Hello Vineetha, 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.
Hello, Team Incredible! It is a pleasure to be interacting with you. You have been doing a great job chronicling the untold stories of ordinary people on incredible journeys. Hats off to you.
First of all tell us something about growing up years, your school and college days and your family.
I’m based in my hometown Calicut, since my marriage in 1995. I was born here at my ancestral home in Calicut but I grew up outside Kerala. Most of my life, my childhood I’ve spent outside Kerala because of daddy’s work. Daddy, Mummy, my younger sister and me – it was the four of us. It was a fun childhood. Early childhood was In Visakhapatnam. I spoke only Telugu then. Then when I was around four years old we moved to Kochi. It was there I realized that Malayalam is my mother tongue and learnt it with much difficulty. Then in 1978 we moved to Goa. I picked up English there and a smattering of Hindi, Konkani and Marathi.
My school, college, etc. was in Goa, Lots of reading, I was a bookworm and Daddy used to get me books from the Central Library, Panjim. Schooling up to the tenth grade was at Sharda Mandir, Miramar. School was beside the Miramar beach. I loved school for what I learnt from there, the teachers, my classmates, the library, the playground, the pine trees and the beach across the road. I was pretty much an introvert. I used to read in class, too.
I loved college, Studied Chemistry at the degree level at the Govt. College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Sanquelim. It was here that I came out of my shell. There were a lot of activities – debates, elocutions, essays. It was fun, all in all. And it was very idyllic, when I think back I always feel that. Maybe all of us do. And I miss those days. My classmates, I recently discovered, remember me as the ‘bespectacled, forever reading girl’. It seems another life so to say.
And now I’m settled in Calicut. We are a joint family. My mother-in-law is with me. I have two daughters; both of them are studying, the elder one in medical school and the younger one in 8th grade. My husband works in the BSNL. I’m working in the Department of Commercial Taxes.
What makes you, You?
That’s a very difficult question. Well. Everything. The experiences I have had, all the inputs from my childhood. I feel that has influenced me a lot. Maybe because I grew up outside Kerala and the different languages and people I’ve come in contact with, my thinking style is moulded according to that. All the books I’ve read, all films I’ve seen, the music I have heard, everything has gone into making me.
Then, the atmosphere I grew up in. My parents have been the greatest influence on me. My mother is a pious person, a strict disciplinarian. My craze for stories began with mummy. I was a difficult child, would not eat, so she had to tell me stories to make me eat. Spanked me too when I was naughty. Father, on the other hand was innocent and fun-loving. Never a frown or a scolding, Very gentle and peaceful. He was one person who would accept me without censure for who I am with all my positives and negatives, for he loved all of creation. My parents, I owe them everything.
Once I started reading there was no holding me back. I kept on reading and daddy, he kept getting me books from the library. My sister, very talented she was. Sang beautifully, danced too. A happy-go-lucky child. She was someone I adored because I was just the opposite. I was very protective about her. And we were very close knit and all that has gone into making me, me. And it has influenced my writing. Reading was my passion then. It still is. So reading too has made me. It’s a part of me. I’m not particular about what I read. I read anything. I get a piece of paper, the ones used to wrap vegetables at the local grocery shop. I’ll be reading that. And then I’d be reading the medicine cartons. I read everything. So all that goes into making me, all the reading I do.
How did your journey as a writer/poet begin?
Like I said, it began with reading and somewhere along the way I started writing too. Writing one or two lines. Maybe it began with the compositions we had to write in English at school. So I used to write then and I slowly started writing small rhymes. Then I remember once we had a wall-paper at school. I wrote a poem for it. I think that was my first poem which is lost. I don’t know where it is, it was written on chart paper and put up. I wrote after that but was too shy to share it with anyone. But I wrote rarely. Once in college, I wrote and submitted to the college magazine and was published. I think two or all three years, I don’t remember. So, that was my first published poetry you could call. Then after marriage writing petered off. For reading, I managed to get books. I got my job in 2003. In 2006 I bought a scooter. Joined the Anweshi Women’s Library and started reading more. And then slowly I started writing again. It used to be one or two poems a year. My friends said these were pretty good. Their support means much to me.
