Hello Nandita, 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 was a most unremarkable kid, clueless and so mediocre in everything I did that it made my teachers despair. The only thing I recall was being hypersensitive and asthmatic, so often I was either crying or wheezing. College was a shock as it was a far remove from my prim and proper school. Yet there was something very nurturing about that chaotic atmosphere and in a way it shaped my goals for my life. I went on to an amazing institute for my higher studies and that possibly changed my life.
What makes you, You?
A certain sort of pigheadedness, I think. I am very certain that my book is not me. I am more than all my books, manuscripts, reviews and other ragtag bits of writing bearing my tagline. Writing is something I value immensely, however it is not my whole life. Therefore, I write and publish only within peripheries of what is compatible with my inner convictions too.
How did your journey as a writer/poet begin?
My journey had been perhaps more arduous and more about self discovery than writing. I always wrote well, it is a natural flair for language honed to a great extent by the school I went to. Yet I knew in this too I was as mediocre. I spent all my life in prepping myself for a storyteller’s craft: experiencing, observing and reducing my language to its simplest form ever.
What are your inspirations? Who is your muse, if any at all?
Currently, it is only the belief that there is a real fine book unwritten yet and perhaps I ought to try my damnedest to write it. To come to this point, every great sentence I read, every good book influenced me profoundly. For a long while I didn’t believe I could write anything close to what I was marvelling at. Then I began to believe that deep love and appreciation are not spectator sport but a call to action.
Why do you write?
Writing is an engagement with a material and materialistic world I can only imperfectly comprehend. To me, it is a form of dispersed displaced love that is kind of like a heavy raincloud that will scatter in unknown places. The deepest wish is that just as stories and books and minds have ignited my own passions, I serve as the instrument by which others awaken to their pathways.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
Nothing but a deep inner conviction that I should. Oh, the not finding the kind of story or writing that I felt needed to be in books.
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 write when I can. I have a particularly uncooperative mind which can go on strike if I try and push it towards a schedule. I prefer it that way too. This way the whole writing gig remains a passion and pleasure instead of dreary work.
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest thing about writing? Any writing rituals?
For me, the hardest bit is to finish what I have started, to maintain the momentum and the discipline. There really is nothing easy about it for me. Though most of the time I enjoy the passions and little intrigues I write about in my relationship based stories.
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?
Typically I start with the germ of an idea and let it develop. Some stories are very orderly and write themselves fairly succinctly. Others need much fussing and coaxing. There is a rather wide gap between the writer side of me and the critic. So I mostly don’t quite approve of most of what I’ve written. And yes, there are many manuscripts that I unfortunately chose to stop working further on.
Do you ever get writer’s Block? And how do you get over it?
I think I live within a writer’s block and each day try and chip away at it the best I can. I have still not found my way out.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
By reading a lot of relevant writing and by being a lot more self conscious about my craft, I keep trying to do that much better in my next book.
What are you working on at the minute?
Chaos, as usual. Multiple manuscripts.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors and poets / what are your favourite books?
I can’t read nearly as much as I would like. Unfortunately I cannot read and write at the same time. The worlds begin to overlap, my writing begins to get confused and hugely influenced by what I am then reading. So I prefer one or the other. And given that I am mostly writing all the time, the scope for reading is comparatively tight. My reading list is fairly eclectic.
I find many things to militate against and one of the things that I actively do is abhor that “intellectuals” in India rarely read fiction by Indian authors. All of us writers are bracketed as awful and below par (vis-à-vis our Western counterparts) without even being read or considered. To provide a small counterpoint, I read only Indian authors and Western authors if I have met them personally like Christos Tsiolkas or Tillman Ramstedt or if they have the stature of say Umberto Eco or Haruki Murakami. Among the contemporaries I greatly admire: Shinie Antony, Jeet Thayil, Anees Salim, Kunal Basu, Arundhati Roy, Kaveri Nambisan, Jerry Pinto, Indrajit Hazra, Amitava Kumar, Aatish Taseer and a whole library of others.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing in India?
I think this is one of the most interesting times and places to be involved with books. There is a wonderful unprecedented churn with more and more people choosing to write. There is a wide variety in books being published and in fact there are books for people of all tastes.
If I have a fear, it is that a lot of very important book related decisions are being made by people who do not love, understand or even read books: whether within publishing houses or as unscrupulous agents on the make. There seems to be some sort of perceived safety in mediocrity and given that most publishing houses are following suit citing business imperatives, good wholesome writing is being marginalised in favour of gimmickry.
What are your other passions apart from writing?
I would say music, art, travel, traditional sarees and food.
What is your message for the readers of our blogazine?
As a writer the only thing I feel strongly about is books. So I would say: read more books! And yes buy books – as gifts and as indulgences, as library and thought building and as the best experiences you can have.
~ from Shadow & Soul, my forthcoming novel
“It was late morning by the time I’d reached Sonarpur. I found I knew my way around like I were here yesterday. The gates creaked open to my touch unlatched, anticipating visitors perhaps. And the sprawled magnificence of Meera Mansion ahead stood majestic. It was as I remembered it.
Against the still-misty midmorning aureole of the sun, that aging edifice stood ivory proud, poignant somehow and exuded just that character I sought from it. It was with anticipation I trained my camera. Patches of unkempt grass and other bare bumps of rubbly half mounds framed those edges of the garden I traversed in my hunt for the right vantages, clicking furiously.
Done, I stepped towards the main house. That hint of contentment, of lazy prosperity perhaps, it used to emanate seemed diminished. Warm welcoming furniture on the verandah skirting the entire front of the house was much reduced, nestling instead what seemed a wilderness of potted plants.
The front door was just ajar revealing a dark sliver of the insides. I rapped the dangling heavy iron ring of a door handle. No response. Then what seemed like a hundred year-old crone with greying edges to her eyeballs and a map of wrinkles emerged to ask:
‘Why are you knocking? Can’t you come straight in?’
‘I… Is Doctor Babu at home?’
She stared at me. It was a mutter, almost a low grumble.
‘Where have you come from?’
‘Devika, is she there?’ “
Please note that this interview was conducted online, via emails.
Interview conducted for Incredible Women of India : Rhiti Bose