interviewed on Oct 22, 2020
Q. How would you describe yourself?
It’s quite a question. I shall try to respond with what I know for now. I am a praying woman. Not religious. I don’t have a fixed time or space for praying. I pray anytime, anywhere. Despite all sense of logic and scientific reasoning that I use and have, I have this deep sense of understanding that there is a power greater than what the human mind is yet to fathom. And that understanding brings me to a place where, when disappointment or low tides hit, I can put my head down and let the storm pass. It gives me a deep sense of calm and peace knowing that what I can do is done, not all things are meant to be. It isn’t that I don’t go through the everyday aches of life. But that faith has always been the anchor that helps me sail through the deep sea. My ship may shake but it does not sink. It’s hard for anyone to uproot me. I stand in faith.
Q. Tell us something about the books that you have written and the story behind them.
I haven’t yet written a full fledged book. Guilty as charged. I have been a part of many anthologies. Atleast 6, if my memory is good as of now. I mostly have written pieces for many publications. My writings talk about our everyday life: mostly women’s. We are so fed into the narrative that our lives are ordinary. And therefore should be muted. Like our existence should not be counted. It was during my study at Miranda House as a student of literature I was exposed to the writings of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. Discovering them was a moment of alchemy. I realized that as a brown skinned woman living in India, I too have stories to share. Most of my writings are heavily embedded in real lives, which includes mine too. I write about everything ordinary. Like our conversations in the kitchen. The late night talks with our girlfriends. Our desires, dreams and aches. Women’s stories by women are so less documented. That’s one of the reason I write what I see and live through. May be that is why I have found a very loyal and encouraging reader base. People relate to every word, because deep down it resonates.
Q. What place does writing hold in your life, how has been your writing journey so far?
How does an anxious child tell what a comfort toy means to it? That’s exactly what writing means to me. I don’t know what it is to NOT write. I feel too much. I was born with all sensitive nerves in my body. That’s also why I grieve a lot. If it was not for writing/literature or art, I would had been running around the town mad. The world is a hard place if you feel too much. You feel exhausted. Writing channeled my energies. It gave me perspective and purpose. It was God’s way of telling me, “Writing is your antidote to madness.”
The journey has been very kind to me. So many of my readers feel I am their family. There has been immense love and lovely compliments. I have hardly woken up to a day when someone hasn’t sent a compliment for something. It’s a privilege to live this life. Apart from all this, it gives me a sense that the path I am on is right. I don’t doubt my journey anymore.
Q. What is your writing process, a typical writing day routine?
I will be very honest with you. I don’t have a typical writing day. I lead a multi facet life. First and foremost I have a job to keep, that pays my bills. I run two initiatives. I am the sitting state president for Women’s Indian Chamber Of Commerce and Business- Mentoring and Soft Skills, Assam. To run everything seamlessly, life demands a lot. It does demand a lot of efficiency. So, I write when the heart feels too much. I feel for a day or two then everything gets itself transmuted to paper.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I have built a niche audience through social media. For me social media has worked like magic. It’s an everyday effort with long term goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
People buy any piece of art because for its relatability. The question is, it’s still a mystery what will people relate to. That’s why I say to young writers, “Write because it gives you joy, not because you want to be famous. If you write because of the latter reason, you are setting yourself up for heartbreak.”
Q. What's the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
There have been quite a few. But here is something I cherish. I have a series of letters published in Women’s Web. It’s called, “Letter to my beloved daughter.” A young girl wrote to me saying, “I am 18 years old. I lost my mother when I was very young. But I am sure, if she was alive, she would have taught me the same things, you write in your letters. Thank you.”
This mail, stayed with me.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
100 years of solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I first read this book in college. And it completely blew my mind. The way magical realism is used. The way a family is used as a character. I mean everything in that book has a story. Even time is a character, used to foretell destinies. I could relate to Mocondo. To the Buendias. To the rise and fall of destinies. I still can’t get over this book. I wonder how a person can write a book like this. No matter how many times I pick this book, each sentence mesmerizes me.
Mahabharata: This seems clinched, but no matter what I read. No matter what I go through in life. I come back to the Mahabharata for its infinite wisdom. During childhood I have heard the stories from Grand daddy. But as I grew up and started reading it in many versions, I realized it’s so relevant today. Each character is so vast that it can be told and re-told. The wisdom is endless. No matter how many times I go back to it, there is always a new lesson. Reading the Mahabharata is sitting before the endless ocean and trying to drink a glass of water, each time.
Beloved: Tony Morison: The book is so humane and so raw that it makes me weep each time I pick it up. It rips my heart apart.
Q. Who are your favourite three authors and what do you like the most about them?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The way he writes magical realism, I don’t think anyone else can. The richness in prose itself is astounding.
Maya Angelou: If anyone can tell a story and make it hers, it’s Maya Angelou. A generation of women owe to her words and wisdom.
Toni Morison: She writes like a dream. And in that dream she will take you to journeys of no return. She writes like poetry walking through a long desert.
Q. Tell us about the books that you are currently writing and their progress.
I am compiling a book on people writing letters to each other. These are real letters to real people. And also writing my first book on wisdom and hope. Let’s see how it all rolls in.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what's the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
To find visibility is tough for a new comer and lot of new writers do get cheated by some newbie publishers. So, one needs to be careful whom they are trusting with their content.
Q. Apart from writing, what goals do you want to achieve in life?
I believe in a well-rounded life. Just because I write, it does not mean I don’t club with my friends. I want to be a fine writer, a stunning human being and a woman who left a legacy behind. And had fun all along the way.
Q. At QwertyThoughts.com, we are trying to bring authors and readers under the same roof, to connect, discuss and socialize over books. What's your take on this?
This is like creating a community of like-minded people together. What an amazing initiative! It’s like a dream where one gets to socialize over books. It does not get better than this for book lovers. Wow!
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
Write. Read. Repeat.