Then, last year, one of them told me about the post of translator called for by the Kerala Sahitya Academy in its quarterly publication the Malayalam Literary Survey (MLS). I applied for the post by submitting two English translations of Malayalam poems. On April 1, 2014, I got a call from the sub-editor of the publication, Sri. V. N. Asokan, informing me that I have been selected as one of the translators. For a moment I wondered if it was an April fool joke. When I realized that it was the real thing I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So, for the past year I have been translating for MLS. I have so far done 4 short stories and a poem. Of these, my favourite is Ashokan Charuvil’s short story ‘Amazon’.
Then, this year around March or so I was added to this Facebook group called ‘Rejected Stuff’ by my friend, Reena Prasad. And there I think I rediscovered my passion for writing. April was observed as the National Poetry Writing Month by the group and there was a prompt a day for 30 days and I think I wrote almost all those days. Maybe I missed out on 3 or 4 prompts, the remaining I wrote. And that was something which sparked off the writing spree. Since then I have been thinking, eating, drinking, dreaming poetry. And now I write a poem a day or sometimes it is two poems a day.
I’m very grateful to the group, to Dr. Koshy who is the admin of the group and my good friends Santhosh Bakaya and Himali Narang. Being in the group has made it accessible for me to read good writers like Reena Prasad, Lopa Banerjee, Rhiti Bose, Reema Das, Neetu Wali, Vijay Nair, Paromita Mukherjeeojha, Elizabeth Kuriakose, Pramila Khadun and so many more. All of them write beautifully and have their own unique way of expressing.
Also, there is this book coming out. One dedicated to parents. It started out as an idea by Dr. Madan Gandhi, the founder of the Poetry Society of India and we are co-editors for that – Santhosh ma’am, Himali and I and the three of us are always discussing about the book. Dr. Koshy is the sober one, guiding our work, getting us on track as we chatter away. I think I’m really enjoying this creative phase of my life.
What are your inspirations? Who is your muse if any at all?
All writers have a muse. It could be a person, an idea, Nature and so on. I write about anything if I’m moved by it. It could be anything. When I open the door, I see the sky, the grass, the flowers growing on the ground. I could write about that. Or I could read something in the newspaper and get disturbed by it, I write about that. I go to office, and if something inspires me there I write about that. I come home and if there’s something that catches my attention I write about that. So I don’t know how to put it, everything. Everything that touches me at some point or the other that becomes my inspiration at that moment.
I have written about the plight of the Endosulfan victims. The poem has appeared in the anthology, ‘Words on the Winds of Change’ published by Brian Wrixon and in the website Destiny Poets where it was chosen as the Poem of the Month in April 2015. The link to the same is given here:
Why do you write ?
I write because I’m me. Because it’s a way of expression. It would have been impossible for me to stay without reading or writing. And therefore I write.
What made you to decide to actually sit down and actually start something?
No. I didn’t decide. It just happened.
Do you write full time or part time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
There’s no structuring. Actually I’m a disorganized person. And there’s no structure actually. I just do what I have to. I have my household chores, then I have my office work and the rest of the time I read or write. I don’t watch the television. I prefer reading. There is no specific time for writing. When I feel like writing, I write. I have a pen and notepad handy in the kitchen. No particular time for writing. It could be early morning, middle of the day or night.
What is the hardest and easiest thing about writing? And any writing rituals?
No rituals as such. Pen and paper will do. The hardest thing about writing is I often find it difficult to do so when I’m asked to write something in particular. As in, when I’m given a topic and asked to write a story or poem on it, I find that very difficult. As mentioned before, there was a poetry writing month and that was somewhat okay. But, otherwise I find it very difficult when a topic is given. I generally prefer writing without a preconceived idea. The easiest thing about writing is when the idea strikes I have to put it down.
Do you work to an outline or plot? Or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Hated? No. I believe that there is no question of hating. I believe my writing has changed over time. What I wrote initially is different from what I’m writing now. So, it’s not a question of hating, rather it’s of evolving. I have changed. And my writing has changed. The way I express has changed. As I write more, I learn more. I’m reading more now, maybe because of that. No outline or plot. At least I don’t write down any outline or plot or anything like that. Poetry just comes. As I feel I write. When writing a story, the outline or plot has to be in my mind and that too it’s not often fully formed initially. As I write, the outline shapes itself, and then I go along with that.
