Ruma Chakravarti

Ruma IW 3

Hello Ruma, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer. 

How would you define yourself?

I define myself as a person who is in love with people and the stories that they have to tell. It is always illuminating to discover pieces of myself in others and vice versa.

What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?

My childhood was quite amazing when I think about it. I grew up in fairly remote parts of Africa. My parents both worked as doctors and I was largely left to fill the hours with pets, walking in the local bush and by reading all the books I could find. The only friends of the same age were hundreds of kilometers away and I think this made me a person who has always been comfortable with silence. At the same time it also made me appreciate people when I was with company. My parents never told me that I was a girl and that there were certain things that I would not be able to do. That was the greatest gift that any parent can give a child I feel, the confidence that they will be okay in whatever they do and that mistakes are not obstacles but learning opportunities. I cannot think of any specific incidents that shaped me as a person.

Ruma IW 2

Ruma with her mother, this photo is from her childhood in Africa.

When did your journey as a writer/poet began?

I began writing when I first began living in India. A poem I wrote was awarded a prize in class and for the very first time I saw that I had an ability to make words work for me that not everyone else did. However I would say I really began writing for pleasure about five years ago. Anything I did before that was never meant for an audience.

Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?

Life and people are my inspiration. The way people respond, to real life situations is often so different from what one hopes they would do – these are the sorts of things that I try to delve into and write about.

Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?

I have done both. I think going with the flow allows me to work freely, but working to a plan provides a framework for the story building process. I prefer going with the flow.

For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?

I find it easiest when I write about things that I have experienced, be it happiness, loss or love. The hardest part of writing is trying to make sure that other people see it through their eyes and that I am not force feeding my views to them. I do not have any rituals except for waking very early and staying up late to get any serious writing done. I find I work best when I have silence, within my mind and outside it.

Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?

I usually write several things at the same time. I have not experienced the sort of writers block that would stop me from doing all of them.

How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be? What are you working on now?

I think I am more aware of what sells now. I do not think I have let that affect me much though. I have definitely learned to edit my own work a lot better since starting to write full time. I give myself the same advice I have always given myself; the world is at your feet, you just have to get up and make the effort to take it. No one stops anyone from achieving what they truly believe they are capable of.

At the moment I am working on a couple of translations that are to be published in 2016/2017. I am also finishing my first novel. There are a few other projects that are also shaping up.

What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?

I think the future of books is in safe hands in India. As the West turns from books due to high cost and electronic devices as well as a growing unwillingness to read, countries like India see the birth of more newspapers and more authors who are writing uniquely Indian stories in the vernacular and in English.

One liners:
Favorite food: Kolkata style rolls

Favorite Book: Rebecca

Favorite author: Annie Proulx

What are you afraid of: Something affecting my children’s happiness.

What makes you angry: Any form of deceit.

Childhood crush: Lenny Kravitz.

Things that you can’t live without: My family, my garden and my phone

 

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

Try writing down your own stories honestly. There is always someone out there who has been waiting for you to tell the world what they were too shy to talk about. And if you cannot write, remember that for all the writers in the world, the reader is God. Either way, you are needed and you are a winner.

Ruma IW

At a Book reading in 2013

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Excerpt from a story: 

It had been bothering Maeve all morning. She thought about it while she pulled Henk’s stained overalls out of the machine, noting the lint bag obscenely distended and shiny from the mica in the ever-present dust. As she coaxed the clothing trolley over the cracked pebblecrete path to the backyard and began hanging them out, an army of legs goose-stepped on the heat that came blowing out of the scrub that stalked the farm. The first pair was already drying by the time she hung out the last and it scraped her face as she rattled back with the trolley till she was in the scant shade of the red bougainvillea growing over an old eucalyptus stump. As she looked back at the washing, the raised seams that had brushed her skin reminded her once again. She picked absentmindedly at the scratch and looked at the faint red smudge on her thumb nail. Each year the bougainvillea grew taller seeking something to hook on to, finally flopping on to the ground where it sprouted like embers from a bush fire. Then Henk would get a thorn in his foot as he stood outside drinking in the fading evenings. The next day he would get a chainsaw and butcher the fallen branches back. Somehow he never got around to putting up some rebar around the stump to do a proper job of caging the bougainvillea.
Beer and sweat, Maeve thought as always when she pictured Henk. Grabbing a bottle from the fridge she went to the enclosed verandah where a television set played all day. She put her feet up on the table, took a drink and set the bottle down barely noticing the piles of magazines, ashtrays and dried rings that marked both table top and paper where other bottles had rested over the years.

It was the suitcase of course. It was odd to see someone walk down a highway with a large suitcase. When she slowed down to have a better look he picked it up and held it close to his body with both hands. If she had not been rushing to do her errands while the wash was on, she would probably have stopped to ask him his business. People still did that in these parts. The city was far enough for people to think of where they lived as a different world, free from the bad stuff that one might associate with stopping for someone you did not know. And it was true with all the residents knowing each other in the town of seventy seven as the two signs bookending the main street announced proudly.

