Author is not an alien

Author is not an alien
I write because we had deleted enough

Monday, March 7, 2016

SAKSHAAT 6.0 - - A Woman we love and she gives it back to haters – ANURADHA BENIWAL

Sakshaat was dormant for some time and I was constantly asked who is next. Call it lack of inspiration or the life’s turnarounds; I was not interviewing any new faces for Sakshaat. Here I am back with a girl I am in absolute love with. A national chess player, A wanderer, travel writer and a proud Indian, she does make quite a lot of people uncomfortable just by speaking her mind& this is what makes her one among the many voices that are drafting a song for the new woman.

How did I met Anu? One fine day while I was working for a development project in Bihar, I was given a role to conceptualize and lead a state policy. As it happens, the men who were asked to work for me (much senior than me) didn’t cooperate and things were not falling in place. When one day I overheard two people talking that they are not going to let a “Ladki” supervise them, I lost cool. I banged into a very senior director’s office and just blurted out. Though I am not very proud of the words that I used, this obvious sexism was too much to handle. Well, I came back to my desk, logged into facebook and the first thing that I read was Anuradha’s post about when she resigned from her job. I sent the same to my friend and he asked “You are resigning from the project?”

So the stalking of Anuradha started on facebook and I found everything about her  beautiful. Her “No Bra campaign”, her writings, her unapologetic attitude, her travelling, her Haryanvi and her family. We absolutely recommend reading her debut book “ Azaadimera brand” which is the first part of “YayavariAwargi” by RajkamalPrakashan, a travelogue of modern times, read this book for the sheer honesty and simplicity of this girl on her endless journey.

Here is the sixth interview of Sakshaat with a buddy who lives her life exactly like the way she travels- No plans, No regrets and overcoming fears, the secret ingredient is happiness always.

Q) Thank You Anu for “FINALLY” agreeing to be here?
A) Yes I am! Your love couldn’t be ignored any longer. You know, I tried! ;)

Q)  Tell us about Anu the girl in her growing up years, was she a rebellious teenager, did she believed in fairy tales or was she like just another girl?
A) I was never a rebellious teenager. I was a docile, meek, and obedient girl. I didn’t believe in fairy tales. I was never told any. I believed in hard work. I was told, only if I worked hard I will be able to make a life outside the daily “panibharna” and ‘gobarpaathna” in the gaon. I was told if I didn’t work hard I would have to pull water here all my life! And that was enough motivation.

I started playing chess as a child and was India number 2 in my age group. In Haryana I only played in boys, as there were no women player and I won all my age groups starting from under 7 to under 18. I use to practice 8 to 12 hours a day and became sub-junior national champion in 2000. I represented India in World Youth Championship in 2001, in Spain. That was my first trip abroad. And that was my first taste of freedom.

I was never rebellious. I wanted to be, I guess. But I was not. I was harassed in the streets like any ordinary girl, and I walked with my head down, I kept quiet. I only wanted a (silencer) gun at that time! But I never forgot. College (Miranda House) gave me a lot of strength and I revisited those streets with more confidence. I wandered in those streets again with my head held high, looking back into each eye that stared at me, till they looked away.

Q ) You were homeschooled, at any point of it did you have doubts about lagging behind the children who were attending school regularly?
A) I was playing chess all the time. My competition was not with regular school going children. I competed in chess tournaments and did well. I had very little interaction outside the chess world.

Q) Chess for you is……
A) Hard work, still! But I enjoy teaching it, more than I ever enjoyed playing it. I love teaching little kids chess.

Q) When we read Azaadi Mera Brand, we find that you were travelling just for the love of it and not for writing a travelogue. How did you convince yourself to give a shape to this book?
A) I was writing a lot of facebook posts while traveling if you remember.  Rajkamal’s commissioning editor Satyananad Nirupam came across my posts and made an offer I couldn’t refuse! It was a good excuse to document my travels.

Q)  An old adage says “Behind every successful man is a woman” , I want to ask you “Behind every happy woman, is…………..?”
A) Her girl friends!

Q) Your heartwarming appeal to stop the violence in name of Jat agitation resonated with many and also received backlash from many harvanvis.Your say on people saying that at one side you criticize our culture and then you preach?

A) I love Haryana! I am very attached to my people, my gaon, my mother tounge (Haryanvi), our songs, our food, our fields, our sitting together and laughing out loud, our dances and our dry humor! And that is our culture.
By my writing I try to smash the “nonsense” that is being imposed on us in the name of “culture.” Female feticide is not our culture, dowry deaths are not our culture, purdah is not our culture (if it is, it needs to be thrown out of our culture), letting girls not study or have an independent life is not our culture.

It’s time we define what our “culture” is, and root out the evils that are shaming our state. The shamefully skewed sex ratio shames our state and not girls wearing jeans. The number of domestic violence and rape cases shames the state and not women marrying out of love. We have to get this right in our heads now!

Q)  Coming back to travelling, Given a choice of solo travelling and one with your best of girl buddies, what will you choose?
A) 11 months solo, 1 month with girl friends!

Q) How do you respond when someone says that India is unsafe for women( I have often faced this question from foreign tourists on my travels)?
A) I traveled a lot of India solo. There was no bad incidence but one has to be always “careful” and that takes a lot of fun away from traveling. And still Jaislamer remains my favorite city in the world! Also because now I know how to handle “things.” I have dealt with my samaj so much that I know what to do when, it won’t be as easy for a foreigner.

Q ) This question is a little personal, I have admired your father. In a world where I find most of the men driven by fear and insecurities, I find your Papa one of the most courageous and yet unaware of it man. Tell us more about him?
Anuradha's family receiving Shantikumari Vajpayee award

A) He is quite something! He loves me too much and when there is so much love, there can only be freedom. He never attached his “naak” to me. He always said, “You’re my love, not my izzat,” you do what you like and I will always be there when you will need me. “Tumhare kaam se tumhare izzat hai, mere kaam se meri” Your doings can never affect mine and vise-a-versa!
Such unconditional love makes one very strong.

Q) Answer the following words in one liners:

A) 1) Awargi–with awareness
     2) Friends – girls
     3) Love–you
     4) Marriage – should be taken less seriously
     5) Sex – Right now
     6) Age - 29
     7) Wish list – travel till I am 90 (if I ever am!)
     8) Dreams – always come true
     9) Fantasy – Johnny Depp
     10) Hindi – Aaaah mother-tounge. Forgives like a mother. Easy like a mother. Soothes like a mother.

Q ) Thank You so much Anuradha for answering our questions. Anything you would like to say for Sakshaat?
A)Thank you for giving me this space and making me write about myself. It’s good practice for an autobiography!

Q) Congratulations for the award on your debut book and the efforts you are taking for the rehabilitation of people suffered from damage. Lest we say we all are proud of you.
 A) Thank you dost

P.S.- Anuradha is raising money to help the victims of intercaste violence in Haryana. You can contribute for the same at: