Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Interview with Sudipta Mukherjee: Writing and The Crossroads

Today on 'On Writing', we have author Sudipta Mukherjee, who entered the world of words with her novel ' The Crossroads'. 
Sudipta in her own words is on a path to explore life, is a lover of music, an avid reader, and a traveller for life. She is a recluse by choice.She trusts this journey of words would lead her towards that greater something, which she is seeking through her fictional narrative.

Welcome to 'On Writing', Sudipta!

Follow Sudipta on : Twitter Facebook Profile Facebook Page: Sudipta Mukherjee

Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that gave birth to the author in you?

Once I heard the literary genius Amitav Ghosh saying, “I think there never was a time when I did not want to become a writer.” I was sitting close and couldn’t take my eyes off, to the point of making him uncomfortable, perhaps. I marveled at his statement. ‘What an unimaginable focus,’ I thought.
How I wish I could say the same today. Unfortunately, I cannot. And my heart breaks into a thousand pieces.
Writing came to me, much later: as a function of two factors - avid reading and life. Books taught me how to write, and life taught the rest. Books told me stories of distant lands, and life took me to some of those lands to feel those stories myself. Books opened my learning faculties, life opened my mind. Books made me erudite, and I am a perennial student of life. An ever curious soul who crawls and crawls, fumbles and falls, enjoys it all, but never quit it calls.

How important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend agonizing hours deciding on their names?

Agonizing? Well, I am not sure I would tag that word with anything related to the process of creating a story or a book. Everything I do, during the making of a book, especially the writing part, is a joy to me. I love it, totally. Enjoy every single bit of it. Whether it is naming the characters or framing the structure – the basic skeleton I mean (I believe in the organic creation of a story and not an engineered one). Doing the research work, writing the first draft, its subsequent typing into a laptop, repeated editing, night after night after night… its pleasure to me. Pure, intense, pleasure. A state in which I would love to remain suspended and forever if there is one. I can simply not have enough of it.
Getting back to your question, yes I do spend some time and sincere thoughts on naming my characters. Because to me, a name is an identity which never totally deserts us. The first and the biggest impact of all, and of course, remaining alive long after the possessor perishes. For example, the moment I hear Apu, immediately my film-philic mind conjures up with that little lad of Pather Panchali: large eyes blinking wonder. That’s the power of a name.
While selecting a name for my characters, I reflect on the nature of character it portrays, and try to make it in sync. A name should not be too distant from the essence of its character. I delight in naming my characters. It’s like the joy of naming your child. Only that, if you are a storyteller, you do it over and over again. But that certainly does not rob you of its pleasure.

What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a favourite place to write?

As a writer, I am bit indiscipline, I admit. And I need serious chastisement, I admit that too. My schedule is extremely erratic; my working hours are totally unearthly. When I read, I don’t write. For days together I read, read and read. I eat, sleep and live books. When I write, I cannot read. That interferes with my thinking process and it becomes difficult to focus.
But yes, if I start something (to write), I don’t stop until it is completed. If I start working on a novel, or short stories, I don’t drift. I finish it in a go and then pause. If you call that a process, then that’s what I follow, diligently. That’s how I work.
Generally, I prefer nighttime for writing, that’s the time when I think best. Nightly silence soothes me. It makes me contemplative.
Not favourite, but yes, I read and write in my study. I think better if I am sitting on my ‘thinking chair’ (that’s what I like to call it) and not on a couch. But again, that’s another way to telling that I am not a couch potato but a thinking bum. Bum? No, I rectify, thinking mind.   

What is special about “The Crossroads”?

Ask me, everything. Right from the first day, I started scribbling till this very moment. And I don’t think this ‘feeling special’ will ever desert me, not in this lifetime. Anything and everything about The Crossroads, is very dear to me. The characters, the narrative, the fact that it marked my official entry into the world of words, my readers who read and loved my book; the fact that it taught me not what to write but how to write as well; the process of learning; the delightful truth that it helped me grow - as a writer, as an individual. The person who wrote the first few pages of The Crossroads, and the person who is writing this line, is entirely different. And I am happy to be the change. It reminds me of caterpillars that crawl, casts skin, molts… transforms, in a frantic desire to change.

Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

Favourite character? Well, all my characters are my favourite, in one way or the other. I like Aparajita’s simplicity, Arinuddha’s ambition, Raunak’s wit, Guiliana’s warmth (and of course her pizza), Ragini’s selflessness, Tathagata’s wisdom….
But yes, if you ask me to choose someone with whom I would like to spend my entire life with, it would be Raunak Gupta. He is the dearest of them all. He is sharp, he is witty, he is sensitive, he is kind, he is generous. Adorable, in one word. He has all the qualities a woman would love to see in her partner. One would never get bored of Raunak. That’s his beauty and unicity.

How long did it take to finish “The Crossroads?”

2 years exactly. I admit that I took an unreasonable amount of time while writing The Crossroads, given the simplicity of its story. Now I take much less time. Two reasons which I feel contributed to this delay: my total lack of experience as an author. And my daughter, who was very small then, and sucked up quite a bit of my time and energy. Writing was the worst sufferer.
Please share a page or quote from the book for our readers.


