Uttarakhand Stories

Interview with Raanu Bisht Oberoi, an Inspiring Lady, an Activist & Successful Female Publisher of Uttarakhand

by Pragati Chauhan
May 16, 2016

On hearing that we’ll have to conduct personal interviews with some of the simple yet inspiring souls of Uttarakhand came as a minor terror attack to me as several thoughts came to my mind, what if I get nervous in front of them and didn’t utter a word or what will happen if I won’t engage the interviewer in the conversation. But interviewing Mrs. Raanu Bisht Oberoi, a very humble lady who from past seventeen years is handling the thread of Samaya Sakshaya, a leading publishing house of Uttarakhand was indeed a pleasant surprise for me, as I learned a lot of things from her and came back home being inspired. I would like to describe her as a very charming lady with positive energy and a down to earth person who doesn’t boast of her achievements. If you will Google Samaya Sakshaya and read the ‘About Us’ section you will not see her citing her name there and that’s what I call the mark of a great person to let your name be glorified by your work and not by your fame. If you want to know more about her then stay tuned and read this exclusive interview.

Q1. What is your birthplace and where did you receive your primary and higher education?

Ans: I was born and brought up in Dehradun, did my schooling from Convent and B.Sc. from DBS. I have also done B.Ed.

Q2. When did you established Samaya Sakshaya and was it your dream to run a publishing house?

Ans: SamayaSakshaya was established in 1997. Frankly it wasn’t my dream to set up a publishing house, but it all started when I became the part of Uttarakhand Movement. A lot of things were happening during the Uttarakhand Movement that made me think that how diverse our culture is and how we are being neglected from taking it into notice, so I thought of documenting it in books. I had a strong urge to do something for the state; hence the idea of setting up a publishing house came into mind.

Q3. Did Uttarakhand Government recognize you as an activist of Uttarakhand Movement?

Ans: I have not been recognized as an activist by the Uttarakhand Government and while becoming a part of the Uttarakhand Movement I never thought of gaining something from it. I just wanted to raise my voice for the long-standing demand of carving a new state called Uttarakhand and fight for our rights.

Q4. How was your family’s response towards your work?

Ans: My family has always been very supportive. Sadly, my father had expired at that time but my mother stood like a strong pillar even when others said absurd things behind my back, somehow I just dropped it. But I think I have proved them wrong not with words but with my work.

Q5. What problems did you face initially?

Ans.: It took time for people to swallow the fact that a woman can conduct the printing job. I have to travel to nearby places like Mussorie, Vikas Nagar, Rishikesh to take the orders and deliver them. I have to work for late hours to complete the job well in time. Initially, I just had a computer and printer, I wasn’t technically sound and didn’t even know how to print but I learned it with time. Now when any problem arises, I am confident that I can resolve it. Touch wood, now things are going smooth.

Q6. How will you describe your journey as a “Successful Female Publisher of Uttarakhand” in a few words?

Ans: It was a roller coaster ride, I can’t say that my business just boomed in the wink of an eye, it took time to grow, but I am happy with where I am today. We are the only publisher of Uttarakhand working on regional languages, art, culture and traditions which is available on various online platforms. We have crossed the boundaries of our state and today we are publishing books on all forms of literature from all corners of India. Kanta Ray’s (from Bhopal) collection of short stories “Ghat par thahrav kaha” has been the mile stone in this journey. And the journey continues.

Q7. Do you think the books related to Uttarakhand will help to save the slowly dying culture and traditions of Uttarakhand?

Ans: Yes, definitely they will play an important role in preserving the culture and diversity of Uttarakhand because just by reading them, you can actually learn about the history, culture, traditions and dialects of Uttarakhand. Also I feel the need of publishing books on art, culture and traditions separately. Remote areas like Rang, Johar, Jaunsar, Rawain, Bangan, etc. need to be focused where culture is alive in its original form. We have recently republished JOHAR KE SWAR which was out of print for quite a long time. Republishing has made it available to the researchers and

Q8. How much change have you seen in publishing sector as compared to earlier and what is the most commonly found change?

Ans: A lot has changed in the publishing sector over the years. Now marketing has become easy because of the easy access to the internet. Now writers, as well as readers, can be contacted easily. This has given birth to cut throat competition as there are several publishers in the country. But only those having quality publication and good tactics can now sell the books. The most significant change that I have observed is that paid publishing is becoming popular; people are desperate to get their work published for that they are spending heaps of money. Also people who are writing continuously on face book and are like by people, assume that they are writers and want to get published. Quality check is another challenge.

Q9. Which type of books are most read and sold in Uttarakhand? Is the youth of Uttarakhand inclined towards these books?

