Interview with Maitreyee B Choudhary

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Maitreyee B Choudhary;s, third outing as an author is the never-told-before story of the Hungry generation (or the Hungryalists)a group of barnstorming, anti-establishment poets, writers, artists and activists in Bengal in the sixties.

Maitreyee B Choudhary, a Bangalore based poet and author grew up in the small oil town of Digboi in Assam. “I was surrounded by greenery and wild life which had a lasting impact on me. Writing came very naturally to me and was an expression of what I felt. I began by writing small pieces of poetry even while in school and later did more writing while in college. I started serious writing much later though and used the period in between to read as much as I could especially world literature and those outside the syllabus prescribed in colleges and universities.” She is the author of the poetry collection Benaras: Where Even the Present is Ancient and the non-fiction title Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen: Bengali Cinema’s First Couple apart from being the poetry and fiction editor of The Bangalore Review, a literary journal “Poetry came very naturally to me. I still think I am a poet before anything else. It may have been an impact of nature on me that led me to write poetry before anything else. Over the years I found myself drawn more and more to non-fiction and as of now the major part of my reading and writing is non-fiction. I am strangely drawn to the honesty behind non-fiction, the telling of things as they are I suppose. I would like to try my hand at fiction soon though.”

The Hungryalists
The Hungryalists

Maitreyee is set to launch her third book The Hungryalists which is a narrative non-fiction, which means some creative license has been taken in narrating the story to make it interesting. This book tells the fantastic story of a group of young poets who rebelled against the establishment to fight against caste, class and elitism. Set in the sixties in Bengal, it has the 1962 war in the backdrop and talks about the socio-economic situation in those times along with the many experiments that were carried out. This is a story that has a combination of rebellion, sex, drugs, poetry and war. Naturally she has done a lot of research before writing this book. “Writing a book on an era that I have not been part of is always a challenge, but that is also the most enjoyable part of the writing for me. I enjoy my role as a researcher and in the case of this book I talked to people from a wide spectrum. University professors, poets, writers, journalists and readers from that era- all formed a part of the research bank. Some of the Hungryalists are alive and some died even during the course of this book being written but I could manage to talk to them and record them. The book is a product of at least three years plus of research.” The book incidentally started with her reading about the Beats and their journey to India. “The Beat generation epitomises all that is experimental, new and avant-garde. Their attitude of inclusiveness, tolerance and inherent curiosity is ever fresh and had an impact on me like it did on many others.”

Speaking on the state of poetry and English writing currently Maitreyee says that there is much to look forward to in Indian English writing in all genres. “Writers are experimenting and writing about subjects that had not been spoken about before. There is a wide choice for all sorts of readers. Indian English poetry especially is doing very well with the advent of small presses that are willing to take risks with poets. Personally I am cheering for more and more translation work being done from vernacular languages.” A sucker for well researched original stories, written with an eye for detail and creativity she says that the ability to present the local in an international flavour is her inspiration. Looking ahead she is gearing up to do the script writing for a film based on the life of Jibananada Das with international film maker Hiroshi Sunari.

  • What: Book Launch of The Hungryalists By Maitreyee B Chowdhury at Atta Galatta
  • When: Saturday, 6th April 2019, 6:00 PM
  • Where: Atta Galatta, #134, KHB Colony, 5th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore 560095. Phone: (080) 4160 0677 / 96325 10126
  • Entry: Free

This story first appeared in Deccan Chronicle Bengaluru dated 5th April 2019 here:

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