My achievement so far, only the first step: Renowned novelist Dr Iti Samanta

She was recently featured in 'Sahitya Sansar' of Lok Sabha TV

Bhubaneswar: “This is only the first step. Whatever I have achieved so far is only the first step. I have miles to go. I wish to pen a number of novels in the coming days,” says renowned Odia writer/novelist Dr. Iti Samanta.

Editor of the feature based monthly Odia family magazine ‘Kadambini’, Dr. Samanta mainly dwells upon tales of downtrodden women in her literary works.

Lately, the talented writer was featured in Lok Sabha TV where she opened her heart about her works and passion.

“Writing is my most favourite work,” says Dr. Iti Samanta.

“I started writing at a tender age when I was in Class IV. Yet, then our family situation was not very good and so I could not publish it anywhere. I started with drama and later shifted to poems, stories, and novels. Yet, as a writer my prime choice is novel,” she adds.

Dr. Iti Samanta was born in Kalarabanka village of Cuttack district. Her father Anadi Charan passed away when she was merely two months old. Her mother Nilimarani soon shouldered the burden of the family of seven children.

“When I was merely two months old, my father expired. He left us almost nothing and hence my mother was much worried about nourishing the big family. We all struggled a lot,” she says.

“As I grew up, something from my inside inspired me to take up writing. I felt like there are many things within me, which I should convey through writings,” Dr Samanta said.

Though Dr. Iti has earned a degree in Engineering, her passion for literature pulled her to do Ph. D. in Odia literature.

“After completion of my Engineering, I started writing. My siblings recognized my works and encouraged to write more. In the meanwhile, some of my writings got published. I started to get a lot of letters of admirations on my writings. By the grace of God and the inspiration from my within, I felt like I need to do something more and hence I went on writing. Perhaps that was the reason now I am here in this position,” she said.

Young Iti was very fond of reading novels which inspired her to write.

Narrating an episode from her young age she said, “I had a friend in the village. They were seven brothers and sisters. Whenever I used to visit their home I was seeing them reading novels. I was so passionate for novels, once I asked my friend to lend me a few novels for a day or two, for which I was even ready to work at their home in return. Back then our house had no electricity connection so that I can read at night. So I used to hide the novels inside the textbooks and read in the classroom. Of course, after a while, I was caught by the teacher. I don’t recall the name of those novels but those were very interesting.”

Dr Iti’s protagonists in her novels are often struggling and downtrodden women.

Later the writer turned an editor when she launched the monthly family magazine ‘Kadambini’. She also publishes ‘Kuni Katha’, a magazine for kids.

‘Kadambini’ mostly houses writings that convey tales of struggling women who ultimately set an example in society through their deeds.

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Cover page of Dr. Iti Samanta’s ‘Tathapi’

Dr. Iti came up with her maiden novel ‘Tathapi’ in the year 2000. It was a woman-centric work. The novel dwelt upon a struggling and neglected mother. The woman (in the novel) has two married sons. The sons and their wives neglect her, but still, she wants her third son should get married to live a happy life.

“I try to portray whatever I see in society, in my works. I write on issues related to women besides current social issues. How women face hurdles in society but face it with the courage to finally bring some change, is the basic theme of my novels,” she says.

“Once I sit to write, I feel like my pen automatically carves a woman character that initially struggles a lot but triumphs at the end,” she added.

Dr. Iti has received a number of awards and honours thanks to her novel ‘Sakuntalara Jhia’ (‘Sakuntala ki Beti’ in Hindi). It is again the tale of the struggle of a woman.

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Cover page of Dr. Iti Samanta’s ‘Sakuntalara Jhia’

“Sakuntala, my protagonist in the novel, is a downtrodden woman. She wants her daughter to be known as ‘Sakuntalara jhia’ (Daughter of Sakuntala). Why should a daughter, whose father was not interested to know about her and even did not wanted the offspring to take birth be identified with the name of her father,” she argues.

National award-winning film director Himanshu Khatua says Dr. Iti’s novels are perfect to be filmised. He said, “Her works have immense visual elements. She looks simple but is very strong in her belief and so perfectly portrays the characters in her works. Any filmmaker will be lured to take up her novels due to the presence of abundant visual elements.”

Kalyani Buxi, one of Dr. Iti’s readers says that she thinks ahead of time and conveys it through her works. She said, “Her description and word composition are unique while her women characters are robust who never get defeated. She is a unique writer.”

A unique characteristic which makes Dr. Iti different from others is, she not only is a good writer and editor, but she also is a good reader. She has read almost all known Odia writers both from the old and new generation.

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Cover page of ‘Kadambini’

“In the initial days, nobody in my family briefed me about which writer I should read. And hence I read all. Later, when I started ‘Kadambini’, I got an opportunity to know many writers. I read everybody because basically, I am an editor. Yet, I am fond of those who write on women issues. Actually, after working for 10 years in Kadambini, I started writing seriously,” Dr Iti said.

The Hindi version of Dr. Iti’s ‘Sakuntalara Jhia’ will be launched shortly. Shankarlal Purohit has transliterated the novel to Hindi. Besides, Samanta’s another work ‘Iti Tora Lipsa’ will also be launched in Hindi and English.

Dr. Iti can be judged as a rare writer because she has adopted some lesser known women from mythology whom she has made the protagonist in her novels. She said, “For the last five years I am also working on some novels where the central characters are the barely known women from the most popular Hindu epics Mahabharat and Ramayana. In these mythological books, characters like Kunti, Yagnyaseni, Seeta, and others have widely been portrayed. Yet, I have preferred the unknown women characters to bring to the fore. I make it a point to do a story on one such woman in each issue of ‘Kadambini’.”

When it comes to films, Dr. Iti has a few, but award-winning and popular Odia films to her credit. On behalf of the Kadambini Media Pvt. Ltd., she produced ‘Kathantara’ (the other story), a film based on the most infamous super cyclone of 1999, which wretched havoc in the erstwhile Odisha. “It was a true story but we added some external elements to the plot to bend it into an interesting tale.”

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Cover page of Dr. Iti Samanta’s novel ‘Jhada Parara Surya’

One of Dr. Samanta’s novels ‘Jhada Parara Surya (Andhi Ke Baad Ka Suraj) was made into a film titled ‘Krantidhara’. The plot dwells upon grass root level politics where although women hold the positions, actually their hubbies enjoy the power.

The film earned huge acclaim by critics and audiences in various National and International film festivals in India and abroad. The film won 3 State Awards in 2015. “I have got standing ovations in many film festivals for this story.”

“My mother is my inspiration. Along with my brother, I have planned to make a film on the concept of mother,” she adds.

In the small screen, these days a talk show about transgender people has become very famous in Odisha. Aired on Kalinga TV, the show titled ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’ hosts interviews of and by transgender women. The serial is a brainchild of Dr. Iti Samanta.

In this show one transgender interviews another. Since both of them are victims of the same elements like social discrimination, stigma, and systemic inequality, the rendition often turns emotional.

Besides films and TV serials Dr. Samanta has a few short films and documentaries to her credit.

The other side of Dr. Iti Samanta is that she also is a social worker. “My brother Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder of KISS and KIIT had long adapted our village to make it into a model village. Often I visit there to do social work,” she said.

So far Dr. Iti Samanta has achieved many feats. However, she believes this is only the first step and she has much more things to do.

Following video: An episode of Dr. Iti Samanta conceptualised TV show ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’

Also read: KISS Student Selected To Study In US

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