Do you ever get writers block? How do you get over it?
Of course! I do get writers block. When I get it, I panic. I wonder if I’ll not be able to write again. I worry about it. And then when I’m sick and tired of worrying, I stop worrying about it. Then I think okay it’s no use I won’t write again. I give up. And the very next moment something strikes and I’ll start writing. There’s no ritual in overcoming a writer’s block. If I don’t write, I don’t write. That’s all. And when it comes, I write.
How do you think you have evolved creatively?
The way I have started expressing the ideas has changed. I have matured as a writer. I don’t know how else to say that.
What are you working on at the minute?
As mentioned before at present I’m working as a coeditor for an upcoming anthology dedicated to parents called the Umbilical Chords which is being brought out by the Poetry Society of India in collaboration with the Facebook group ‘Rejected Stuff’. It has been a great experience working with these wonderful writers and I believe that it’s my luck that I have come in contact with them. So that is one thing I’ve been doing.
And the Rejected Stuff group is thinking of some more anthologies. When that comes up, maybe I will be doing that too. Nothing finalized for now though we have been discussing it.
And then one more book which is coming out is a bilingual anthology. Bilingual in the sense that it’s a collection of short poems like Haikus and Senryus in Malayalam, by the poet Dona Mayoora. She asked me to translate those into English. The poet Ravi Shankar too has translated for it. So the book will be having both the original Malayalam poems and the translated English versions. So that is due this year.
Also, as translator for the Kerala Sahithya Academy I’m translating Malayalam stories and poems to English for the periodical Malayalam Literary Survey, a quarterly publication. That’s another aspect of my work. So, when the next issue comes up I’ll be translating for that too. Translating is a challenging job. Often I only capture the ideas instead of word translations. More of trans-creation, one could call it. It is fun as you have to get into the mind of the author when doing so.
Do you read much? If so, who are your favorite authors? What are your favorite books?
I read a lot. I can’t name one or two because there are so many favorites. Actually I’m at a loss to say who my favorites are. There are classics and all types of novels I read. I prefer fiction to nonfiction. And I like poetry too but I prefer novels and short stories. I like authors like Pearl S. Buck. I’ve read The Good Earth. Then there is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which is a superb book. I like Jane Eyre, To kill a mockingbird. And then, I like Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice which we had to study in school. I like most of Shakespeare’s stories. Then Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. One of my favorite authors is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I love Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera and Of Love and Other Demons. Marquez is one of my all-time favorites. I like Paulo Coelho too. I read Amish now. I’ve read The Shiva Trilogy and the latest The Scion of Ikshvaku. I like Amish’s style of writing. And the traditional Russian authors like Tolstoy, Turgenev and others. And yeah, as a kid I was addicted to Enid Blyton and P.G. Wodehouse. I still read Enid Blyton if I get a chance. And Tintin by Herge. I love Asterix comics. I grew up on Amar Chitra Katha. I still read these. There is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Oh my! So many writers I have read and I’m feeling sad that there are so many that I haven’t and I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss them because there are so many books and time will run out before I finish reading all the books in the world. And that’s the sad part of it.
What do you think is future of reading/writing in India?
India is a very fertile place for reading and writing. We place a lot of importance on education. Literature and literary appreciation are very important in the formation of a person’s character. As long as these are part of the education in our country there is hope for the nation as a whole. And so the future is bright. I believe the publishing industry is in full swing in India. People are publishing a lot; you have a lot of scope for that too. Also people haven’t given up on printed books, even though the electronic books are available. So all in all I’m optimistic about the scenario.
What are your passions other than reading and writing?
I don’t think there’s any other passion other than reading and writing. I like eating, cooking and talking. I’m a chatterbox.
What is your message for the readers of our blogazine?
Read, read and read. Keep your chin up. Be happy.
Links to some of my poems.
Thoughts on Leaves on the e-magazine Learning and Creativity http://learningandcreativity.com/thoughts-on-leaves/
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Please note that this interview was conducted online, via emails.
Interview conducted for Incredible Women of India : Rhiti Bose