Kolkata/Delhi: Journalist-turned-author Shutapa Paul in her debut book, Didi, The Untold Mamata Banerjee chooses to pen the achievements, shortcoming and what it took to shape the firebrand female politician from Bengal – Mamata Banerjee. Stressing that the book is a biography and not hagiography, engages in a chat with eNewsroom. Following are excerpts of the interview:
eN: Why did you choose to tell story of Mamata Banerjee in your debut book?
Shutapa: Being from Kolkata, she was an obvious choice. Given the fact that in India, it takes a hell lot of hard work, determination and grit for a woman to successful and in politics, you can double the efforts. Having female firebrand political leaders like Mamata Banerjee is a rarity. Hence, I chose to share, the untold story of Didi.
eN: With the elections approaching, do you think that your book will help her?
Shutapa: Look, both me and my publisher (Penguin) wanted the book to release around this time but let me be clear, about one thing – this book has not been written to help anyone gain political mileage. It’s an unauthorised biography and not a hagiography, as I mentioned earlier. The idea is to share the untold stories of this female leader, who defied all odds to be where she is today. One can’t deny the fact that Mamata is an intriguing personality, who has had a long political career. And being from Kolkata and a woman, it was natural for me to write about her.
eN: Why are you calling it an unofficial biography?
Shutapa: The fact that Mamata Banerjee declined to give me an interview for this book, makes it an unofficial biography. We met but she turned down my request for a formal interaction to gather details for this book. She, however, told me that she was aware of me writing this book and that I could go ahead with my plan. So, here I had to use all my journalistic skills to meet up people, who could help me with trivias and dopes to make this narrative interesting.
eN: Then, how difficult was it for you to get all the details?
Shutapa: Well, this book has been written like a novel. And, as we know, writing biographies of the living is always difficult, so yes, it was challenging and that made it interesting. The various interviews that I conducted to get matter for this novel have made the book colourful.
eN: Whom did you interview and how?
Shutapa: The fact that Mamata Banerjee is a leader who began her political career in the Nineties, there is not much information on the internet. So, I had to rely a lot on the newspapers and interviews of people like her teachers, classmates and her contemporaries in politics like Saugata Roy and Somnath Chatterjee. Some agreed, some backed out, while some spoke to me on condition of anonymity for this book. At every step, I had to continuously keep checking the fact that I gathered.
eN: Suddenly there are many books on Didi? How different is your book?
Shutapa: Well, can’t comment on other authors, but as I said, being a woman, I understand that achieving what she has till date is not an easy task, especially for women in India. I have been a political reporter and was present in Kolkata when Mamata single-handedly decimated the Left Front in Bengal. I have always felt that there was more to her than what we get to see of her. This is an attempt to give an unbiased account of this iconic leader, who will definitely be seen playing the kingmaker, if a coalition government is being formed in the centre, in 2019, to those who want to know her.
Didi, The Untold Mamata Banerjee will be launched at Delhi on December 12, by Members of Parliament Jairam Ramesh, Saugata Roy and Swapan Dasgupta.