Hello Sakshi, welcome to Incredible Women Of India, Thank you for being a part of Incredible Women Writers of India, Monsoon Edition, 2015 and sharing your journey as a writer with us.
First of all tell us something about your growing up years, your school and college days, and your family.
I grew up in Dehradun in a ‘joint family’. The house was so full of people that there was no lack of company, or shoulders in times of need. This shared living formed an important aspect of my growing up years.
Each of us six children had a tree to ourselves – a mango or a leechi – to climb. And lots of open space we cherish as ‘the great outdoors’ these days. We had our favourite perches, but we eyed the neighbours’ gardens a lot too. The family next door was a family and bigger than ours, and with no boundary wall between the two homes (the grand old men of both moved to Doon together, just before 1947) easy access to another world teeming with life and noise and kids and aunts and uncles existed. What years in Delhi taught me to call a cold, distant ‘Extended family’. There was no concept of ‘the cousin’. We were ‘real’ for each other. Still are. Though the greenery is fast vanishing …
School was a stone’s throw away, and on curfew days we could see it standing outside our house! Some wore red blazers to a girls’ convent, some others navy ones to a co-educational one. But, we went together and we got home together. We also studied together, and while I was no rocket-scientist like most of my sisters (and one kid brother) I was easy-going enough to play Nintendo the morning of my Board exams. And come home on a Bajaj Chetak all smiles. Carefree times, and so different from now.
At 17 I came to New Delhi, to ‘study further’ as one must. First I cried, but then I sent smiles of gratitude skywards. College is special for everyone, and I saw why. Away from familial security I learnt to survive. Away from the familiar and in the company of people from distant corners of the country I found the person that I wanted to be, became her and am continuing to make her become what she most desires to at any point in time.
I still live in New Delhi, as Punjabi fate would have, with my husband and my 4-year-old son.
What makes you, You?
Profound. But … I don’t know what makes me, Me.
We’re all mixtures of this and that, and him and her, with a little bit of our pet dogs and cats and fish thrown in. And then there are those genetic heirlooms which are more difficult to beat, flowing in our blood, for good or for worse. Shedding those traits is like using a hand pump standing on your head. If only we could do Descartes, but who knows where we got our thoughts from?
What am I?
I hear some good things from people who don’t know me. You know, the usual, warm, happy, polite, peace-loving, articulate, talented and tenacious (the most romantic word my husband used for me!). But those who know me on social media know the truth – I’m a self-aggrandising prude on Facebook, a twit on Twitter, Miss goody-two-shoes at all times, full of my writing prowess, an ingrate and a witch with a yellow streak who flies on a broomstick from one inbox to the next, hatching conspiracies!
If I were a character in a book, I would be my favourite!
How did your journey as a writer/poet begin?
There was no exact moment when the cuckoo in the clock came out and pointed towards my Reynold’s pen, 0.45, asking me to begin (different cuckoos in different phases, you see). I remember I used to have a 4-lined notebook when I first learned to frame sentences, which I filled up with five sentences each on things like ‘A Rainy Day’ or ‘The Postman’. Pleasure writing, entirely. I read a lot too, and remember the sheer fascination a Russian children’s story held for me (about a Prince, is all I remember) and a magazine called ‘Misha’ which a generous NRI cousin left behind. Of course, the usual children’s writers were read too.
I guess the world of other worlds gripped my young mind, and before I knew it I wanted to create my own worlds for others to read. In school it was all about scoring in essays. It was in college when I actually started submitting creative writing pieces for magazines and journals. So many rejections, and later working for a national daily ruined my imagination further! A children’s story published for ‘Katha’ kept the hope alive, though.
When I began writing on my blog a couple of years back is when the goods train became a Shatabdi Express. Now I have to write – something, anything, to keep the lub-n-the-dubb beating to my rhythm. Even if it isn’t for anyone else’s eyes, but mine alone. And I do cherish accolades, holding them very close to my heart. Why else would I be still celebrating my short story in ‘Mango Chutney’? How else do we egg ourselves to create more and more?
What are your inspirations? Who is your muse, if any at all?
For someone who likes to write, inspirations come not just in the form of people, but through penta-sensual stimuli. You never know what hits the spot in your fingertips, and the keyboard surrenders sweetly. Reading well-written books and articles inspires, as do some authors. Both, sadly, in short supply.
I don’t have a muse, no, but I have a competitor – myself. I love to beat her previously written pieces with every new one. Not that I manage, and certainly not to the satisfaction of a hard-to-please Me.
As for who or what encourages me the most, let’s wait for my book’s dedication to know more. Some day …
Why do you write?
Because I love to write, and equally to be read. Writing is a very personal exercise, really, the reasons for which could go from therapeutic to sponsored to cathartic to mindless to awards to self-talk to self-help to ‘random musings’ to ranting to oh-I-can’t-sleep.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
I associate terms like full-time and part-time with jobs. I can’t see writing as a job, and I know I speak from a very privileged space where I don’t need to marry passion with work. But some years of freelancing, and being your own boss spoils you silly!
