Kavita Mahajan was one of those rare professional authors, whose primary source of income is writing. She was also an artist, a trained one at that. She had a number of canvases at home, she also painted sarees once upon a time. She wrote novels, short stories, books for children, did translations into Marathi, updated her blog regularly.
Most importantly, she wrote soul-stirring poetry. She wrote regular columns for Divya Marathi, Lokmat, ABP Maza, etc. The topics varied from history of the women to current topics to folklore. She was interested in cooking and has published a book or two of recipes. She had a great sense of humour which was present in her columns, books, Facebook posts and personal chat sessions. She did a lot of research before writing anything, the written word was sacred for her. A multitalented person who took on a mini-celebrity when he harassed her on social media. She took the fight to its logical conclusion by dragging him to the court of law.
I was her editor for nearly four years. She wrote, 2013-15, one column called ‘Badlapurchi Bakhar’ for Madhurima, the weekly supplement for women that I edit; and “Streejanma mhanoni na vhave udas’ 2017-18. Bakhar was about the interesting people of an imaginary town called Badlapur, with characters which spoke the local language. Her characters were so real for the readers that many emailed her to ask for the address of Kunthalgiri Maharaj, a fake baba. She spoke a Marathi that was laced with the Marathwada accent, not quite the proper-Puneri puritan Marathi. But she wrote the perfect Marathi. I hardly ever had to alter a character in the four years. Even her facebook posts were grammatically all correct.
Kuhoo, a multi-dimensional book, was her dream project for which she gave her time, hard work, and funds as well. She was disheartened when it didn’t sell well. She had recently released the content of Kuhoo on Youtube. It’s a treat for kids and parents, both.
Kavita had a number of projects in the pipeline, she had invested in books and reference material for the same. She was looking to do some creative work, like painting, as a break in the intellectually challenging work that she planned to do.
Kavita was a talented and hardworking translator as well. She has brought Rajai, by Ismat Chugtai, into Marathi. A recent poetry collection written by Vedika Kumarswamy, a sex worker, has a foreword by Kavita, she also edited it. It runs more than 60 pages and she had referred to many books and research papers to write that. It is an important document explaining how we as a society have looked at the sex workers over a period of time.
Bra ब्र was her first novel. The reference to this word is rooted in the patriarchal society, explaining how the women have always suffered in silence. Her next novel Bhinna (different) dealt with the sex workers, HIV, pimps, etc. She had stayed in the villages, in the bastis, among the Adivasis, for both these novels and spent a lot of time trying to understand and internalise the lives of those living on the margins.
Kavita was a passionate human being, she would shower love and praise and abuses with equal panache. She lived life on her own terms, and as was made clear by her daughter’s letter last night, she died on her own terms. She had clearly stated that she didn’t want to continue living on a ventilator, that too many years ago. Her daughter and father respected that decision after consultation with the doctors.
I had met her a few times, the most recent was on 9th September. She had shifted to Pune some days back. She had dreams and plans of things to do in Pune. Alas.
Will miss her hearty laughter, her intense poetry, her long researched articles, her sense of timing, her chiding me to write a book!
Not in any particular order.
– Mrinmayee Ranade