1. Tell us a bit about your latest book “The Gift of Sarasvati”.
“Sarasvati’s Gift” is of course about Goddess Sarasvati who is the Goddess of Music, Knowledge and Arts that we all know. We tend to remember her on this Sarasvati puja day every year, but I personally think that Sarasvati is a goddess who is constantly there – she is the constant teacher, the constant guide, she is your inspiration, all your creativity. My book is not just about her as a goddess, but about her beyond a goddess. There is a certain spiritual notion about it. She is a personification of knowledge, and the book tries to deal with this distinction between words that we tend to use very easily. In the book I also tried to say that she was also a river goddess and what that actually means, and the fact that the Sarasvati river is no longer there. I took this not only as an allegory. There is a certain scenario that just like the river disappeared, what would happen to the world if knowledge disappeared from the earth… In today’s world we talk more about power and money than intelligence and information.
Going back to the title of the book, “The Gift of Sarasvati”, what is this gift? And if we are blessed with this gift, how do we use it? So the book talks more about her as a goddess. It is about how we earthlings have interpreted Sarasvati and how we interpret knowledge in today’s world. This is not only about its history, but also about our history.
2. How do you plan to celebrate the Sarasvati puja today?
I’m not a very ritualistic person. Personally, I will wear yellow, I will make dishes that she likes and that I also like, and I have a beautiful Sarasvati idol that I will decorate for the day. It is a day of humility that we have been blessed by her, that she is our constant teacher and I truly believe in that, especially in today’s world. I wrote the book at the height of the coronavirus pandemic when we realized we had this power of knowledge and we should use it for the benefit of all.
3. You are a journalist turned author. What inspires you to write mytho-fiction?
Mythology itself is a literary device, I think. It’s an elaborate backdrop for contemporary sensibilities and ideals because we’re not being told old stories. These stories speak of universal experiences, emotions, love and loyalty, hope and disappointment. It’s not a story about gods and goddesses, it’s about us – about man, his flaws, his flaws, his inner battles and ultimately his trials and triumphs. I think that’s why these stories are so relatable because we identify with them – the characters, their situations, the dilemmas they find themselves in because they are our stories. We think these are the stories of some ancient gods and goddesses, but they are not. They’re very relevant and relatable stories and that’s why I think this genre is popular.
4. Tell us about your writing process.
It takes a certain discipline to write every day. I never write in the evening because that’s where the ideas flow, there is the brainstorming, etc. So I keep a notebook, jot down my thoughts so I can come back to them the next morning. I don’t have a desk because I feel compelled to write on a desk. I sit near a window, where there is plenty of sunshine and greenery, and I write. I’ve written enough on a desk as a journalist… I think it’s symbolic that I don’t want to be limited to a physical entity like a desk, or rules or regulations (when I write). I also keep a personal deadline so that my writing is time limited. I think it becomes a habit as a journalist to have deadlines. If I don’t like an office, I certainly don’t like a deadline.
5. You have written short stories that are available as audio books. Tell us a little more?
As a reader, I loved to read short stories. My favorite writers are short story writers. I’ve always wanted to write short stories, so when this opportunity came up, I really jumped at it. I wrote an anthology of three stories; they wanted me to write about love and lust. Three characters were selected and this is how these three stories were born: the enchantress, the seductress and the lover. Each of them is completely different.
Writing short stories has given me a certain amount of courage and confidence that I can write a short story. Short stories are harder to write than novels because everything has to be concise. I think journalist training helps reduce words or thoughts. For audiobooks, the credit goes to the storytellers who bring the story to life… And through audiobooks, we’re actually going back to the old format of storytelling which is oral storytelling, which is how the epics were originally told.
6. What are your top five book recommendations?
I tend to be a bit archaic. I like ‘Yugant’ by Iravati Karve, ‘Cuckold’ by Kiran Nagarkar, ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy is my favorite, any short story by Somerset Maugham, and the fifth would be my book! Meanwhile, my favorite book is by PG Wodehouse, it’s my constant stress reliever. I usually read two books at a time so… PG Wodehouse is a constant because I like the way he writes. Humor is a very rare and difficult genre to write and there are very few good humored authors.
7. Tell us your three writing tips.
The first thing to write is to read well. Second, write well. And thirdly tell the story well (for fiction)… Storytelling is also an art. I’ll share a very personal example: I was a terrible bedtime storyteller, so my daughters can’t believe I became an author! I think I can tell a story well by writing and not by telling. I think it’s important to refine this way of telling a story; how you deal with the subject is very important.
8. And finally, what are you working on next?
I write about another remarkable woman whom we seem to have forgotten in our epics. I won’t name her… The book should hopefully be out by the end of this year or earlier next year!
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