Vani Prithvi: An Intimate Conversation with Climate

(Kinshuk Gupta in Conversation with Aditi Maheshwari Goyal)



KG: A lot of your social media posts hint towards your love for nature. What is your relationship with the environment?

AMG: I was introduced to the doctrine of 'Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam' very early in my life as a DAV student. We were sensitized toward the struggles of co-existing life forms. That was when the awareness about the environment and the rampant destruction caught my attention. I can clearly recall that the Delhi Police had roped in all schools in the NCR and persuaded students to check their neighbors' cars regularly for any potential signs of air pollution. Perhaps, ours was the first generation that was made aware of the air pollution in the capital. Gradually, 'Green Diwali' became an important part of our learning. We were encouraged to bring biodegradable wastes from home for the composting plant in the school. At my home too, we ensured that nothing got wasted. Papers were recycled, polythene was upcycled, and moderation in clothing and food habits were always emphasized. My sensitivity to the environment stems from my considerate home and school practices. This might sound like a common story, but it was true for most 90s kids.

KG: As far as I know, there are no other imprints like Vani Prithvi in any of the big Hindi publication houses. What made you start it at Vani?

AMG: Vani Prakashan Group has always tried to stay at the helm of issues that plague and affect the world. As a publishing house, we believe that it is our responsibility that the discourses which affect our everyday lives should translate into the literary list that we have been nurturing for the past 60 years. 'Vani Prithvi' is one such step. We have been publishing ecology-themed books for decades. In fact, the first book on Eco-Feminism in Hindi by Prof. K. Vanaja was published by the Vani Prakashan Group. I feel humbled, and equally satisfied, with our other imprints— 'Satrangi Vani', focussing on the LGBTQ+ discourse; 'Vani Business', featuring independent businesses in India, and many others. The idea is to keep our booklist grounded in solid research yet, exciting and contemporary.

KG: In English, we have Amitav Ghosh and others who have been writing prolifically about climate change. Not only non-fiction, a lot of fiction titles like Anti-Clock by V.J. James, and Budhini by Sarah Joseph deal with ecology in interesting ways. But the names of Hindi writers or books can just be counted on fingers. Why is this trend?

AMG: I disagree with the assumption that nothing much has been written on the environment in Hindi. On one hand, Dr. Shekhar Pathak has been writing about the issues concerned with the Himalayas for over four decades. On the other hand, Ankita Jain's unique position as a mechanical engineer and a farmer has inspired Gen Z in a big way. We have collaborated with the Economic and Political Weekly to produce three-volume sets on Economics, Policy, and Politics of Farming in India— a series edited by legendary Prof. S.Jodhka. Dr. S.R. Harnot has been writing about life in the mountains. His latest novel 'Nadi-Rang Si Ladki' based on the tragic state of our rivers, is getting rave reviews. Our 'Jungle Katha' series talks about residents in the margins of forest in a simplistic Hindi so that the even laymen can be made aware of their lives and livelihoods.

KG: Which books of Vani Prithvi are your personal favorites?

AMG: I can't answer this one. They are all gems, handpicked, and proudly represented by us.

KG: In Oh! Re Kisan by Ankita Jain and Nadi-Rang Si Ladki, one finds a certain rootedness that I often miss in English books. Do you think on a similar ground? What might be the reasons for this?

AMG: We are attached to our habitats most strongly by our mother tongue.

KG: How have readers received Vani Prithvi?

AMG: The response is nothing close to what I had imagined in my dreams. It is a total surprise! Our readers are loving our titles.

KG: What are your plans for Vani Prithvi?

AMG: We are expanding the list on international shores because issues related to G8 and policymaking are addressed more closely on a global platform. We are also moving inwards, closer to the heartland, to look for intimate stories and narratives.

Kinshuk Gupta uses the scalpel of his pen to write about his experiences as an undergraduate medical student. He was longlisted for the People Need Change Poetry Contest (2020) organized by The Poetry Society, UK. His haiku have been nominated for the Touchstone Awards and the Red Moon Anthology. His work can be read or forthcoming in The Hindu, The Hindu BL, Times of India, The Quint, Inklette, Good River Review, Rattle, Modern Haiku, Haiku Foundation, Contemporary Haibun Online, among others. He is a blogger for Times of India and a Creative Writing Intern for Posham Pa. He edits poetry for Jaggery Lit and Mithila Review.

Aditi Maheshwari Goyal heads the Department of Copyrights and Translation at Vani Prakashan and is the Managing Trustee at Vani Foundation. She teaches Publishing and Editing at the University of Delhi. She is on the advisory panel of Jaipur BookMark. She is the Festival Director of Hindi Mahotsav and Secretariat Manager of Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award.