Heer is probably one of the first feminists: Manjul Bajaj at the launch of her book ‘In Search of Heer’
Author Manjul Bajaj's latest book ‘In Search of Heer' was released by Vinita Dawra Nangia at Bahri Sons bookstore in Gurugram in the company of avid readers and fellow writers on October 4.
Vinita is the Director of the Times Litfests and Write India, and Executive Editor at The Times of India.
‘In Search of Heer’, as the title suggests, is a modern retelling of the popular folklore of Heer and Ranjha. Talking about the new book, Karthika VK, Publisher-Westland, said at the event, “When I got this book, I was expecting it to be one more retelling of the epic story. But I realised that Heer wasn’t as I had expected her to be in my mind; nor was Ranjha! They were people I felt I could have met or known. While there is a great deal of romance in their story, there is a lot of realism in the way the world works around them. I didn’t realise I was reading an old story – in fact, I was reading a new story told about old themes, because love is an old theme.”
The book release was followed by a tete-a-tete between the author and Vinita about the book and Heer-Ranjha’s evergreen popularity across generations.
There’s something about love stories and tragic romances which makes them timeless and fascinating among readers. Remarking about this Vinita said at the event, “Heer-Ranjha, as everyone knows, is one of the most popular tragic romances coming from the land of Punjab. But, what is it about tragic romances that they are remembered? The ones who lived happily ever after are forgotten and we don’t know what happens after that, because the books end at that, but tragic romances are forever remembered…”
She then asked Manjul what made her choose Heer-Ranjha’s tale for retelling in her new book, to which the author replied, “My parents belonged to Punjab and so I’ve grown up listening to these stories. There is an emotive connect. I wanted to explore the other side of the border where my parents grew up– that’s the reason I chose this particular setting… There must be at least a hundred retellings of ‘Heer-Ranjha’ and so, I feel I have one more to tell! I’m a chronicler of the new generation that doesn’t read Punjabi, Urdu or Sindhi in which they were earlier written in. I feel it is my job to tell this story to the new generations.”
Published by Westland, ‘In Search of Heer’ by Manjul Bajaj is much more than just Heer-Ranjha’s love story. Talking about how her book is different from other versions of the popular tale, the author further said, “My characters are different from how they are traditionally portrayed– they are unique, strong people and not just lovers. They are also agents of change; Heer is probably one of the first feminists through every question she asked in her life.” To this, Vinita added, “Ranjha is the kind of man every woman would love but might not like to marry. Women today are more practical… But Heer is so much more empowered and stronger than many of us.”
Praising the book, Vinita said that she liked the deep philosophical statements peppered throughout the book. “The story is told in a very interesting way — in Heer’s and Ranjha’s words, and also through a crow’s, the pigeons’, and a goat’s perspectives. These animals and birds turn out to be some of the most lovable characters in the book because they are shown with a completely different moral thinking and so they also turn out to be better than humans at times,” she said, sharing more details about the book.
Agreeing to it, Manjul revealed that her idea was to question humanity’s relationship with the environment by putting in different points of views. “The idea was to question humanity’s relationship with the environment. Humans have placed themselves on a pedestal and are destroying lives. So the idea of animal narrators was also to explore environmental issues as they give you a different perspective of the world,” Manjul revealed.
The engaging discussion about the book soon came to an end. It was followed by a round of interesting Q & A with the audience and book signing by the author for the readers.