Self-Interview

Why do you write?

To understand myself, my life, my place in the world.

How does it feel being a scientist and author?

My training as a scientist prepared me to design logical experiments, to look closely at data and to never jump to a conclusion without supporting evidence. I wrote scientific papers before I wrote personal essays. So rigor, revision and rejection were a part of my academic life. I apply the same principles to my writing; look deeply, and study my subject intently before I write something. Revision polishes my writing and of course, rejection makes me stronger (as in – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger).

Why did you start writing?

I have been a voracious reader all my life. Books were my education, entertainment and escape. When I left India as a young adult, I learnt to observe everything around me with keen interest. I continued to read a lot.

Motherhood, they say, changes you. In my case, along with my girth and shoe size, my outlook towards life changed after I became a mother. I began writing a journal, unaware that this would be my first attempt at writing things of a personal nature. I tried to capture the little details of my daughter’s life – her colic and teething troubles, her first steps and words, her growth from helpless infant to active toddler. But I also wrote about things that I struggled with – balancing career and motherhood, parenting choices, doing right by societal expectations while being true to myself. Writing rescued me by providing a way to understand myself, given my various roles and labels, my responsibilities to family and self, and to the world at large.

Why did you start writing?

I have been a voracious reader all my life. Books were my education, entertainment and escape. When I left India as a young adult, I learnt to observe everything around me with keen interest. I continued to read a lot.

Motherhood, they say, changes you. In my case, along with my girth and shoe size, my outlook towards life changed after I became a mother. I began writing a journal, unaware that this would be my first attempt at writing things of a personal nature. I tried to capture the little details of my daughter’s life – her colic and teething troubles, her first steps and words, her growth from helpless infant to active toddler. But I also wrote about things that I struggled with – balancing career and motherhood, parenting choices, doing right by societal expectations while being true to myself. Writing rescued me by providing a way to understand myself, given my various roles and labels, my responsibilities to family and self, and to the world at large.

Why do you write personal essays? Are they scary?

For a writer, the blank page is terrifying. Stories matter because they connect people. Stories come in all formats – fictional, true, short, long, creative nonfiction, essays, memoir.

Through fiction we learn how a hypothetical character survives his/her story. In fictional stories as in movies, no matter how well-told or depicted, there is a separation arising from the underlying premise that it’s all made up, no matter how real it appears on the page or screen.

Through my personal essays, writing about my life as I live it and observe it, I hope to shine a light on quotidian life that flows like a river, a current that we fail to notice, until we encounter an obstruction. I draw attention to the depth of this water that connects us, to highlight those moments – big and small that add up to a life that is not just well-lived, but also examined.

True stories feel real, because they are real.

So yes, they can be scary, but they also offer a chance at redemption. And that is what makes writing worthwhile.

Does your family mind that you write about you and them?

Like many writers have said, their families may be supportive but they are not necessarily their readers. Knowing that my family, who are always welcome to read my books (strategically scattered in various locations around the house), choose to binge-watch Netflix instead, gives me the freedom to write as I wish. No pressure.

What is the best part about being a writer?

Making connections. From my first essay which was published in the San Jose Mercury News, to a recent one about diasporic writing, I have received supportive emails and messages from strangers, thanking me and sharing their own stories. The fact that I may not know these readers but they know me through my writing empowers and inspires me. And in today’s hyper-connected world, I hope to someday meet my readers, either in the real or virtual world.

Does your family mind that you write about you and them?

Like many writers have said, their families may be supportive but they are not necessarily their readers. Knowing that my family, who are always welcome to read my books (strategically scattered in various locations around the house), choose to binge-watch Netflix instead, gives me the freedom to write as I wish. No pressure.

What is the best part about being a writer?

Making connections. From my first essay which was published in the San Jose Mercury News, to a recent one about diasporic writing, I have received supportive emails and messages from strangers, thanking me and sharing their own stories. The fact that I may not know these readers but they know me through my writing empowers and inspires me. And in today’s hyper-connected world, I hope to someday meet my readers, either in the real or virtual world.

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