WELCOME TO
KEROWIE
POPULATION 77, ELEVATION 70.3 m.

Scrawled in the empty space underneath on one of them was a scribble that bore witness to a sense of humour in at least one of the seventy seven;

AND TWENNY THOUSAND FLIES.
The oldest residents still remembered the town’s glorious past. The tallest silo of the region had been in Kerowie. Today, wheat still sifted through the town into steel silos scattered like exclamation marks on the horizon. But now they belonged to the large agricultural companies, twinned to others all across the country from Parkes to Perth. The tallest silo had never been as tall as these upstarts but it had been made by hand from cinder block by the founders of the town. For a long time, even when the blocks at the top started peeling off, their mortar ties weakened by rain and lack of maintenance, the signs into and out of town had read:
HOME OF THE TALLEST SILO IN THE WEST.

 

Then suddenly five years ago, the town council took notice of Godden Beelitz ,whose house was next to the tiny information kiosk and public toilet and finally painted over the tallest silo claim on each sign. Godden had been complaining for years about visitors to Kerowie who stopped for a toilet break, took a look at the dusty fibre glass sheep inside the kiosk and disappointed in their quest for more information, trampled the gerberas in his front yard. While his wife was still alive, Godden had enjoyed playing the part of friendly rustic – posing for photographs with the visitors, eyes surreptitiously taking in the swell of breast and the dusty calves of any women in the group. But after she died, he had so much to do that he began to see the city cars as an annoyance. When he finished all the work around the place, he only wanted to sit down and watch the choreographed couplings of the people in the films he ordered from interstate. Five years of not having to explain where the silo was – Maeve could see why Godden preferred that. As for the films, well what else was a man without a wife supposed to do amid the fecundity of the grain? Country people were forgiving of men in things like this as long as they came in unmarked parcels. Her own Henk liked the occasional dirty picture too. Maeve always knew by the way he would go into what he called his study straight after they had finished their dinner of steak and chips. She woke only when he came back and started moving on top of her with all the finesse of the Brahman bull they had bought a few years ago. She need not have bothered waking most times, he was done within seconds and she found herself staring at the slab of his back as he slid off and began to snore. Not that she minded much; she was sure that decent women were not meant to enjoy sex.

She wasn’t bothered about the man on the road being new to town. It was more the fact that she had not heard of anyone having a visitor in the past week. Where had he come from Maeve wondered, a little more urgently this time as she heard the dogs barking outside. She walked to the front of the house, smoothing her dress over her hips. She could see the suitcase outside the fly screened door.
‘Hello Maevey, it has been a while,’ he said.
Nearly half a century, Maeve thought as she silently stood to one side to let him in.
‘Looks like nothing has changed.’
‘Hasn’t been a reason for that.’

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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI. 

Sridevi Datta

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Hello Sridevi, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer. 

How would you define yourself?

A moody writer, complex human being and a loving mother.

What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?

My childhood was a normal, sorted childhood. Pressure to work hard, score well in exams, a dash of sibling rivalry, friends, fun. The works.  After tenth, I opted for science. Sometime in twelfth, I realized I was not cut out for science. So shifted to commerce. Accountancy and economics excited me more than any other subject. However after a corporate stint, I realized that nothing could bring me deeper satisfaction than writing. Ironically, impermanence has been a constant factor in my life. That said, I don’t have any complaints against it.

When did your journey as a writer/poet begin?

Both my parents are writers, my mother being the more prolific of the two. She would tell stories, make them up and read out the ones by her favorite authors. I loved how the very act of storytelling would transform her. From a diminutive woman, she would morph into this excited, garrulous  little person.

But I guess the seed got germinated, when one day I stumbled upon the “little plots notebook” and “Submission status sheets” maintained by mother. One in yellow and the other in white. One symbolizing beginnings. The other progress. To me they were an integral part of story-telling. Or the story itself.

Again being the quietest girl in the class  helped. I could observe things, while making myself invisible. My interpretations were mine alone. There was a certain pride in that alone-ness.

As for poetry, I guess my journey began when I delightedly penned, “The lazy cat snored on the dirty mat”(No… I actually don’t remember what I wrote, but it had a ridiculous sense of rhyme J )  at around six  years of age and showed it to my equally ecstatic mother, who told me to complete it so that we might send it to the newspaper. It’s another matter that I never got to complete it. J But poetry, with all its quirks and sense of incompleteness stayed with me.

Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?

Life, life and life. Nothing like the chaos and silence of life to get your writing muscles all pumped up.

Do you plan your work or just go with the flow?

Ummm. That “Plots notebook” again.  No I don’t really plan it out in advance. I go with the flow and let the characters develop on their own. But these days,  sometimes I plan. Not as in penning down in an actual yellow notebook, but writing it all in my head before hitting the keyboard.

For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?