Chapter: 15 (Travelogue)

Life is one crazy affair.
I started my journey with a loss and separation, but ended with a reward. My first expedition gifted me a new friend, gifted me Raunak Gupta. Perhaps life is like that, one never-ending battle of triumph and defeat. I knew whatever I had lost was too hard to get back. Of course, I prayed for it silently all the time, but a part of me was already aware that I would never get it back. But I cheered up, rather consoled myself with the unexpected I got in return. And that was Raunak.
His presence, if nothing, had a rattling impact on my westward bound journey. Somewhat akin to those clouds that my plane propelled through. Shook me, stirred me, but delighted me in the end.
At times, I wonder, had Raunak not been our company that evening, had he not boarded the same flight with us, how our journey would have been like? How my journey would have looked like? Would I have cried the entire time? And then tired of wallowing and lamenting, slept the remaining? Or would I have passed the journey in a stiff mood, impassive to everything happening within and without me. Or would I have been happy still? Would I have smiled? I had reason enough to be one; after all, my dream was coming true.
But again, the moment my thoughts conjure up with that one word, smile I know at once, if at all I could bring out that curve on my face, no one but Raunak was to be credited. It was not that I treated him as a joker, who used his own witticism to entertain my melancholic soul. No he was not. His company had more dimensions than one. Perhaps, more than I could grasp at that point of time, with the level of understanding and maturity I was perambulating with.
Now, as I recollect all those events, one after the other, like turning pages of an essay book I had written in school, I smile at myself, smile at the person I was. And regret.
I hear a faint voice inside me saying, I wish I could. I wish I could see rather suspect more to the world and its inhabitants than I actually saw them with my nascent eyes.

Which do you prefer as a reader? Ebooks or Paperbacks?

As a reader, which I honestly am, beyond everything else and every sliver of doubt, I prefer paperbacks. I mean, given the spacial constraints and logistic issues, e-books are a fantastic replacement, a marvelous piece of discovery, I agree wholeheartedly. But I personally am not much a fan of e-books. The difference reminds me of seeing a digital painting in your i-phone and seeing a real one in front of you. Where is the delight in holding a Kindle in your hand or reading from your iPad? It’s strangely mechanical.
I like holding a book in my hand, feeling it with my fingertips, smell its paper. Its weight on my chest, as I drift into sleep while reading. The colour, the composition… everything. I am a romantic and in eternal love with books, paperbacks of course.
Reading a book electronically betrays you of all that joy. It’s like kissing your special one in a chat box… muah, mmuuuaaahhh (if you intend to express a passionate one), a pair of red lips, or a curled up one with a crimson heart flying. Where is the joy? And the touch? The unadulterated pleasure of being held and cherished… being loved.

How important do you think is marketing in today’s world for any book?

With reference to the current scenario – regional, national, global, universal - marketing has turned out to be THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR. Sad but true. If you know how to market, you can even sell shit. And in millions. I have observed, and not too infrequently that poorly written novels doing extremely well, or rather selling like hot cakes, only because of its aggressive and successful marketing. Selling has become more important than content or context. This shouldn’t be, at least in the literary domain.
Real literature is an analytical, intellectual and intelligent reflection of a society, a time period, and an ethnic group. Although expressed through imaginary settings and characters, but there is always something more to the story than the story itself. Facts hidden in the cobweb of fiction. Three hundred years hence, we would be remembered exactly the way we are being portrayed today. An inaccurate or poor portrayal could delude future generations. A commercially successful book with improper and imprecise depiction could be hazardous if considered from that point of view. Because in the end, we will not be remembered for the bestsellers we churned out, or even the millions we minted. We would be remembered for what we have thought, and how we have written.

What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?

  • If you aspire to become a writer, two things you have to do above all; read a lot and write a lot.

That’s not me, but what Stephen King has said, and I believe, quite rightly said it.
I think I should stop here. Reason: I am a pathetic teacher. I have a long and outstanding chronicle of failures, as a teacher of course. All my students used to fail miserably, and I am not at all proud of it. Every time I meet this type of question, I remember their lean and long faces at once. Immediately I restrain my desire to teach (or give tips). Scared, I don’t teach my own daughter a word. I remind her, self-help is the best help. ‘You teach yourself one time and remember it a lifetime’. Bewildered, she looks at me, she blinks. And then forgets her homework. When her teacher demands an explanation for the lapse, she says, “Mama didn’t help. I am only a child, what can I do?” Smart kid!
Preaching I can still manage, but teaching is an absolute no-no for me. I don’t dare trespass. Teaching terrifies me in a way nothing does.
So my dear aspiring writers, if you follow my advice, I am quite certain you would reach nowhere. Krishnamurthy had once said ‘truth is a pathless land’. I believe the literary world is more or less the same. Make your own path, follow your own instincts, dream your own dream. Successful or otherwise, happiness is bound to be yours.
Hey did you notice, unwittingly though, how I started preaching? I apologise with all my sincerity and I stop.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you, Sudipta! Loved your passion towards writing. Wishing you the very best in 2018!

About Crossroads:

"The Crossroads is a story of Aparajita Basu, a girl from a humble household of Kolkata, who tears away from her family to settle her roots in America, with her childhood friend, Aniruddha. To Aparajita, he is everything she ever wanted. Love dwindles slowly. Fate turns in a blink. Dishearten, she returns, not to her hometown but to a different city, where she finds herself a stranger. Haunted by her disturbed thoughts, obsessed by that one name, she finds no escape... until she discovers herself standing on a new crossroads. An ordinary girl, who loses herself to love. A lover, who turns out to be a betrayer. A friendship born on a stormy night. Wisdom bred out of miseries. A homecoming that completes one full cycle. Three Cities... Two Friends... One Girl... One Story. "

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading Sudipta interview on her writing journey and the essence through the questions put by Preethi. I liked it how she says on finishing a project undertaken and making sure it doesn't get lost in translation.