Katharina Kakar – author of Moving to Goa. And many other works that I am yet to read, talks about her writing and Goa.
Katharina Kakar Interview
Tell us about your background – where did you grow up and what did you study?
Katharina Kakar: I grew up in a small town in northern Germany with a brother and a sister. My father was into computers, died young when I was 16, my mother was an artist. I went to Berlin to study comparative religion and anthropology at the Free University Berlin. (instead of studying art as planned earlier) after I spent a year in India traveling and doing social work. Wanting to understand more about my journey and satisfy my curiosity about cultures. Life, people, philosophies…
When and how did you first get attracted to writing? What writings shaped you as a writer?
I wrote my first fantasy story after my father died and it must still be somewhere among old letters… I always liked writing as a medium to express myself. But rather privately, in form of diaries. Which I kept as a teenager and student. After a scholarship at Harvard University, I decided I wanted to free myself from academic writing and rather do books my own way. This is how it started, but very slowly. I wrote a novel, which never got printed. And then moved on with non-fiction.
No particular writings that shaped me, I am interested in so many different kinds of literature: from philosophy to epics, from novels to biographies.
At what point in time did you decide to write about your ‘Moving to Goa’ experience? Is it when you actually felt a part of the state or is it when you mentally settled for that ‘Bhaile’ tag or any other point?
I wanted to explore Goa more, understand it in a deeper way. Tune into its culture since we made it our home. And I have an inbuilt curiosity and interest in my surroundings, where I have lived/live. I always like to have goals, so writing on Goa was an opportunity to do things. Talk to people, go places, which I would otherwise not have done. I neither feel I belong nor do I feel I do not belong, I will always be an outsider but chose to make Goa a home and I feel quite comfortable in that position. So, my standing or status or acceptance had no influence and was not a motivation to write the book
How do you see living in Goa different from living in other parts of India?
It is different because 450 years of Portuguese rule have left a mark. Goa is a tiny state with lots of people from all walks of life settling here. Thus, it is very open and welcoming, I appreciate this. Goan village life might be conservative, but people let live, you can live your dreams, as long as you do not stick out your neck too far. It is less controlling living in a Goan village compared to villages in other parts of India, it feels more cosmopolitan to settle here than in other parts.
Did you have to make any efforts to become a part of Goa? Katharina Kakar Do you consider yourself a Goan now?
Whether Goans consider me a Goan, it is up to them. I feel Goan, because I not only chose this state as my home but am actively involved socially through my art, my NGO and my interest to engage with the culture and people wherever I live. I feel being engaged makes you a citizen, no matter where you are from.
Migrants are creating a whole lot of contemporary literature across the world. Is this because you can see your new home more objectively? Or in an attempt to get acquainted with the new home, they go and explore it with a zeal? What are your thoughts on this?
I do not think we can ever be objective as subjects… however, migrants have the opportunity to step back and forward (or rather they are forced to deal with distance and nearness, placing themselves in new environments), creating distance and nearness. Growing new roots, absorbing the other without denying their backgrounds. So the focus and perceptions change. And I think this is an advantage, not just in writing, in all creative activity. So traveling, living at different places is an opportunity to not only grow but also reflect on your own culture and identity differently. This can open up new perspectives or be seeing things more clearly.
Do you think as an author – which means your work is in public domain – helps you when you are in a new city?
Not necessarily. It helps to free yourself internally. To write or do what you think is important, not being too concerned what other people might think about it. So inner courage and freedom is needed, not outer new space, though that might help many people in their writing.
What are the limitations you face for not being in the big metropolitan cities both personally and professionally?
It was our choice to live in a village. Because we love to have an island of peace, which we created for ourselves, our work. I, fortunately, can venture out often enough to metropolises in India. And around the world, to be in touch with inspiring artists. Writers and other wonderful people, see exciting exhibitions, etc. etc. I love and need that, but am always happy to return home to get into my flow of work. Being away from a big city gives you fewer chances to network and be seen with your work. However, it gives you the chance to focus on the work, instead of being constantly distracted by interesting things that go on in the cultural world of big cities…
For me, working and creating and being in my own world of imagination becomes much more important at my stage of life than constantly consuming creativity – in that case, it is better to live in a city and make use of all the opportunities culture offers.
Katharina Kakar Tell us about your NGO and the work it does in Goa.
Tara Trust website has all the details http://www.taratrustindia.com/
What is the next book that you are working on Katharina Kakar – tell us something about it?
It is a book about Indian women. It troubled me how one-dimensional the media in the West portraits Indian women. Especially after the rape case in December 2012, where the protests across India received a lot of attention internationally. Indian women were seen as these backward victimized creatures. When one of the best German publishing houses approached me and asked if I would do a book on women? I took up that challenge to show the diversity, the many realities of Indian womanhood. My interest is to bring across a cultural understanding as well. It will be up to the readership to judge if I succeeded. The book is almost written and will be published in 2015 in Germany. And hopefully thereafter in India as well, if it gets translated.