Ans: After becoming the capital now people are inquisitive to know more about their culture and traditions. The most read and sold books in Uttarakhand are mainly of History and Culture. However, history books are most sold out but sadly, they are only bought for cracking government job exams and not for interest. Also people buy the books of  popular writers. So its very important to get published in various newspaper and magazines, so that people recognize them. Books related to culture are only read by researchers while the freelance readers are still away from it. Other than that books on regional literature and language (Garhwali Natak, Garhwali Lekh Malas, Bhasha, Shabdkosh), Hindi literature (stories, short stories, auto biographies, travelogues, memoirs) and English literature also find place in people’s shelves.

 Q10. Do you think the women living in the hills are leading a difficult life? What are your views regarding this and how can we improve their state?

Ans: The women living in the hills are leading a sober life as compared to the women of other states. The Pahari women are independent; they can take decisions for their families and their children. Most importantly, they are secured and they have a good social life. But one thing that’s missing in them is ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘ownership’ if these two things will be introduced to Pahari women then they will surely make the best out of it. Now there is gas, roads, and other facilities in their villages. All they need is to stand on their feet and that day will surely come.

Q11. What is your message for the Uttarakhandi girls?

Ans: You must remember that you are a girl but don’t let it be a burden upon you or a shroud that will cover up your true self. You should be confident that you can do anything, don’t let any negative thoughts enter your mind. You must break the stereotype, choose what’s best for you and follow your dreams.

    Q12. The younger generation of Uttarakhand is untouched from their culture and native language, what would you like to say regarding this?

Ans: If parents will converse in their native language with their kids then they will also pick up the dialect. Mothers need to be more aware and at least follow the traditions of celebrationg festivals. To make the younger generations aware of their rich culture the Uttarakhand Rajya Shaikshik Anusandhan SCERT have prepared books in Garhwali, Kumaoni, Jaunsari and Rung Bhasha for classes 1 to 10 that will be applicable in all the government schools of Uttarakhand. Baluni Social Public School has also contacted us to prepare a book called ‘ApniBoli Garhwali Kumaoni’ which will be taught in school and skits will also be performed from it. We are also connecting other schools to teach the regional dialects in school which will also help in preserving it.

 Q13. Any such incident which on remembering makes you feel proud about yourself?

Ans: Once I, my mother and my 2 sisters went to Mount Abu and were waiting at the railway station. There was a family next us, the mother, father, a girl of around 14 years and a 9-year-old boy. The mother was feeling sick so her father took her to the doctor and left the two kids behind to take care of the luggage. When my sisters had gone for bringing tea for us, I noticed a suspicious guy wearing a pristine kurta-pyjama and black goggles in the evening. He took three consecutive rounds and when only two-three people were left in the waiting room, he ran away with the girl. When I asked my mom about the situation, she said one of her relatives came and took the girl with him. I felt suspicious and followed the guy, when I enquired him he said, her mother was ill and had asked to bring the girl. I grabbed the girl’s hand and asked whether she knew him, she said no. The guy at once grabbed my wrist but I didn’t lose my grip on the girls’ hand and told her to run as fast as she can. By the time we reached the station my mother had already spread the news to her parents. Whenever I remember this, I feel very proud that I saved somebody’s life.

Q14. Which is your favourite destination in Uttarakhand?

Ans: Har Ki Doon is one of the favourite destinations of Uttarakhand. It is an utterly beautiful place where you can see meadows, glaciers, rivers and mountains at a same place.

Q15. Which is your favourite book and can you suggest some of the bestselling books for our readers?

Ans: I like reading biographies, autobiographies, and travelogues. I thoroughly enjoy reading Vidya Sagar Nautiyal’s books and one of my favourite book is Geeta Gairolar’s ‘Malyon ki Daar’. When you will read it you’ll actually know how life is in the villages. It’s basically a memoir that is beautifully written from the point of view of a girl growing up in the mountain village and how she thinks and act according to the situation. To the lovely readers, I would like to suggest Garhwali Bhasha and Uska Lok Sahitya. It is a ‘Granth’ for those who want to learn about the culture and traditions of Uttarakhand. Himalaya Ke Gaon Mein, Jauhaar ke Swar, and Sarla Bahan’s Lok Katha (an autobiography of an inspiring lady who was a part of the Quit India Movement and has worked for more than 6 years with Gandhi Ji), Subhash Pant’s “Pahar ki subhah”  is also a must read.

  1. How will you define your personality in a few words?

Ans: I am a person having family values, a courageous and optimistic person (laughs) All is well!. I prefer to call myself a labour in true sense as am I a dexterous person. My hobbies are trekking and reading. Apart from that, I enjoy doing my work.

  1. What would you like to say about eUttaranchal?

Ans: eUttaranchal is doing a great job just by following the page you can actually learn what’s happening in the state. I really appreciate the effort that you guys are putting for embracing the ‘Pahadipan’ and as well turning it into money. It’s a hope to connect the people who want to stay in touch with the Himalays.

Pragati Chauhan

A writer by profession, thinker by choice and a nature lover since birth. I have always loved expressing myself through words, I believe words have a certain kind of melody which can be understood by anybody.

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