Characterization comes quite easy to me. I find it easy to get into the head of the character. The hardest thing is finding the right word. Especially, when I have a specific Telugu/Hindi word in mind which evokes a certain native flavor and which might not have an English equivalent.

Listening to Tibetan chants is one ritual that helps me focus all my energies on my work.

Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?

I get it all the time. Nothing like a brisk walk to overcome it. Cooking also helps me fight the dreaded monster. By the time the dish is ready, so am I.  My muse, monster et al.

How have you evolved as a writer ever since you started out? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would that be? What are you working on now?

When I started to write, I would be bothered about being critiqued. I used to take it as a personal affront. But now I don’t. I actively listen, when I take feedback. I try to see my writing as it might be interpreted by a lay reader.

Secondly, my previous works were mostly one dimensional. Now I try to write, while engaging the reader in all the 5 senses. Lastly, the biggest change is, I am actually completing projects.

One advice I would give myself: Overcome that self doubt. Be kind to yourself. Compassion starts with self.

My current projects..well there are three novels all in progress: A psychological horror(for the first time), A lit fiction with child sexual abuse as the central theme and another lit fiction on hope and survival.

What’s your opinion about the future of writing/ reading/publishing industry in India?

I have mixed feelings about this. While I see great talent around me, I also see impatience and hurry. Even as awe-inspiring stories are being told, I also see the “best-seller” tag being tossed around freely. There are people who swear by reading and there are people who say that marketing is the mantra. I guess we need a more balanced approach, more reading events, and writing workshops. Schools and colleges should invest more on building libraries and encouraging young minds to devour books.

One liners

Favorite food: Kadhi  chawal

Favorite book: The Wind up Bird Chronicle

Favorite Author: Jhumpa Lahri

What are you afraid of: Snakes

What makes you angry: Hypocrisy

Childhood Crush: Only one? Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar. J

 

 

Things that you cannot leave without: My wallet

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

Read, read and read. Never give up on yourself.

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Sridevi’s Writing portfolio: https://sridevidatta.contently.com/

Sridevi’s Blog: http://thewritejourney.in/

 

Listening to My Child Singly

Listening to my Child Singly: http://mothersalwayswrite.com/listening-child-singly/

 

The Terrace Party

The Terrace Party: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/sridevi-datta-/the-terrace-party/

 

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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wallet

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

 

Read, read and read. Never give up on yourself.

 

My Writing portfolio: https://sridevidatta.contently.com/

My Blog: http://thewritejourney.in/

Image Sources:

Listening to my Child Singly: http://mothersalwayswrite.com/listening-child-singly/

The Terrace Party: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/sridevi-datta-/the-terrace-party/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ankita Anand

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Hello Ankita, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer.  

How would you define yourself?

I am a utilitarian. I am always questioning my utility, which, at different times, can create motivation, vanity and dissatisfaction.

What was your childhood like? Any incidents from your growing up years that shaped you as a person?

I had a lot of time, which I used to read, think and imagine. I was lucky enough to grow up in a joint family which can be an extremely messy space to be in but also gives you multiplicity of perspectives. When I was in primary school, I had gone to a party. I saw a girl wearing her school shoes and felt extremely guilty about my privilege, about having a special pair of shoes that I could use for outings. I felt ashamed that while she had only one pair, I had two.

I slowly started noticing inequality. I used to be dropped to school on a bicycle and on the way there were children living in huts. I started writing cynical stories about my being a silent observer to this inequality. Then I got tired of that impassive self-deprecation too. When I came to Delhi from Ranchi, the scale of inequality no loger fitted my canvas. Writing started seeming like an inadequate measure to address this injustice. I moved to activism but eventually realised that no matter what else I do, I would always wish to continue writing because even before it addresses the external world and its happenings, it is a way of articulating my existence, of answering my own questions honestly and gaining clarity.

grandparents and sister

With her grandparents and her sister

When did your journey as a writer/poet began?

I first came up with a mini-poem on the moon, in Hindi, in an elder’s lap, looking at the night sky. Writing happened when our English teacher in the sixth grade asked us to write a poem on saving the environment. She was kind enough to appreciate and encourage my work, and I discovered the joy of writing.

My maternal grandfather used to teach me English, with special emphasis on grammar and translation. He introduced me to a library where for the first time I had access to so many books. He would say that schools today have gone to the dogs because their English syllabus no longer have translation exercises. He would ask me to write essays on different subjects, and to read newspaper articles and summarise them in my own words. Both he and my mother stressed that while it was useful to learn English, it was imperative to develop fluency in Hindi, which was my first language.

Once our English teacher asked us to write a piece on war. My maternal uncle pretty much wrote the entire piece for me when I told him about the homework. When it was praised in class I felt no joy and mumbled that I had “help”. I completed the next writing assignment on my own and when my teacher approved of it I was relieved to know that I too could write.

