Aditi shifted to Delhi from Calcutta with her husband, son and dog in 1990. A dogless life is no life for her. After a hiatus of decades she is angling to unleash her writing on the unsuspecting public. Be pleasantly surprised or rudely shocked, as you may.
Juggernaut had a conversation with Aditi about her story. You can read her story here.
Your story is Editor’s Pick of the Week. Please tell us more about it, and its inspiration.
Being an only, lonely and a shy child, I feel in hindsight I have been predominantly preoccupied with observing people my whole life. I still do. The human mind has always fascinated me and still does. Victory and defeat both begin in the mind. If we can but work out what makes the mind happy, we would not have to run after outer trappings or relationships. It’s not the house, the job or the person that happiness relies on; it is the state of life or mind. As for this particular story, on reading it becomes clear that it’s about everyday people, relationships and environment. It’s the workings of the mind from which different trajectories evolve. Readers have come up to me terribly disturbed and said that the story seems to talk about their lives. And I have realized that I didn’t just write a fairy tale.
Do you have any particular rules or rituals you follow as a writer?
Though I have tried hard, I have not yet followed the golden rule of sitting down every day to write. This means that as the urge takes me I sit down and make a mad dash. This works well for short stories but when I am ready write that book, memoir or novel, it is not going to be easy for me. Recently, I have succeeded in revising and re revising, with intent to practice parsimony of words while keeping the beauty of the language intact. And oh yes, grammar is very important to me. I cringe at sentence fragments though they sometimes create quite a nice staccato effect.
What got you interested in becoming a writer? Where do you go for inspiration?
There were three things I actively followed in my youth. They were singing, writing and painting. Life made me a banker for 20 years and caregiver for more. When I emerged undefeated, writing seemed the easiest option to pick up again. I have recently started with my painting too. I don’t think I ever stopped singing …to myself. With parents who were stage singers and a father with whom evenings were spent enacting Shakespeare, one couldn’t but get a grip on words. For inspiration I go inside people’s heads and visit as well as revisit good books.
What’s that one piece that was written by you which is your all-time favourite?
Currently it is this story referred to ‘Spin Me a Fairy Tale.’ But I must say ‘A knowing Silence’ which was published in Elle magazine as my first fiction contest winner will always retain a fond spot inside of me. However, there are a number of semi favourites which need polishing. There is a kind of blog post too which talks about the quintessential me. I would say my best is yet to come.
How do you think mental health needs to be treated?
I think everyone has mental quirks. In fact, a person only driven by sane decisions is rather boring. You have to be a little crazy. One should accept deviations from the normal as normal and understand that the seeds were sown long ago. One should not be made aware to feel he/she has a mental condition and secondly, leave every avenue open for reaching out to that person, earning the trust of the person first. It is an inner fight with some outside help. I am not in favour of much medication though I do accede that in clinically induced cases this may be the solution. When my father had psychosis, I put myself in his shoes and walked him to recovery, rather than relying on medicines, barring something to induce sleep. I was told psychosis had a cyclical nature and would come back. Rather, it faded away.
Your bestselling authors and books list. Why do they make it to your list?
That would be too many. Spanning childhood to now would be classics, Satyajit Ray, PG Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Rebecca (book), Georgette Heyer, etc. Now I cover more Indian authors, though I had a soft corner for Kamala Das and Nayantara Sehgal even earlier. Vikram Seth,(because he THINKS in English). Jhumpa Lahiri (also thinks in English, though sometimes her language construction defies me), Neil Gaiman. Chitra Divakaruni. The Little Prince (book). Then there are authors who still retain the world of the child. And above all, is Haruki Murakami who seems crazy, but ties it all up nicely. One observation I need to make about Murakami is his habit of repetition and yet he repeats the thought and not the sentence. This means that even if I pick up let’s say 1Q 84 after a year, I know exactly what happened the page before. I have left out many, both older and contemporary.
Any writing tips you’d like to share with fellow writers?
Sometimes, or most times there are things that seem very important to us, like certain theories which we try to drill in ad infinitum. This may be boring to the reader. The biggest technique is to cut, cut cut till the story remains and only the lingering essence of our feelings or views are projected through the protagonists. Also, not to become so enamored of one’s own writing that one can’t take healthy criticism. The greatness of a person is known by his humility.