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A beguiling cultural caravan

Books are the ultimate solace in an otherwise mundane life. So if you are an avid reader and also secretly wish to be an author soon, here is Anukrti Upadhyay, accomplished author of Bhaunri and Daura giving us some author goals.

1. What inspired you to get into the world of writing?

I feel we are all latent writers. Writing is a way to communicate, to express, to synthesise, to make sense of the world and everything in it. We all have this need, this urge.

2. Bhaunri and Daura explore the varied cultures of Rajasthan. How did this culture play a role in your writing?

I am from Rajasthan. The desert was always a presence while I was growing up and the distinctive ways and customs of desert folk, the myths and reality, music and dance, hardships and food enriched my inner world. It all emerged effortlessly when I began writing, whole and vivid and glowing with a beauty that things only have in dreams or in memories. I hope I was able to capture some of that beauty in my writing.

3. Was it always your dream to become an author or did you also think of an alternate career?

I have degrees in Literature and Finance and Law and worked in global investment banks for two decades. Writing is my alternate career! But jokes apart, though it might sound trite, I did not choose writing, writing chose me and I am so grateful to the various patron Goddesses and Gods of writers and artists that it did!

4. A lot of people today wish to be bestseller authors overnight. What is your take on this?

It is a material world and I respect the wish, and in many ways, need of writers to be able to support themselves by their art and craft. I wish them luck with it.

5. What goes into the making of a book?

This is such a good question. Besides the writing of it, which is the first step, there are, at least in my case, a number of re-writes during which I despair and pull my hair. Then there’s the sending of the work to publishers and waiting with fingers crossed. In my case, I got lucky the first time and Daura and Bhaunriwere picked out of the so-called ‘cold submission bag’ by my editor, Rahul Soni, and publisher, Udayan Mitra, at HarperCollins.

The actual making of the book itself involves several rounds of editing, proofing, more pulling of hair in despair till your editor takes charge and tells you to stop agonising. During this process, cover brief is prepared and cover ideas discussed and finalised and ultimately, and somewhat magically, the printed book is in your hands. I will take this opportunity to thank the entire Harper team and Ishan Khosla who so ably designed the cover and made Daura and Bhaunri such joys to behold.

6. What should one take into consideration before thinking of becoming an author?

Oh, one should not take anything in consideration and just go for it without inhibition or restraint. Throw yourself into writing, if it keeps you, you belong and if it doesn’t, you return richer for the experience.

7. You have strong female characters in your book. Which women in real life have been your inspirations of strength and confidence and why?

I have admired many women – my mother who has so much strength as well as tensility, my ex-colleagues and woman bosses who carried themselves with tough grace and gentle authority, the young women I find myself surrounded by who forge ahead with determination and joy, the women home-workers who cope with abusive alcoholic husbands and yet have enough joy to laugh… the list is endless. All women I have met or interacted with have filled me with admiration for one reason or other and I believe I have been influenced by all.

8. How do you manage to strike a perfect personal-professional balance?

For years I worked in the high-pressure environment of investment banks, abroad and in India. I was lucky to have excellent bosses and now that I have quit the world of banking, the people with passion and vision with whom I work at Wildlife Conservation Trust are very understanding of my needs too. However I must say there is no perfect balance, neither should one strive for one. As a mother working in the highly competitive financial sector I did what seemed right at that point and hoped for the best!

9. What according to you is feminism?

Gosh, this is a trick question, isn’t it?! To me feminism is about equality, inclusion, dignity for all, standing by the vulnerable and standing up against suppression of all voices.

10. How important do you feel it is for a woman to take some time off for self-care?

I think it is very important for emotional well-being as well as physical well-being. To carve some time out of the many demands just for one’s own self can be very nurturing. Besides, it teaches us to not fear solitude.

11. A motto you thoroughly stand by and how has that helped in your life.

One of my favourite fictional heroines, Margaret of Howard’s End said ‘Only connect.’ That’s my motto in these times of disconnects and dislocations. Only connect – with others, with one’s own self, with nature, with suffering, with death.

12. Have you experienced writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?

It happens when I reach a knot in the story, a hump that needs to be got over, a slump that needs a boost, a swamp that needs fording, a desert that needs charting and this is exactly how I try to handle it – by stringing words!

13. Your personal favourite women authors and why?

There are so many – ranging from Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison who wrote fearlessly in times when constraints on women were heavy to Namita Gokhale, Arundhati Roy and Jhumpa Lahiri who dawned like revelations. Mannu Bhandari, Sudha Arora, Mridula Garg, Mamta Kaliya, Manisha Kulshreshtha for giving voice to depths within. I can go on. However, I have a small quarrel with the question itself – that it classifies writers by their gender which is not right. I do not admire these writers because they are women, I admire them because they have mastered their art and craft.

14. Have do you deal with judgemental opinions about being a female author?

I haven’t encountered any yet but if I ever do, I will let them deal with themselves! I shall have no part in the dealing!

15. A message to all the women in the world.

I am no one to give a message to all, or any women, for that matter. We all try to do our best in our own lights. Let’s just show each other compassion and hold each other up and be there for others, is all I want to say.

To make the best of your reading time here are links to Anukrti’s books Daura and Bhaunri

You can also login on HarperCollins India website to buy a copy of the books

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