My grandfather had also taught me to write formal letters on A4 paper, leaving enough margin. I would write cover letters and send my writings to the local newspaper. When they started publishing, it gave me further confidence. My father noticed my interest and got me books on writing and information about journals I could send my works to.

Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?

Reading the works of authors I love, and the beauty and pain I witness and experience lead to writing. But when writing is your profession, you do not have the luxury to wait for a muse. Often in an unromantic fashion you have to attend to it like any other task. This is actually a good thing because once you begin, this is a task you actually enjoy. So you end up being happy both about the process and the fact of the completion of the task.

Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?

I plan to go with the flow but that doesn’t always happen. Mostly there are clots to filter.

For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?

The easiest part is that I love the painful-pleasurable process of writing. The toughest thing is to write every day. I like to write at night, when I don’t expect the doorbell or the phone to ring; the night is mine.

special mention_english dept

Receiving Special Mention from the English Department of her college, Miranda House

Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?

All the time. When it continues for too long, I give myself a hard shaking and a seat at my desk/bed. If I am able to write without stopping to think, it helps. Any sort of writing helps, from a letter to a mundane statement. If I am not able to focus on the piece I am supposed to write, I write something else so the mind and the fingers get oiled.

How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be? What are you working on now?

I have managed to distance myself more from my writing, to become more objective, when evaluating it for revisions. I would tell myself to learn to develop a steady hand and be able to use my notebook and pen whether I am in a pushy queue or a crowded train compartment. I am working on a poetry collection right now.

 What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?

Social media has brought readers and writers together. It is enabling when people can read you even if your works haven’t been formally published. This is good news for diligent, talented writers because, now, what becomes a book is decided not only by a publishing house but also by readers.

I welcome anything that makes books accessible to more and more people. Where books are expensive, people are reading more affordable or open source digital versions. Then there are places where technology hasn’t reached. I have a friend who started a library in a village in Rajasthan with a handful of books, and the adults and children there keep hungering for more. I don’t think one format is necessarily a threat to the other but we do have the responsibility of taking books, magazines, newspapers to more and more people, especially in local languages and in forms most suited to specific places, because people are waiting for stories.

the ladies

After winning the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize for outstanding reporting on development

One liners:

Favorite food… Cake
Favorite Book…
The Women’s Room
Favorite author… 
Toni Morrison
What are you afraid of…
Losing the plot
What makes you angry…
A misplaced sense of entitlement
Childhood crush…
Mr Darcy
Things that you can’t leave without…
A sane head on my shoulders

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

We hear a lot of talk about how we need to listen to our hearts in order to be happy, but we know too well how confusing that can be at times. To be able to listen to the self, which can identify what the good, the healthy, the happy is for us, we need to be in constant conversation with it. When we don’t stop to introspect, the self begins rusting and we wonder why the tap is producing murky water. But when we are in constant dialogue with ourselves, when we are first able to accept the truth ourselves despite its annoying nature, we start getting the right answers.

As writers, we need to have honesty in our writing if we want to offer anything worthwhile to our readers. I feel it is our rough edges and vulnerabilities that readers relate to, not our perfectly chiselled selves, which are unreal anyway. And as readers, we need to respect the fact that writers open up to us because they trust that we would hold a safe space for their sharing and not pronounce judgment.

40 under 40

Her latest published work

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Excerpt of published work

 

A poem which recently won the second prize in the Second Annual Singapore Poetry Contest:

 

Metamorphosis

Politicians double up as salons

Offering makeovers.

If today you ask a city its name,

It will look into your eyes seductively

And ask, “What do you want it to be?

I could be Shanghai,

Or are you in the mood for Singapore?”

And though you know

That while the grass on your side is burnt or stunted,

None grows on the other side,

You’ll allow yourself to be coiled up and swallowed.

You’ll want to take this one decision,

To end the pretence that you’re the one taking the decisions;

You’ll wish to do away with the stressful delusion of being in control,

Knowing you were the one being kept in control.

You’ll give in gratefully

In that most vulnerable moment in the day,

When you’re shivering,

“Anywhere but here, anywhere but here.”

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To read more of Ankita’s work follow her Blog: www.anandankita.blogspot.in

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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI. 

Ramaa Sonti

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Hello Ramaa, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer.  

How would you define yourself?

Introvert. Moody.  Maverick.

What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?

Childhood..Normal. Adventurous. With  a few  likeminded friends, I tried everything. From scaling walls, climbing trees to daring bulls.  Forgot mentioning throwing stones at windows.

Growing up years made me realize my speech impediment. Then to overcome that, I developed a ‘don’t care’ attitude which made me not to care when people mocked.  Slowly the attitude became the confidence and I became the person I am now.

When did your journey as a writer/poet began?

Since childhood. First story at the age of 5-6 years.

Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?

Not any muse. But the pride in my husband’s & daughter’s face makes me write.

Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?

I usually plan. Being a working woman, without planning I can’t multi task.

13. Ramaa Sonti

For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?

Imagination. It’s the easiest.  I usually build up the whole story while I am doing house hold chores.  Hardest thing is sitting at the computer and start typing it out.  Many a time there are stories which formed in my head and remained there.

No. I don’t have patience to stick to any rituals.

Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?

No writer’s block as such. But sometimes I don’t write for as many as 2-3 months and then suddenly I start writing and write continuously for another 4 months.

How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be? What are you working on now?

Think I have evolved. Earlier, I never had this confidence to really write what I think. Now I do.

Advice to me… patience.  And read.

At present there’s a short story in my head regarding a mother son relationship. A bit emotional one. Plan to write it out.

What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?

Bright.  Publishers want to publish new writers, it’s an encouraging sign.

One liners:

Favorite food… Simple south Indian fare… curd rice with lemon pickle.
Favorite Book… Strangely I remember this Telugu writer Ranganayakamma. She wrote about gender equality in a book. I don’t remember the name.
Favorite author…  None till now.
What are you afraid of… Losing my loved ones.
What makes you angry… cowardice, lies, and  injustice.
Childhood crush… My English teacher.
Things that you can’t live without… Otrivin nasal drops.  (Will literally die)

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

Don’t form opinions about people or judge them… I learned it the hard way.

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Raama with her family

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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI. 

 

 

Namrata Chauhan

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Hello Namrata, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer.

How would you define yourself?

Jack of all trades master of None….. I constantly want to try out new things and explore new options.

What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?

I had a very happy childhood and my parents trusted me 100% with whatever I wanted to do. Be it writing or stage plays, cooking or dancing, painting or karaoke; they encouraged me everywhere. I could share everything with them and I think that is the key to shape an individual. This made me experiment with everything and shaped me the way I am.

When did your journey as a writer/poet began?

I think it began when I was 9 or 10. I liked reading my own essays over and over again in the examination hall! It is then I realized that probably I am good, so good that I sounded impressive to me!

That is when I started with small poems, stories and even love notes for friends for their crush.

21. Namrata Chauhan

Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?

I do not have a muse as such. Thoughts keep coming and going and at times excellent ones pass by when I do not have any writing tools on me. The major catalyst for me is a writing competition, prompt or theme; I seldom win any, but the challenge to build a tale on theme/snippets/ideas; especially boundaries, pushes me.

Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?

I go with the flow and so many times my stories turn up very different than what I had envisioned them. New characters and sub plots get added as I write and even the climax may change so many times! I am pretty organic that way and I build almost 5 stories in parallel in my mind while working on one….

For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?

The easiest thing about writing is ideas that I have and need to see the light of day. I always have ideas and at times I rue later over letting them go. The hardest thing is motivation to WRITE, I think I always need a push to start and that diffuses so many great ideas of mine. Once I overcome that and start writing for myself… it would be a winner.

As a matter of fact I do! I write two to three paragraphs and then walk around and hum a song and for that time of 2-3 minutes, I try to forget about the piece of writing. Then when I come back and start I think I am able to write better.

Family

With Her Family.

Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?

Have a long way to go before I start getting one, as of now think I do not get it I guess. I may not be in a mood to write at times but once I am writing I seldom get a block per se. As my stories are organic I do have conflict at times to choose the between plots. If and when I start my own book, then I am sure I may get stuck to give correct depth to characters.

How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be? What are you working on now?

The start is now so evolution would happen! I would advise myself to be disciplined when it comes to writing and write each single day and as mentioned before, write because I love writing. Another major advice would be to think in the language I am writing in.

I am working on getting into the idea of writing daily by concentrating on my blog. Once that is set I am sure bigger things would follow J

What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?

I think India is positioned for bigger and better things, writing-publishing included. With books getting accessible via Kindle/Juggernaut and the realization of reading being better than spending time in front of the idiot box, I see children taking interest in reading and many of them progressing to write.

 

One liners:

Favorite food… Anything Mom makes
Favorite Book… Pride and Prejudice
Favorite author… Jane Austen
What are you afraid of… Reviews! I am so scared of negative ones, cause I always think I have cooked up a great story J
What makes you angry… Dishonesty
Childhood Crush… Pierce Brosnon…have you watched Remington Steele?
Things that you can’t leave without… Family is not a thing and besides family I do not need a thing.

 

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

You only live once…. go get ’em all.

DD2

At the Delhi launch of Defiant Dreams, with her co-authors. 

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To know more about her work follow her bloghttps://ncunplugged.wordpress.com/

This is one of Namrata’s favourite pieces: http://www.readomania.com/story/the-odd-and-even-of-it

You can connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/namrata.bhargava.52

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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI. 

 

 

Radhika Maira Tabrez

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Hello Radhika, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer. 

How would you define yourself?

Wow! Now that’s one question that never ceases to baffle us, does it? Just like all the other people I know, I too am constantly evolving, morphing from one state of mind into another; as I learn and experience more. So just like them, a fixed definition eludes me too. But I guess a few things that have remained a constant in my life, in fact have only gotten more deeply ingrained over the years, are my uncompromisable need for individuality, my curiosity for all that I don’t yet understand and my sense of humor (at least I like to think I have one).