I write when I get the time, which of course makes it ‘special time’. I get about five hours to myself, each day, and if I’m lucky to have a free mind space during those slots, I write.
I write everyday but I follow no schedule or ritual. Even if I could, I probably would not have a time table for writing. Instead of a pretty wallpaper, my computer always has a blank Word document open. What if I have an earth-changing idea while I’m taking a bath? Then I run to type it down. There is usually no order in the disorder in the words which fill up those untitled docs, but it holds the potential to become a source for bigger, better things.
And that hope is lovely!
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest thing about writing?
The hardest thing about writing is arriving at that exact moment when you agree that your piece of work is ready to share with the outside world, and pressing ‘Publish’. I dither, edit-re-edit, sometimes let a simple blog post lie still for a few days, as if it will grow wings and fly to the right audience who will say something more comprehensive than an ‘awesome piece’ because I let it lay eggs in a folder marked ‘Drafts’.
The easiest thing about writing is also the most beautiful thing about it – that you can do it for yourself, just for yourself, with no strings attached. Much like dancing when no one is watching, or blowing raspberries at the kid in the adjacent car at a red light, quietly, because you don’t like his Ben 10 cap, or his mom’s lip shade.
You can be You when you write. It’s a choice and it’s available.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? Have you ever hated something you wrote?
As of now, I jot down faint ideas about themes, or premises behind the stories, collected from things I see on the road, in school parking lots, on social media, in my kitchen, under my sofa, you name it! As a story-teller I want to go beyond entertaining. I want to involve my readers at a deeper level, to make them think, to make them draw their own inferences and in the process own my story in as many different ways as there can be interpretations to it.
I do not, usually, create a blue-print or a POA that I will follow. Knowing myself, I would edit it every time I set eyes on it. So I go with the flow of the ink, for now.
I’ve never hated anything I have written. When it was written, it was the best piece of my thoughts. The next day I may think anew, but I cannot hate what has come and gone. I would be insulting myself of yore in doing so.
Do you ever get writer’s Block? And how do you get over it?
Of course I get writer’s block. But that’s okay, really. Writing is a very important part of my life, but it is not the only part of my life. You will never find me fretting over writer’s block. It only means there’s something else on my mind, which I need to find and lend my attention.
The cursor on the blank Word document, always open, waits on such days. That flickering standing line is quite a companion on days when nothing else is. And one does get back to it.
One always does.
So, what’s there to worry?
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I wonder if I know. I’m hoping I have.
When I wrote my first ever 5-lined essay, it was about ‘My Dog’. He had two eyes, one nose, one mouth, one tail, and ‘I love my dog’. And then I wrote something about my real dog, Timmy, where the ‘I love you’ remained though not the itemization of the natural givens of anatomy. I have evolved, and perhaps my writing has too. I do work hard to ‘write better’.
I have one steadfast belief. When you experience life you evolve, and it automatically shows through your writing. So in that sense, as we grow older we of the writing variety must be getting more creative too. Must be!
What are you working on at the minute?
A manuscript for beta-reading.
A review of a mad, mad book.
Craft for my kid’s next show-and-tell.
And, no WIP of my own.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors and poets / what are your favourite books?
I read a lot.
Some of my irreplaceable favourites are Shakespeare, Milan Kundera, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Amitav Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee and Toni Morrison.
I enjoy poetry by T.S. Eliot, Pablo Neruda and Adrienne Rich and can read Pope and Dryden’s mock-epics over and over again.
I like a lot of books. If I begin listing, I wouldn’t know where to stop.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing in India?
The demand for one creates the market for the other. So in that sense, if there are readers there will be writers churning out books for them. Notwithstanding how much of literature is being banned in not just India, I can see many more writers working towards being published. With at least one reader on every row in the Delhi Metro, there is enough of both, basically.
I do have a very constant hope. I hope that all kinds of literatures and genres are kept alive, beyond what the majority of the market demands. I also hope that experimentation to do with the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of writing books never stops. It is with a certain foresight coupled with a streak of revolutionary style that we will be able to produce books for our … grandchildren?
Yes, I want books to be timeless.
What are your other passions apart from writing?
My passion is writing, and reading is what fuels my writing, ultimately. Just like you can’t divide a lemon tart, you can’t divide love beyond a point, right?
My interests include photography, travel, social networking, arguing with my husband and reading to my little one so he shares his Oreo with me.
What is your message for the readers of our blogazine?
You are forcing me to sound wise!
But there is something I insist upon with all my heart – Read everything. Try genres which you most dislike. Dip your fingers in never-heard-of foreign books or Indian authors who are not sitting on Twitter all day. Hunt down what you do not see touted as ‘best-sellers’ or parts of popular lists. It is amazing how little-known books and authors can add to your reading experience. No, not all hunts for treasure end up in a chest of pearls. But finding a shoe with a hole at the end of the trail may give birth to an idea for your own?
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Please note that this interview was conducted online, via emails.
Interview conducted for Incredible Women of India : Rhiti Bose