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Shades of the psyche

| DEVIKA GOWRI
Published : Mar 8, 2016, 11:52 pm IST
Updated : Mar 8, 2016, 11:52 pm IST

#iAm16iCan tells the story of Aarush Kashyap, the 16-year-old unreliable protagonist with genius intellect, who is accused of rape.

Kirtida Gautam
 Kirtida Gautam

#iAm16iCan tells the story of Aarush Kashyap, the 16-year-old unreliable protagonist with genius intellect, who is accused of rape.

“On 18th December 2012, I was sipping my morning tea when my husband Mrityunjay told me the news about Nirbhaya Rape Case,” begins Kirtida Gautam. As he described the rape, Kirtida was reminded of the times she had travelled between Pune, where she studied at the Film and Television Institute of India, and Mumbai on the late night Volvo buses. “In that one moment, I was filled with an alarming fear — I could have been this girl. Or any girl I cared about. The fear didn’t seem distant and remote; rather it seemed urgent, and in the backyard.”

That sowed the seeds for her soon-to-be-released book #iAm16iCan. Narrated from 15 different perspectives, it tells the story of Aarush Kashyap, the 16-year-old unreliable protagonist with genius intellect, who is accused of rape. As it explores both the bright and the dark sides of the character, she tells us that it is only one of a heptalogy called the Yin Yang series. That curiosity stems from her background in clinical psychology, which reflects in her writing screenplays and now, books. “As a social scientist, I believe that there are opposing forces in nature, negative and positive, dark and bright, night and day, feminine and masculine, yin and yang. The series questions the social beliefs of modern society from a psychological point of view,” she describes.

Currently settled in the US, Kirtida talks about her journey through several different professions. “Just like every child is a born swimmer and then he/she ‘unlearns’ it, only to formally train in it later, I took a long route to realise that my duty is to weave stories. I cannot think of myself as a clinical psychologist or a screenplay writer — I am both, but at the end of the day, I am a storyteller. That is my identity,” she says.

Though writing #iAm16iCan was the most euphoric time in her life, the road wasn’t always smooth. As she reviewed her ARCs (Advance Review Copies) and made changes to her book for her final release, she received criticism as well. “I wanted to test the waters with the ARCs. It’s, after all, a bold book and the character isn’t someone people want to know in real life. I researched for eight months before sending my query letter to literary agents,” she recalls. In fact, she even received a message on Facebook — ‘How indecent are you as a person to write a book like this ’, which she brushes off as a professional hazard. But it does change things, as her initial title, #IAm16IcanRape, was not well received, she had to change to this current one.

She’s also started planning her next novel in the Yin Yang series. “It is called 377 Partners in Crime and it questions the sensibility of IPC Section 377 that calls homosexuality as an unnatural offense, punishable by 10 years of hard imprisonment. I support homosexuality. Humans are animals with advanced intelligence and we determine our gender in our mind. It’s regressive and offensive to call it a crime,” she states.

And when she’s not writing, she can be seen writing. (laughs) “If I get tired of writing, I write some more about the tiredness! And I do a lot of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing as well!” she says in conclusion.