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Esther David- Writing, arts and sculpture blended in a fusion.

Esther David, the writer who broke the conservative walls of barriers through her first book, ‘The Walled City’ is now an eminent figure in the Indian Literature. The impeccable writer is also a good artist and sculptor, and she has completed Fine Arts and Art History Courses from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Most of her books portray subjects in the back drop of Bene Israelis, and this fetched her International readers as well. Esther in a recent talk with All Lights Film Magazine expressed her aspirations in literature and she also commented about her selection as a jury member in the upcoming ‘Heritage Film Festival 2014’.

Question 01: You wrote your first novel, ‘The Walled City’ at age of 46. How did you identify the writer who lives within yourself at that age?

Answer :  I studied art at the Faculty of fine arts at Vadodara. The university campus gave me a tremendous exposure to visual arts, folk arts,  literature, cinema, music, dance and theatre. And, I wrote a page everyday in my diary on anything that I fancied and made sketches. During this period, I saw as many films as possible; specially Satyajit Ray. It was not part of the syllabus and the Apu trilogy and Jalsaghar have been turning points of my life, where I had vaguely created my own world of forms, words, images.

But, much before that, at the age of seven, I had already created my own literary world, in the library of our ancestral house in the walled city, the only child of working parents, the library was my keeper. Here, I had three story tellers feeding my imagination,  the library where I read all that I was not allowed to read and which I did not understand. The library gave me a heritage of all arts. My grandmother gave me family stories, as I lay in her lap and Mani, the cook, regaled me with folk tales and city stories, as I lay wrapped in her sari which was full of flavours of garlic, curries and a fertile imagination.

Question 02: How crucial were your personal experiences in molding your writing?

Answer : I always, wanted to be in control of my creativity.How and where I was to accomplish this desire, I did not know.

I was feeling imprisoned in the blocks of wood stacked in my back yard. I was feeling suffocated. I wanted to break free and create for myself an endless landscape, where I could work freely with words, forms, images.

Literature allowed me to expand in all directions. It gave me a limitless space for creation. It allowed me to journey across an entire landscape of experiences, not only mine, but also other people, whom I observed.

And, as am an Indian Jew, I wanted to unfold the mystery; as to how; my mini-microscopic community preserves its identity in a vast multi-cultural country like India.

My first novel THE WALLED CITY liberated me. Writing satisfies me, as it does not resist me. It allows me to give flexibility of expression.

I wrote about walls, which were symbolic of city, community, family and womanhood. I tend to set all my work around Jewish life and Ahmedabad

 Question 03: How will you distinguish between ‘Esther as a person’ and ‘Esther as a writer’?

Answer : The writer and artist within me, is my life-line.

 Question 04: Tell us something about the responses you received after publishing, ‘The Man with the Enormous Wings’.

Answer : Mixed. This book was different from my other novels. It was an abstract novel, woven around the fact that in India, we have forgotten the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and in the process, he has merely become a poster, bust or statue installed all over the country, specially his Karma-Bhoomi, that is Gujarat.
 
Question 05: Would you mind telling about your favorite books and favourite authors?

Answer : Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabelle Allende, Amy Tan, Tony Morrison, Amos Oz, Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry, Salman Rushdie, Ismat Chugtai, R.K. Narayan for creating Malgudi and Arun Joshi who wrote The Strange Case of Billy Biswas.

Question 06: You are one among the judges of the ‘Heritage Film Festival 2014’. How did you reach there?

Answer : I was invited to be part of the jury by Avni Varia.

Question 07: How crucial is the role of ‘Heritage Film Festival’ in uplifting the arts and crafts of the country?

Answer : Today, many books are being written on crafts, yet, they crafts-people do not receive the necessary respect or attention in our society, as they are largely invited to crafts fairs and exhibitions to sell their work. Which is good, as it is economically viable but few people know about the struggle and difficulties of their day to day life to survive and also preserve these ancient arts. They remain largely unknown to a large number of people, so, such film festivals are very important to make them visible, so that their expertise will have a longer life and will not lost in oblivion, due to changing life styles in India. Or else, they will have to modify ancient traditions according to modern technology or take up other jobs. One simple example is that the clay pot or matka used to fill drinking water is fast disappearing from most Indian homes and eventually this will directly effect the survival of potters in our country.

Question 08: Shall we expect a new book from your pen in the near future?

Answer : Forthcoming books are, “A City with a Past – Ahmedabad” and “I Am a Seed of the Tree,” which about the Jews of Gujarat.

 

 

 

 

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