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THINKING AND INKING WITH PANACHE

Dainik Jagran City Plus, 26-05-2011
–Monali B Bhuyan

From creative writing to taking up environmental issues like lake cleaning, Usha Rajagopalan packs a punch in everything.
Usha Rajagopalan has a way with words, no doubt she has already published four books. Meet writer cum responsible citizen Usha Rajagopalan, who strongly felt about the deplorable condition of Puttanahalli Lake in J P Nagar and took up the issue.

Background
Usha had a longstanding relationship with writing and reading as it started well in her childhood. Her writing skills were honed when she worked under illustrious Dr V Kurien, chairman, National Dairy Development Board, at Anand, Gujarat as many of her write-ups appeared regularly in local newspapers. "I had good feedback about my writings from readers, which motivated me to continue writing despite a hectic job," Usha shares. Her articles, travelogues, short stories, poems and features appeared in almost all the leading English newspapers and magazines, which encouraged her to give up her job and take to writing full-time.

Laurels
Soon, her efforts paid off as Usha won the Commonwealth Short Story prize for three successive years: 2001, 2002 and 2003. Usha also won many international prizes for her writings and poems.

Inspiration

Usha admitted that she is inspired by every day events. Usha wrote her first novel 'Amrita' when she was the Andrew Fellow in Fiction at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver in 1999. "Amrita is the story of the deep bond between a mentally disabled Amrita and her mercurial younger sister Maya," says Usha. However, Usha's first book is not the novel but a manual for aspiring writers. The book 'Get Published', lists out tips for budding writers on how to get a foothold in the publishing world. The book won the 2006 Federation of Indian Publisher's Award.
Her third book is a collection of short stories called "Corpse Kesavan and Other Stories. Usha is passionate about poems of Tamil poet Subramaniam Bharathiar. "For the next book, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream of translating my favourite poems by Subramania Bharati into English. This book has 81 poems translated from Tamil to English," she says.
Her next project is translating Bharati's 'Panchali Sabadham'. Usha shares that revision and perseverance are the keys to good writing.

Environmental issues
Apart from writing, Usha has done her bit towards environmental issues too. Usha made the city her home in 2006. "I was concerned about the small Puttenahalli Lake near my home. People threw all sorts of trash into the lake, lorries dumping construction debris and the slum residents extending their territory further into the rising lake bed," says Usha.
Staying in South City in JP Nagar, a residential complex with some 2000 apartments, Usha decided to do something for the lake with the help of mass support. "We started 'Save Our Lake' campaign with only three people. Soon, we shot off letters to the local MLA and Lake Development Authority. We did a signature campaign too. Finally, through the intervention of Ashwin Mahesh, my neighbour, Puttenahalli Lake was included in BBMP's list of 23 lakes for revival. Work began from last February. Residents in Brigade Millennium joined hands with us and we formed and registered the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) in June 2010. Along with the BBMP, we planted some 300 trees and as many shrubs along the periphery of the lake. With donations from residents in the locality, we hired a sweeper and a gardener to maintain the place. On May 17, we signed an MoU with the BBMP to formally take over the maintenance of the lake," Usha recounts her experience with the cause.
With this, they have become the first citizens' group in Bangalore to do so. Usha and her team are also campaigning for the use of clothes bag as an alternative for plastic bags.

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