What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?

I grew up in a typical middle class household. Our extended family was spread all over Delhi/NCR and hence holidays meant crazy fun time with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. The childhood was usual. School and college were fine too. I was unwell for a major part of my childhood and adolescence; hence wasn’t allowed a lot of physical/outdoorsy activities. But, the silver lining was that I became a voracious reader. Writing naturally followed that. I think the most beautiful ability one can develop, is to communicate deeply and freely, with the world as well as oneself; and writing is always a good step in that direction. And one should never underestimate the significance of solitude, in finding that voice.

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With her husband

My adolescence was also when I picked up the now almost obsessive need to craft broken things into something useful or beautiful. I find it extremely unwinding. It helps me oil my brains back into functioning, whenever I hit a writer’s block. Of course, as a side note, you should know that you can unearth any kind of junk when sifting through my drawers. I think there is a unique sense of gratification that lies in mending what is broken. It’s therapeutic, to the one who fixes it, more than what is fixed.

When did your journey as a writer/poet began?

For as long as I can remember, I have been a scribbler. A few lines here, a paragraph there. So to put a definitive date on this would be difficult. However, one incident does stand out from my childhood, which I believe served as a significant thrust to my writing, if not the initial spark. I remember reading in the newspaper about a thief, who once apprehended, confessed that inability to buy his pregnant wife some expensive medicines is what pushed him to do that crime. The law, of course, couldn’t care less for such extenuating circumstances; and the man was punished nevertheless. The news article ended with the information that his heavily pregnant wife is now making the rounds of the police station, begging the authorities to relent. That news item triggered something inside me. I remember feeling angry, very angry. And also for the first time at a loss to express that anger. I decided to pen down my thoughts and share that with my father when he came back from work. And somehow, those few lines, with my father’s help, turned into a whole fictional account of a conversation with a thief and found its way to that year’s Annual School Magazine. A few months later, that whole incident and the ethical dilemma it presents to the society as I had chalked out in my piece, became a theme for the Debate Club’s next session. I remember feeling oddly redeemed that day. The idea that words written on a piece of paper can start conversation on a wider scale and a bigger platform, was quite comforting. I think I was hooked.

11205038_1541150406202924_6016587805166326848_nI had wanted to be a journalist. My father did not approve of that profession much, and he told me I could only do it if I made it into IIMC. I of course, didn’t. So after that heartbreak, I think I consciously moved away from writing for a while, engaging in only occasional scribbling, that too for my eyes only. But old love always finds a way to pull you back towards it, and so did my writing.

Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?

Somehow, oddly, reading non-fiction has always helped me write fiction. Newspaper and magazines help. I remember, one of my personal favorite  stories, ‘Jaanaki Kaaki’ which was also selected for UnBound Magazine and published to rave reviews, was based on the news item about a man in U.S., who kept committing petty crimes just to earn the jail time because he had nowhere to live. Reading such news continues to depress me, unless I weave all that disquiet into a story and share it with others; and hopefully send a message.

 

Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?

I am hopeless with routines. Almost everything in my life is laissez faire, and that’s the rhythm that works the best with my mind and body. Even when I am writing a story, no matter how hard I try, plotting never works for me. I just start keying in my thoughts and see where they take me.

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At the Delhi launch of ‘When They Spoke’

For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?

The easiest thing about writing is writing. The hardest thing is writing too. Let me explain. If you want to write something, the best thing is to pick up the pen and start. But then, after a while, you would hit roadblocks. Lack of ideas, lack of congruity, lack of depth. And the hardest thing to do at that time, also the only thing one should do, is to keep writing. You’ve got to keep working at it with a chisel, if you have lost your hammer, momentarily. One sentence. One paragraph. One page, at a time. I, for one, believe that stopping when I hit a writer’s block only makes it worse. I do take a break though. Brew myself a nice cuppa, flip on some Yanni or Miles Davis, and craft something. That greases up my thinking process.

I don’t have any rituals really, except that I must have my comfy PJs on. One thing that I do find odd though; is that the first thing I know when I am writing any story, is the exact sequence, sometimes even the exact dialogue or sentence, it would end with. So I have my ending worked out even before the name of the story, or all the character outlines; and from there I work my way backwards. I have this idea of what I want the readers to think and feel when they end the story, the key sentiment I want them to walk away with, and that drives my whole effort towards that story.

Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?

I do Yes. Quite often. But like I said earlier, I don’t let it settle in. I shake it off with a cup of coffee, some music and often a quick jive with my little one, who is always ready to oblige when it comes to dancing. Especially if it is the Minion’s Banana Song, we are dancing to!

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With fellow authors, editors and Publisher at the Kolkata Launch of ‘Defiant Dreams’

How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be?

