Hello Sreesha, 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 few years ago, I wrote a poem that had the following lines: “The best person, who can describe us, is ourselves, and yet, we fail to do it.” I think this still holds true for me, after all these years, because reading this question sent me scrambling about asking people how would they define me (thereby contradicting the rest of the poem).
I think I would best describe myself as an introvert, with a love of books, good food and rainy nights. I am often tongue-tied in large groups but not so in smaller ones. I also think I’m a confused storyteller – I often miss plot points while verbally narrating stories, and then forget why I started with the story in the first place. While writing, surprisingly, I find myself not so much at a loss for words as I am in real life.
What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?
I have vivid memories of childhood – the earliest of them being in an apartment in Goa that faced a river. It rained a lot, and my parents often took me to the beach. Even now, there’s nothing I like more than a rainy day on a beach, though where I live now (Bangalore) does not have beaches (but it’s beautiful here when it rains).
Personally, I think I was too sheltered for my own good. My parents and elder brother were over-protective and as a result, I missed out on quite a few experiences, such as planting saplings, or as a teenager, going out for movies with friends. Plus, my father’s frequent job transfers meant I never knew “home” as something constant or permanent. I constantly write about how I don’t feel as rooted as I would like, like I’m always in search of home, and I believe my upbringing, in large part, contributed to this feeling.
When did your journey as a writer/poet begin?
The first time I wrote something was when I was when I was in the third grade. It was about four lines long and wasn’t very good, but it rhymed, and I guess at that age, that’s all that mattered. About two years later, my father got transferred from New Delhi to Mumbai (3rd question, I’ve mentioned three different places; that illustrates my point from my above answer), and dramatic as it may sound now (and funny to some extent), I took it badly, and felt it was unfair that children are forced to follow their parents. I had a small notepad, and began to write about four lines or so each day, about the move, about the differences in the people I had interacted with, and about how much I missed my old school. It worked out alright though, because I now consider Mumbai to be one of my favourite cities and all those childish rants brought out a writer I might have not discovered otherwise.
Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?
I wish I could give a really romantic answer to this question, and while the truth is that at times, I do have a muse(s), writing doesn’t always work that way. Most of my favourite pieces of fiction have been written “muselessly”. As for my poetry, there usually is something or someone that inspired it, if not always, but it varies.
Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?
I never, ever plan. Planning is against all that I live by . The funny thing is, my blog was a product of an argument I had with someone over this subject, and the title of my first ever blog post was “Impulsiveness v/s Planning” As with everything else, writing cannot be planned. Or I should say, in my opinion, especially writing, should flow without a plan. I have found that when I plan out a story, unless I modify it along the way, it always comes out stilted, and boring.
For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?
The easiest thing is to go on once I start. The hardest is to start!
Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?
All the time. I don’t “battle” it per se, because I don’t think coaxing a block to go away has any effect. I let it be: take a break and don’t try to write or think about writing for a while. I read some children’s books (yes, specifically children’s books, because they cure a writer of a writer’s block better than other books). If I feel particularly restless, then I write about the writer’s block. I have written quite a few posts on my blog about it, such as The Prison.
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?
My writing did not have a distinct theme before. I used to write fluff pieces with lots of gore in them while in school, and though they were popular among teachers and classmates, I don’t think I wanted to accomplish anything with them. I wrote for fun, not with a plan or agenda. Now, I know that as a writer I have to be more responsible, and that whatever I write can, or may, in however small a way, influence someone or in a small way, carry a message. There is still a long way to go, but evolving is a continuous process.
One advice I want to give to past me, specifically to teen me, is, whatever you’re writing now is fine. Keep at it and you’ll eventually get better. But what you’re reading is not fine. At all. Read better books. Read more classics. You’ll never have the time or patience for those later on, but it is important that you read as many as you can. Most importantly, don’t read only what your classmates are reading, and don’t just stick to one author. Read more, and read better.
Right now, I’m only working on articles on my blog. I feel a little relaxed in terms of my writing, as I am not promoting it in any way. I feel everyone is out to market something on their blog nowadays, and I just want to be out of that race. I’ve noticed the quality of writing has also improved since I have stopped pitching my ideas for others’ approval.
What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?
This is one area that makes me horribly sad. I’m not a book snob by any stretch of the word, but I do value good literature above all else. Everyone wants instant fame or something and the bulk of what is getting churned out makes for some bad reading. Poor, poor quality in terms of language and plot. What’s worse is people enjoy these kind of books. I don’t have a problem with easy or light reads – my problem is the grammar (or the lack of) and the mindlessness of the stories. I am sure there are a lot of better Indian writers who haven’t yet been discovered, because their work doesn’t have a childish title, or it doesn’t get the attention or advertising they deserve. I hope in future that changes and I hope the literary tastes improve. We need more readers and we need better books.
One liners: Favorite food… Mexican
Favorite Book… Gone With The Wind
Favorite author… Markus Zusak, Anita Nair, Caitlin Moran, Stephen King, Jhumpa Lahiri, JK Rowling, Ayn Rand, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Pablo Neruda (couldn’t just pick one, and I’m sure I’ll remember more as soon as I hit Send)
What are you afraid of… Spiders
What makes you angry… Politics and Patriarchy
Childhood crush… DiCaprio.
Things that you can’t leave without… Phone, wallet, a tube of lipstick
Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?
It is important to express yourself, and pour your heart out – in writing, speaking, tweeting – your choice, really. Everyone has a story, and that’s not a cliché. Some of us are waiting to be asked, but I think, you should just start somewhere. So, as advice, I give you three words: Spit It Out.
To know more about Sreesha’s work click on the following links:
Blog: Petrichor And Clouds
Facebook Page: Petrichor And Clouds
Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI.