Namita Gokhale

Portrait Namita Gokhale
© Hartwig Klappert

Namita Gokhale (née Pant) was born in Lucknow, India in 1956 and grew up between New Delhi and Nainital, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Together with her husband Rajiv Gokhale she published the Mumbai-based film magazine »Super« in the late seventies.

Gokhale’s debut novel, »Paro: Dreams of Passion« (1984) is a social satire on the upper classes of New Delhi and Mumbai. While she was writing her second book, »Gods, Graves and Grandmother« (1994), Gokhale fell seriously ill. Only a few years later her husband died. The experience of love and passion, illness and death shaped Gokhale’s subsequent works. For the author writing is not only a therapeutic act, but also an exploration of the limits of experience: »Every book that is written sincerely involves a certain amount of the paranormal, because the author’s aim is to harness a way of seeing beyond her own limitations and to expand the reader’s experience.« Gokhale’s novel, »Shakuntala. The Play of Memory« (2005), was published in Hindi translation before the English edition. The plot is inspired by the more than a thousand-year-old play »Shakuntala«, written in Sanskrit by the Indian poet Kalidasa. The story of a young woman who is inititated by a blind priest into the mystery of her former life, it plays with the central themes of memory and desire, and has been frequently compared to Hermann Hesse’s »Siddhartha«. Published in 2011, »Priya: In Incredible Indyaa«, picks up from where the characters in her debut novel »Paro« left off. Her most recent work »Things to Leave Behind« (2016) is a panoramic historical novel that chronicles the colonial legacy and changes experienced during a certain period in India.

Gokhale has also written two essayistic studies: »The Book of Shiva« (2001), dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction and transformation, and »Mountain Echoes« (1998), a collection of oral biographies based on the memories of of a generation of older women from the Kumaon Himalayas. »The Puffin Mahabharata« (2009) is a retelling of the famous Indian epic for young readers. »In Search of Sita« (2009), is a collection of essays, conversations and commentaries on the Indian goddess, considered an ideal of womanhood, and her effect on the lives of Indian women. Gokhale has also co-published two travel anthologies, and has also initiated a number of literature festivals, among them Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Literature Festival, and the Jaipur Literature Festival, the world’s largest of its kind, which she co-founded and directs with William Dalrymple. She lives in New Delhi and travels frequently to the Himalaya regions.