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Her pen does the talking

From being a soft-skill and personality development trainer to becoming an author — how did it all happen?

Writing has always been my first love. In fact, my blogs — Riviera and Lost Tranquility — depict my passion for writing. When I got married, I stopped planning my life, as things didn’t work out the way I wanted. But when I didn’t plan, I just found things falling into place. I was barely a graduate when I got married and was clueless about how I could establish myself professionally. However, luck favoured me and I became a teacher and taught at many prestigious schools across India. While teaching in schools, I was constantly counseling the students. Hence I developed an acute sense of analysing different individuals. This way, from counseling, I took to personality development training. But writing didn’t leave my side. It was like my best friend, who always stayed by me in my ups and downs. I wrote my feelings continuously in my diaries and eventually it transformed into books.

Are the characters in your book inspired by the people you have met?

Well, honestly they are most of the time. I study and relate to people and everything around me, including animals, very easily and quickly. Sometimes, articles in newspapers or magazines too influence my writing. Pain, pleasure, joy, fear and all other emotions experienced by a person come alive in my novels. Probably, this is why critics praise the portrayal of the characters in my fiction.

Tell us about your books Back to School@30, Taming the Restless Mind, Love’s Journey and The Fallen Love.

Back to School@30 is a self-help book for people in 30s and beyond. This book is meant to help a person organise and manage one’s relationships. Taming the Restless Mind is also a self-help book for the youth and their fears and problems, like sexual myths, dating, divorce, pay packages, emotional stability and others. Love’s Journey and The Fallen Love are fiction. Love’s Journey is my debut book and very close to my heart. It is a story of Christian girl, who loses her parents in a communal riot. She undergoes the trials of destiny in the form of four lovers, who teach her different meanings of love. She becomes an unwed mother and finally makes it big in the film industry. The Fallen Love revolves around the veiled crimes in our society. Critics found it fast-paced and interesting, but the depiction of sex life of a character didn’t go down well with some… but this is my style.

Tell us a bit about your school and college days in Patna.

I was in Notre Dame Academy from preparatory till Class VII. It was not just a school, it was like a family to me. Every sister and teacher was responsible in grooming me and nurturing my outlook towards life. Since I stayed close to the school, I have lot of happy memories that I cherish till date. Whether it was taking part in one-act plays, school fete to other extracurricular activities, they helped me become what I am today. NDA personifies Keats’ poem, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever, it never passes into nothingness’. I passed my ICSE from Loreto Convent, Ranchi, and here I blossomed as an excellent speaker as I won the best speaker award from the Ram Krishna Mission Society consecutively for three years. I did my graduation from Patna Women’s College (Avila Convent). Marriage saw break in my studies, but I did my CTE, MA, MBA afterwards. It has been a real tough journey, but as they say where there is a will there is a way! (smiles)

Who are the writers you love reading? Whom do you consider the most promising among the contemporary writers?

I love reading Jane Austen, Arthur Hailey, Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steele. Among Indian writers and poets, I have read Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand, Shivani, Amrita Pritam, Dinkar, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Gandhi, Nehru and many more. Among contemporary writers I find Chitra Bannerjee Devakaruni as one of the most promising Indian writer. She has a very gripping style of narration.

What challenges did you face while writing?

Challenges are in every field. Without challenges, I feel achievements hold no meaning. Being a woman writer, I am very bold in my depiction of characters and don’t compromise on it. At first, I was a little scared, how my friends and family would react. But after reading, all hailed my style of writing. The next big challenge was to find a publisher (phew!), especially for a fiction! I was initially laughed at for entering the literary scene late, but now my success has made my critics dumb! But over all I feel, a woman faces challenges throughout her life.

How has been the readers’ response?

It has been overwhelming! Everyday, I get many fan mails and messages on Facebook praising my writing and asking how I have become so popular within such a short span of time. I am really thankful to God for this and also my readers, who love and criticise me at the same time. The readers of Bihar and UP are extremely elated that a ‘saleable’ woman writer from their area, who writes in English, has arrived on the literary scene.

Your books are based on relationships. Do you feel relationships are becoming flimsy these days?

