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This is what Swapna has to say about herself, “I am an army kid, which gave me the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country in my growing up years. This sparked my curiosity in people and their cultures and behaviors. I moved to the US two years ago and am a new mother to my beautiful daughter. All this spare time in a new country lead me to extend my love for reading into penning down my thoughts and ideas. Now transforming my travels as a child to shories, long and short, my ultimate desire is to have my books published and be read and loved by readers everywhere.”

Please tell us more about your story ‘The Last Smile’.

The story is about a young girl Diya Bhasin whose life changes forever on one fateful day when she remembers smiling, really smiling, for the last time. The happy go lucky, book enthusiast who now lives in Bibi’s brothel is a mere shadow of her past self, faking charisma and happiness for her customers. She survives on the memory of that day when her life unexpectedly changed in the blink of an eye. After ten years of this life, she now feels so diseased by all her experiences with men, that even when given a chance to get out of this sinkhole and reunite with her family, doubt hangs over her head and she chooses to resign to this fate of loneliness and live with the memory of her last smile, from ten years ago.

What was the writing inspiration behind this story?

I can’t pin-point a specific incident or person that inspired me to write about Diya, however when one opens the newspaper or switches on the news or catches a movie, it is not unusual to come across real lives impacted by human trafficking. In most cases we tend to view these women with tainted glasses and never pause to think how at some point they must have been just like us, leading a normal life unaware of this alternate world.

In this story I have also touched upon the feeling of rejection and complacence, which is close to my heart, since I have personally seen many women resign to their fate even when unhappy. I wanted to question whether this would extend to a situation which is an extreme. Unfortunately in this story, the protagonist does choose to accept who she has become rather than fight the society and go back and try and fit into it.

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/who is your writing companion?

Music is my ultimate companion. Not the calm melodies, but the foot tapping, peppy kind of music is what weirdly helps me focus on the task at hand. Also solitude and the touch of clean and fresh air from my balcony is a must when I write.

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 you 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.

The first book you fell in love with and the author you admire the most. Why?

The Diary 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 book The Last Smile here.

 

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