Friday, May 22, 2015

Author R K Raj Talks About the Ideas Behind His Book, 'Kidney'

‘Kidney’ by author R K Raj presents plethora of grave serious challenges of child labour, recycling, waste management, environment, and many forms of ‘divides’ in the forms of interesting and spell bound story woven around an orphan like rag picker with adopted ragpicker family in landfill area of Ghazipur.



In an exclusive chat with Strokes of Pen, he shares his thoughts on the idea behind ‘Kidney.’


Q: How and when did you ventured into writing?

RK Raj: I was always interested in writing about what I have learnt from traditions and people around me in my teen. However, that could not move me writing something as lengthy as a book. In my late thirties I found myself filled with many things which caused me thinking about expressing the experiences and observations on my surroundings.

And since then, the experience of seeing someone, or myself for that matter, in painful situation(s) had always moved me to pen down the pain that people undergo. That has gone behind my writing this book.

Q: Is ‘Kidney’ your first novel? 

RK Raj: Yes. The book in the shape of fiction gives account of a person from the most neglected section of the society engaged in recycling and waste management we know them as rag pickers. Male protagonist, Inder, dreams a lot about doing something to improve his ‘lot’ on the way back from Canada where he had gone to attend a conference. However, harsh realities gave him a ‘welcome back’ contrary to his dreaming on improving his lot. He faces the same old discriminatory treatment despite of being an educated person. 

Such experiences one after the other do not let him have a breathing space and dimming the ‘dare to dream’ spark in his eyes which he comes back with. One day he finds himself on the crossroads whether education could get him a place under the sun or a path full of crimes which would force him to hide from the sun after one his relation finds that the jail is a good place to survive rather than getting rotten in the landfill area of Ghazipur or the streets in the city where everyone scornfully looks him down as a sub-human being.

Q: What or Who motivated you to pen down ‘Kidney?’

RK Raj: Primarily, I saw a person in his mid-fifties wrapped in rags, at mid night, was searching food in the garbage in the colony. Secondly, at Ghazipur is on the way to my office and I experience the rotten smell and watching the filthy waste mounting in the landfill area. These two forced me to think about the people engaged in the work of waste collection, rag picking, and recycling. When people like me are not able to walk nearby without covering nose and these people are working in that filth and waste must be brave. When I started searching, re-searching, observing, I found it was the matter of their survival and not of their choice.

Q: The theme explores one of the problem our country is facing. Was it difficult to write on it?

RK Raj: Yes, theme explores one of the greatest problems that our country is facing. People around the world have image of our country full of dust, dirt, filth and waste here and there or everywhere rather.

Yes, it was very difficult to write on it. I wrote and re-wrote twice before staying with the present shape of the work. First of all, choosing this subject was highly challenging as it immediately made think over who will read this book. The re-cyclists or rag pickers are not dear to anyone in the society where 65% of the populations are young and under 35 years of age. This section of the society is capable to make someone celebrity on the basis of google search or following on twitter or facebook. Remaining 35% of the population is in finding what they have missed in their prime age due to the rapid changing and fast proliferating technologies. So members of the both halves of the society are busy in dreaming riches and/or what they have not yet gotten in the their possession.

This made me think and rethink over the subject but to determine on writing the book leaving me with pride that I am taking an initiative to write full book on the a subject on which every talks with intentions limited to lip service. I can say the book is first of its kind to deal with the subject at that length. Such a vivid and live account on the subject makes me being proud of it.

Q: Tell us something about the information you have gathered in it. How did you collect it? By talking to labors personally or through projects or by readings.

RK Raj: I spent lot of weekends interacting and observing these undeclared environmentalists or re-cyclists in the landfill area of Ghazipur and other streets wherever I found them collecting or working with the waste. Information is gathered from reports from national and international bodies. Lot of secondary research I have done on the data I have got from study material available on environment, health, wellbeing, child labor, rag picking, and waste management.

Q: How long did it take to complete the novel?

RK Raj: If I account writing and rewriting twice before coming in agreement with myself on present content and form then I must say that it took me more than 8 years. However, working on the present content and genre of representing the work as a fiction it took me around 5 years of highly active weekends where my wife took the pain of managing every house activity and kids took their study on their own. 

Q: Why the name ‘Kidney’? Share the idea behind the title.

RK Raj: Intense study on the subject put in thought process gave me an analogy as outcome. This analogy presented me with a scenario where I find the re-cyclists are working like nephrons of the kidneys. They pick the rags and waste and sort them out for recycling industry where they get little money for their poor survival. Money works for us like oxygen in the body. Their recycling of reusable items from the waste is a function similar to that kidney does in the animals. This similarity of their function gives the first reason to have the name ‘Kidney’ as title of the novel.

Second reason of naming the work ‘KidNey’ is huge population of these re-cyclists are kids or children. I am of the opinion that these ‘Kid(s)’ are working in the fecal, filth and waste which itself is not less than any bravery for that matter. So, ‘Ney’ part is coming from Michael Ney from French culture whose name became synonymous with ‘brave’. Thus complete it as ‘KidNey’ to convey that these brave kids are daring the fecal, filth and waste every moment of their life when they could been dreaming to be bravely serving the nations more productive had they been provided opportunity to have gone to the schools.

Third reason to put in pathetic way and conveying the message that these helpless ‘Kid(s)’ are on their ‘knees’ begging your attention to look at the waste we are generating mindlessly. So these are the ideas behind the title of the book.

Q: What issues have you touched through this novel?

RK Raj: In the novel, the issue related to recycling, waste management, child labor, gender discrimination, woman freedom in different perspectives, health and well being of the people in general and these rag pickers in particular are raised along with the all the kinds of ‘divides’ whether it economic or digital divide to name a few. Issue like organ donation as an opportunity to relive in another body and another life is discussed in the novel. Also the role of various organizations in environment and waste pickers’ life are also highlighted.

Q: Your take on the same issues in real life situation and how could everyone contribute for better India.

RK Raj: Small initiative ‘Inder Babu’ is being started with one of my readers of the book. To him, before reading this novel, these people did not exist. Same may be true, I believe, for most of the other potential readers of the book. Now when he has gone through the entire novel he is so inspired that he has started one project and named it ‘Inder Babu’ which focuses on gathering opportunities for education, access to public libraries, and skill development for these re-cyclists.

Q: Anything you would like to share with our readers.

RK Raj: In the back ground of Swachchh Bharat Abhiyaan these people have working for decades but to go unnoticed, ill-treated, left alone to starve, and survive as if they are sub-human beings.

So, in this Clean India Mission initiated by the Govt. of India they should not be left alone for any criteria or any filtration principle.  This is my earnest request to all of us, concerned and aggrieved, authorities enjoying power (in whatever form) to heed to the needs of these people usher India into a developed nation from a developing nation. Most of the developed nations have equality and opportunities for all.

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