In ‘Mrinalini Gets Married’ by Sahana Ahmed, our editors’ pick of the week, we trace the lives of a woman from childhood till old age. Mrinalini’s a feisty, independent thinker who lives life on her own terms and doesn’t allow societal expectations to fluster her.
The author Sahana Ahmed is a writer based out of Gurugram; her short story ‘Zeenat Aman is not a Soldier’ was a finalist of the Juggernaut Love Story contest. She is an alumna of University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing India Workshop and her debut novel ‘Combat Skirts’ will be available on Juggernaut later this year. We spoke to her about her writing and her experiences with the Juggernaut Writing Platform:
Could you inform the readers a little bit more about your work?
Mrinalini Gets Married was my first work of fiction. I wrote it in 2015 in response to a writing prompt. I wanted to see if I had it in me to create a plausible story.
Please tell us something about your early years and major influences on you. What inspires you still?
I am an army daughter, and the peripatetic life I led as a child has had a deep influence on me. My early years were spent in the north-east, and I was largely home-schooled till the age of seven. Looking back, I realize I’ve had a very interesting childhood; not many people can claim to have attended thirteen schools.
I’m inspired by simplicity and refinement. Those are the qualities I look for in all art.
What difference does writing make to your life? Do you think you’ll move on to other story formats in your future?
Writing, for me, is self-therapy. It has given me purpose, and—to an extent—an identity.
I enjoy writing regardless of the format. I have written everything from flash fiction to a book.
Did you face any challenge while writing this piece?
No. When I wrote this piece, I was much too naïve to understand that writing can be challenging.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
In a way, always. And yet I never looked at writing as a real vocation. I studied to be a hotelier, and then worked for many years in ITES and training. It is only last year that I finally mustered the courage to start calling myself a writer.
Is there a preferred time of the day when you get your writing done?
Yes, in the small hours of the night.
Does being in a full-time job affect your inspiration to write?
I consider writing my full-time job now. And even when I had other jobs, writing was my favourite stress-buster.
How much is your plot influenced by real-life stories?
In this case, I was inspired by interviews of actress and filmmaker Suhasini Mulay. She got married when she was sixty, and she had never been married before. However, the rest of the plot is pure fiction.
Can you suggest some books for our readers that you think are must reads?
This is a difficult one as I do not consider myself well-read enough. Allow me to share a few books from the reading list I was given at the UEA Creative Writing India Workshop. The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield; A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter; Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood; Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer, etc.
I would also suggest all titles by Amit Chaudhuri and Romesh Gunesekera.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I’ve been told I am too subtle. Also, I’m fickle. I can write and re-write something dozens of times if I am not happy with how it looks and sounds. That eats up a lot of my time.
How was your experience with the Juggernaut Writing Platform?
Wonderful. It is designed beautifully, and the support team is extremely efficient. Also, no other such forum in the country gives new writers such validation and prominence.