I do. My book Taming the Restless Mind deals with similar problems. Materialistic approach has taken the front seat and emotions are dying. Internet has made life easier, but has made relationships complicated. Youth these days, even before reaching their 20s have almost 20 break ups. Consequently, this affects their marital lives later.

Was your family supportive when you decided to write? Do you feel early marriage is a hindrance to a girl’s career aspirations?

Despite having a rich legacy in writing, no one in my family had thought that one day I would become a writer, except my father. My great grandfather had written Rasik Manoranjan, but a girl from our family writing was not expected! My husband had made it clear to me from the very beginning that he had not married a ‘working woman’. He told me that all I have to do is look good and take care of my family. But with passage of time, he realised that talent could not be hidden and he let me do what I wanted. My children are very encouraging and feel proud of me. However, the unconditional support of my sister-in-law and brother and the determination that my late mother inculcated in me made me a writer. Otherwise till now I would have been just writing diaries. (Laughs). I want to tell all parents not to get their daughters married early and curb their talents. Not everyone can fight with destiny as I have done. Let them grow and spread their charm around. Early marriage can in fact create more problems.

When publishers reject your book do you feel let down?

Well obviously! It is very disheartening. But then I give a ‘pat’ on my back say ‘It’s alright Rashmi, failures are the pillars to success’. I heard that many renowned authors too had been rejected umpteenth time! I take inspiration from them and surge ahead again with more vigour! I know many good publishers who are open to my non-fictions, but don’t want to publish a fiction. After Love’s Journey I had a tough time finding a publisher, but Pigeon Books has always been open to all my fictions.

Do you believe in “formula” writing (award-winning and bestseller books) that will earn you more fame?

No, if this had been the criterion then I would not have turned down a lucrative offer to write a ‘masala book’! The Fallen Love had lot of a lot of sleaze, which according to me is the depiction of crude truth of our society. However, on the basis of this, some publishers thought they could ask me to pen down sensational books, but when they approached me I refused. I want to get my name engraved in the minds of the readers as a genuine writer and not as one of disgraceful books.

As a Bihari were you ever looked down upon? Do you want to base any novel on Bihar?

I have been never looked down upon as such, and I am grateful to my parents for this as they gave me the best possible education available then. But yes, I have heard this, “Do you really belong to Bihar? You neither look, nor behave or speak like them?” At that time, I just wanted to scratch their face (humanly feeling!) but controlled my temper. I wasn’t able to understand why there was so much antagonism? Biharis are looked down upon in Mumbai. We forget we are Indians at large! We fight on petty issues of being Bihari, Gujarati, Punjabi and overlook serious problems of our society. Yes, I do want to base my novel on Bihar. Both my fictions have incidents and scenes from Bihar. In fact, protagonists in both the novels — Jennifer Sebastian and Rohan Dixit — belong to Bihar.

Your life must have changed in more ways than one with your fingers in many pies? How do you juggle work and personal life?

Well, my life has changed for sure. But I believe that if a person wants he or she can achieve anything. Coaching takes half of my time and I do freelance training as well. I write during the night and the break I get between my two jobs. Obviously, I have to look after home and children and I become tensed at times. But I try to maintain my cool. I am a very organised and plan my day-to-day routine. So, I don’t have much time for friends. My life revolves around my work and my family.

What is the piece of advice you want to give to upcoming writers?

Please don’t resort to a spicy and eye-popping recipe to get instant success. I also advise them to listen to their heart while writing and not the mind. I say this because mind is very practical and heart has feelings, which is important for being a genuine writer.

What are your future projects? Do you want to script for films as well?

My next book is a historical fiction, based on a dancer of Chalukyan King Pulkasein II’s era (610AD-643AD). This is a very intense fiction, which is again based on relationships and emotions like infatuation, love, treachery, conquests, wars, lust, acquisition, hate and finally repentance. This story is very close to my heart and I have done a lot of research. It takes you to a whirlwind tour of events of a forgotten girl’s life and her relationship with a king. I am open to everything. I believe ‘One’s script is already written by ‘Him’’ who is sitting up there. If scripting for films has to come my way, it will definitely come. Otherwise I will always try to carve out something new!

Sonashree Basu


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