters and I value her sense of self-worth and dignity, her commitment towards the work she is doing. In nutshell, every woman inspires me since I try to figure out the inner qualities.


TBE: How important is it to have mainstream novels that tell women’s stories from a woman’s perspective? Has Indian literature progressed in this sphere?

Santosh Singh: Undoubtedly, it is very important for mainstream novels to tell women’s stories from the point of view of women. Although women have always been at the center of theme of Indian literature but their position was that of subjugation and the role was seldom appreciated. Therefore, to undo the injustice meted out to them for centuries and to restore their honour, dignity and equality of status, more work needs to be done, especially by the women writers. Regional literature has lucidly depicted various shades and trials and tribulations of Indian women.

For instance, Pratibha Rai, the award winning author of Odiya literature, has penned women’s stories beautifully. Ashapurna Devi, a well-known Bengali author has written extensively about women’s miseries. Women have been underside of history for a long time but of late, the perception has changed substantially yet we have a long way to go.


TBE: What sources did you draw on during your research? Were there any difficulties in procuring texts or sources?

Santosh Singh: Texts available in the libraries and archives are authentic sources. In some texts, they are simply mentioned as a passing reference while in few others they are the focal point of author. Religious texts and mythology are the main source of information. Local folk literature also proved as a good source to fill in the gaps. I also visited the places to which the story revolves around. My visits really proved very helpful in describing the geographical locations.


TBE: How was your experience with Leadstart?

Santosh Singh: I have a wonderful experience with the Leadstart Publishing House. So far I have done two projects with them. The project team was not only courteous, helpful and professional but was also very prompt which enabled me to finish the work within the timeline set for it. I have great regard for each one of the team members


TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

Santosh Singh: Surely, I am working on certain women who played significant role in the royal-family of Mewar. Their stories are highly interesting but unfortunately not much work has been done on them.


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