I think anyone who reads, is always evolving. So whatever growth curve I attain as a writer, comes more from my reading than from my practice of the writing craft. I am, as my close friends know, a compulsive editor. I am always tweaking my pieces. Every time I re-read them, I find a word, a phrase, a sentiment I would like to put differently. To the point that it almost irritates me. I have a folder called ‘Go Find Something Else To Do’ where I put all my final pieces, to make sure that the name of the folder deters me from opening it and reviewing finished pieces. Pssst… doesn’t work as effectively as one would have thought!

But on a serious note, I think that’s how a writer evolves. For every single page that we read, we are a different, smarter, a more aware person; and for me that connects very fluidly with my writing. So if I look at a piece that I wrote in the morning, again in the evening, I spot a zillion ways to better myself. But it needs to have a stop line. I remember the separation pangs I faced when I was sending the final drafts of my novel, for this same reason. So the one advice I would give myself is, ‘Learn to know when it is enough’. It is a damn tough advice to follow – either about writing or about having some chocolate cake – I can tell you that!

What are you working on now?

I am currently tied up with the post-launch promotional work for my debut novel ‘In The Light Of Darkness’. Besides that I am working on a novella series with two other phenomenal writers that I admire a lot. And also researching for my next novel, which is one of the most emotional writing I might have ever done and hence it is draining me; and yet I have never enjoyed working on anything more.

What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?

I think it is going through an exciting phase. Juggernaut has certainly started to shake things up. Leisure reading is yet to catch on in India. We lag far behind in average reading per capita and that could certainly use some work. Especially, at the school level. I am a proud member of the Kalam Library Initiative, a project that aims at making books available to the children in the remotest parts of the country. We certainly need initiatives like that for a wholesome growth of learning in this country.

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One liners:

Favorite food… Chocolates. What? Chocolates aren’t food you say? Well, it is just a matter of perspective, isn’t it?
Favorite Book…
The Fountainhead
Favorite author… Virginia Woolf
What are you afraid of… Snakes! Yikes!!!
What makes you angry… People, with easy access to a platform like social media trying to sensationalize and politicize every damn thing, these days.
Childhood crush… None actually. I’m a little boring that way.
Things that you can’t live without… Coffee, Music and Books. The ranking order may change based on the kind of day I am having.

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

Read. As much, as you can. As wide and varied, as topics can get. As controversial, as words can get. Read what the world is reading. Definitely read what the world is not.

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With her son Meer, at the Delhi Launch of her Debut Novel ‘In The Light Of Darkness’

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You can find more of Radhika’s works on her blog: Radhika Maira Tabrez and on Facebook: Radhika Maira Tabrez

Twitter and Instagram – @RadhikaTabrez

You can buy her debut book In The Light Of Darkness here: Amazon

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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI. 

 

 

Paromita Bardoloi

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Hello Paromita, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer. 

How would you define yourself?

Extremely flawed but very beautiful

What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?

I was born and brought up in a very small town of Assam. My town lies very close to Arunachal border. It is a silent town tucked in the bosom of nature. We are the hub of tea gardens. Infact our town grew, because of tea gardens around. I grew amidst the lush green tea gardens and nature in abundance. I strongly feel that Assam or North East India is one of nature’s favourite children. She really took time to create us. Infact in my childhood I have run barefooted in fields, fished and played with bows and arrows too. Freedom was my breath. No one ever told me that girls did not play with bows. Under the free sky, I had grown a deep love for nature. That’s about growing up with nature, you don’t let anyone else dictate or define you. Nature is free. It nurtures and destroys the way you tend to it. And the wind blows, without your permission. I still have not let anyone define me. Though it’s long I have been writing, I still write what feels right in my heart. That what I think worked for me in the long run.

At a freind's Book Promotion

At a friend’s book promotion

 When did your journey as a writer/poet began?

Though I come from a very small town, literature was always in the air. A lot of people read and wrote. Infact, so many people who were writers or poets visited my home. So much of literature was discussed. My parents are very well read people. Infact my earliest memory of my parents is that they read together. So, that way books made a way to my life. And the way nature presented itself, fascinated me even as a kid. I remember that smell of the fresh Sunlight that fell on our desks, I must had been in first or second standard. Not sure, what the teacher taught, but the Sunlight, the Sky that changed its own colors according to whims stayed with me. It turned blue, sometimes orange and in other times purple. I was so much in love with that, I thought writing about it was the best way, to hold it closer. So, I wrote my first poem at 8 and next at 11, while travelling in a night bus to Guwahati. It was a 12 hours bus ride. I still remember that journey. I almost saw whole of Assam, and lord knows it was pristine. I remember those lone houses with a bulb burning in their front yard. I still wonder, what they would be like, if I ever meet them.

So, that was why I started writing poetry in local and state level newspapers and later I shifted to writing long pieces. Now, poetry has taken a backseat. Hope I revive it someday!

Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?

