Swapna is an army kid, which gave her the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country in her growing up years. This sparked her curiosity in people and their cultures and behaviors. She moved to the US three years ago and is a new mother to her beautiful daughter. All this spare time in a new country led her to extend her love for reading into penning down her thoughts and ideas. Now transforming her travels as a child to stories, long and short, her ultimate desire is to have her books published and be read and loved by readers everywhere. Her story Karupaaee: The Dark One has been chosen as the editor’s pick of the week.
Juggernaut had a tete-a-tete with Swapna about her story.
Your story is Editor’s Pick of the Week. Please tell us more about it, and its inspiration.
This is the story of a young girl, who didn’t let the color of her skin define her even when everyone around her had decided that she was to be called “karupaaee”, the dark one. Though it’s set in a small village in Tamil Nadu, about fifty years ago, it is still relevant today across our country. In a country obsessed with fair skin, Karupaaee’s skin color was deemed to be a shroud of doom. Instead of letting her dark skin becoming a crutch, she fought all odds to make a life for herself helping the helpless and doing so much good for everyone around, that her detractors had to bow down to her grit and determination and give her the love and respect that she deserved.
My life experiences birthed this story. While my family never bothered about the color of my skin, somehow my melanin levels seemed to bother many around me. As a young girl of impressionable age, I had spent nights crying because of a snide remark from a neighbor or because a classmate refused to be my friend because I was dark or the constant reminder from television advertisements that made me want to rip away my dirt colored skin. Though today I am a confident individual and am able to ignore belittlers, it took me several years to overcome the feeling of shame and loneliness for something that shouldn’t even have been an issue. While we would like to think that we have progressed and such issues are a thing of the past, all it will take for us is to peruse through a matrimonial column in any newspaper to see that nobody is asking just for an educated and smart girl; the universal request is for a “fair” girl!
Do you have any particular rules or rituals you follow as a writer?
Being an ex-investment banker, I am a creature of schedules and timelines. I would love to set aside some concrete time every day to write, however I am a new mother and this experience has changed my perception of organized living. Time is a luxury now. The only rule I follow is to write whenever I get time. Many times I end up just penning down whatever is on my mind without much thought to what I am writing. I later pick it up and try and give some structure and direction to these words. Most times I end up deleting what I had written since these are random musings. However in some odd instances these sentences metamorphize into well knit stories that I know people would relate to and enjoy reading.
What got you interested in becoming a writer? Where do you go for inspiration?
I have always been a writer. In school and college I would write for the school magazine and was even the editor of my department’s publication in college. I think it stems from my mother being an avid reader, a quality I picked up from her at a very young age. The more I read, the more I was intrigued and enamored by these people who with their mere words could transport the reader to another world. My serious attempt to write at a more professional level stems from my wish to delve deeper into human emotions and share these with others.
I like to believe that all my senses make me the writer I am. Anything that I read or see or feel or smell is capable of stirring a story within me. So I would say that my day-to-day experiences stimulate me to write and weave tales.
What’s that one piece written by you which is your all-time favourite?
Last year I wrote a piece inspired by my mother’s life. It was my first foray into writing at a somewhat professional level. The fact that it was an ode to my mother and everything that she stands for makes it very close to my heart. What made it even more special was how much it resonated with its readers. I got messages from several people, both known and unknown, that reading the piece made them pick up the phone and tell their mothers how much they loved them. The writer in me couldn’t have asked for anything more than the fact that I somehow got the courage to bare myself to pen something that was so close to my heart and in the process touched so many people.
What inspired you to write a story about prejudice?
We live in a world which we all have to agree is no Utopia. Prejudice flows like blood through our veins. Like we bleed the moment we get a cut, we form opinions the moment we lay eyes on someone. I myself am guilty of the same. Someone’s height, weight, hair color, skin color, dress all instantly makes us view them in a certain light. Most of my stories take seed from my personal experiences and what is better than to take something that caused one pain and make it into salve for that same pain. Moreover who doesn’t love an underdog. I know I always root for the underdog. Nothing gives one more hope than seeing someone who never had a chance, actually ending up winning the race. The same idea applies to Karupaaee. She became a stronger person because of the prejudice the world held against her and not only did she survive the prejudice, she actually thrived through it.
Your bestselling authors and books list. Why do they make it to your list?
The Dairy of a Young Girl by Anne Frank was one of the first books I fell in love with. Not only does the book introduce the world of Nazi regime and the lives of people affected by them to the reader, the fact that it is all from the eyes of a young girl adds a simple yet poignant dimension to the book. The idea that something so mundane as a child’s daily journal could touch so many people is still wondrous to me.
I think the world is filled with innumerable gifted writers. I savor all kinds of writings and am not partial to a particular author. From critically acclaimed novels, to simple short stories to articles and editorials in newspapers and magazines, all hold my attention. However one particular genre that really intrigues me is biographies. While one possibly can’t meet and get to know all the interesting people in the world, biographies are the easiest and the most exhaustive way of getting to live and experience these lives.
Any writing tips you’d like to share with fellow writers?
Though I am no expert, the only tip I would like to share is simply to write. Many a times we just think of stories and concepts but translating these into sentences in it-self is a big task. It’s the first step and the toughest. Once this is done, the rest follows. So just put that pen to paper!
You can read her story here