Can anyone or anything be more interesting than life itself? Life is so unpredictable, it teaches you so much. So, it is my primary muse. But having said that, let’s not romanticize it. A lot of reading goes through everyday. Each piece that you see published is pitched by me. So, if you are going to have an idea each day, you should know a lot that is happening around. I read a lot each day. Atleast 4 to 5 hours is dedicated to just reading. I read a lot of International media. And when I think there is an idea I can write in the Indian context, I pitch. The writing part is easy, but knowing what to write and getting the paragraphs right is where the hard work is.

Moderating a session

Moderating a session

Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?

As I write for digital medium (mostly), my days runs from one deadline to another. I would love to have a month before crafting one piece but that is not possible in my sphere of everyday work.

Let me share a secret. There is nothing done in impromptu. Things are planned days ahead before you see it. Like whatever I have to do a week later, it is planned from now. No, I am not kidding. Look, you will see me like everywhere. With friends to events. If I am meeting someone, people let me know atleast fifteen days before.

We are planning to go for an outstation trip this September to perform for Aatish. July has just begun, but once I get the final dates in a week, I will get the tickets and the full bound script ready. So that by Aug when we rehearse we have nothing to worry about, but only the performance.

And when I am invited to events, which is mostly a month or 20 days before, I put the Saree I plan to wear on that day in a packet with the Jewelry aside, so the day I wear it, there is no fuss. Infact it’s such a drama free life when you plan. To be disciplined I learnt it the hard way. If you are not disciplined you will lose a lot and you will never be excellent. I am no more the college girl, who just runs out of the bed and does everything. Life has changed now, so I plan it all. Even those beautifully draped Sarees!

For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?

The easiest thing about writing is when I write personal experiences. The hardest is to write with the conviction that what I say matters and will be read by my audience.

As for rituals, I never put pen to paper without a silent prayer. No matter what I write, the moment I open Microsoft Doc.  a prayer is said. And before it goes to print, another prayer is said. So each piece that goes out there has a prayer stitched to it. Rest I surrender it to the Universe.

Yes! One more thing that I find very interesting, once my pieces are published, I read only once to see if there are changes made by the Editor. After that, I don’t remember going through any of my publications. I don’t know, but I don’t like what I write, much. I keep working hard. I hope one day I can open an old piece and feel really good reading it. At present I am not in that phase. I hardly like my language or craft. I cringe at it, at times.

Speaking at an event

Speaking at an event

Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?

Ofcourse there are days, you just don’t want to push yourself to write. But in days like that, I cheat. I work on things that hardly need my inputs. I do what seems easiest to me.

Also, that is when I watch all the Shahrukh Khan’s videos I can find online. I tell you, no one can break your blocks as a Shahrukh Khan can. He makes life feel so good one more time and I move on with life.

How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be? What are you working on now?

I think, I have become more matured and willing to take risks and write without thinking much about what people will think. So many of my pieces talk about my personal life in detail. Things that hurt or scared me. But as I am growing, I have lost the fear of showing my own deep vulnerabilities. I am okay telling, I was hurt or I made a mistake without making myself the hero or the victim. That I guess has been my greatest change. Sometimes before something goes on air, I wonder if it was okay to write so much of my inner life in details. I think that is when I tell myself, “Courage dear heart.” At the end of the day, I think I have become much more courageous than I was. It can be one scary experience to tell your own story. I hope I told a dignified one.

The only one advice that I am actually giving myself these days is, “Baby stop selling yourself short. Let go off what has served its purpose. You are worth the world. Go for what you desire, for you deserve that.”

At present I am working on two commissioned pieces. One on over giving women and another- a woman and her life. She is telling her story I am only writing it for her. Both should go on air early this week.

What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?

It cannot be denied that the publishing industry in India is growing like never before and many voices are coming up. We are midst of a chaos now. It will take a few years to settle, but it’s a huge influx of new voices. But what remain to be seen is, how many good pieces of literary work we produce that will sustain the tide of time. I see a lot of boy meet girl story these days and everyone is trying to pen a novel, which is a good thing, but how long will it have shelf life, that’s the real test.

Also, will our industry go to such a level, where one can be a full time writer and earn well from it? Even today most of the writers have a full time job. Until this is sorted out, we will still be working in patches. I hope there comes a day, where kids study to become a full time writer. It should be a career choice not just another option.

Favorite food: Assamese Cuisine
Favorite Book: Hundred years of Solitude
Favorite author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What are you afraid of: Losing my family
What makes you angry: Bad behaviour
Childhood crush: Rahul Dravid
Things that you can’t live without: Family and my laptop.

Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?

Thank you for all the love and appreciation. I am not sure if I truly deserve it all, but I will keep working harder.

Also, please know. You are here, because you have an important role to play, a gap to fill. If anyone tells you otherwise, walk the other way. You are precious and you deserve all that your heart desires. Trust me on that.

Love!

With freinds

With Friends

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To know more about her work follow her Facebook Page: PAROMITA BARDOLOI

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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI.