A New Series – Conversations About Community
October 07, 2021
Hands

 

My book launch is exactly one week away!

Can’t believe that the day is so close. The final lap of the race. The last few steps to the summit. 

As I take a deep breath and look back the road thus far, I see a common theme. As far as my eye can see, I see a stream of people who I have met during this process of writing and connecting with people.

I remember the first time I listened to a voicemail from a reader (yes, there was voicemail, once upon a time :). And the first email from a reader. Then a phone call. Followed by calls by journalists looking to get my opinion on something, or the opportunity to work on a project for a non-profit organization.

All of this happened almost two decades ago. All of it was mind blowing to me. I was not a trained journalist or writer. But somehow my words had made some impact, made one person pick up the phone and another write an email. I was humbled by the power of the written word.

How does a community come together

As social creatures, we humans tend to congregate. We gather around common ideas, beliefs, interests, experiences and causes. Even when we are not consciously looking to connect, we find ourselves being drawn to others and spontaneously gather. 

In the second innings of my writing life, which picked up pace about two years ago, I found that my voice had become stronger and found resonance among many people. From writing personal blogposts to writing op-eds for the Straits Times newspaper, from submitting my work to anthologies to publishing my collection of essays, I have come a long way.

Yet, this memoir that I am writing is special. It is my first book-length creation. And it addresses a topic that many people will not approve of, divorce. But I knew that I had to write about it, if not for myself, for others who may need to hear this story. 

During the long painful period of my life when I tried to figure out life as a single parent before going through with the legal aspects of divorce, and later, once that phase was behind me, I often wondered why I had to undergo all that suffering.

It’s only in the writing of the book that I understood the significance of that life experience – I needed to go through it, process it and then produce this book.

Conversations about community

When my new website was rolled out in early 2020, I had no idea (same as everyone else) how much the world would change thanks to the pandemic. The restrictions on physical movement made us turn towards online sources of connection, information and inspiration. 

From books to fellow writers, from podcasts and audiobooks to bookclubs and writing groups, I learned so much and made so many new connections.

To honor all these new connections, I am launching a new series titled “Conversations About Community”- coming together through reading, writing and reaching out.

It’s ironic that I am writing about community while being confined to my bed (thanks to a bad back) but it also seems apt given the pandemic-induced limitations on in-person gatherings that we have become accustomed to. And as humans we have adapted to these physical restrictions by building communities online. 

When I think back about my writing journey, to all the years when I wrote personal essays and shared my thoughts about my life, it was scary but it also felt right.

In retrospect I see that by being vulnerable and honest, I was seeking to build a community – of readers, of thinkers, of fellow travelers who needed to know that they were not alone.

Today, I consider myself fortunate to have connected with so many people who have not just shared their talent with the world but also created new avenues for virtual gatherings, formed connections and built communities.

And the best part is that they are doing this on a small scale, without shouting from the rooftops for gaining attention. The intimate nature of these interactions have enriched my life and I wanted to share my conversations with these wonderful people through a series of audio podcasts.

1 – Founder of an online literary magazine

The first session is with  Devanshi Jain, cofounder of The Curious Reader, an online literary magazine that sadly doesn’t exist anymore. It’s archives are available online if you’re interested in reading high quality literary articles. While it was created primarily for Indian readers, it covered a wide range of literature.

I came to know Devanshi because I used to write a regular column for The Curious Reader.

Our relationship grew from that initial connection to a more enduring one because she is the creative brain behind my website. It was great fun to speak to Devanshi about her motivation and experience at The Curious Reader.

Listen to our Racket here. 

Devanshi can be reached at https://editops.com.

2. A podcast for the Love of Literature

Listen to my conversation with Jayanthi Sankar, a fellow author from Singapore about her podcast that features authors and their publishing journeys here.

3. Writers Beyond Borders

Listen to a discussion about forming a community of writers across the world during a pandemic – an initiative of Surabhi Kaushik who lives in the US here.

4. A book is a bridge

Listen to a discussion with Mallika Chandrashekhar, an early reader who learned to see the word ‘divorce’ in a new light after reading my book. We connected because I shared my story. Find the recording here.

5. A Classics Book Club

Listen to a discussion with crime novelist Archana Sarat, a fellow author from Singapore who started a Classics Book Club during the pandemic. Find the recording here.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

6. A newsletter that (went viral) and led to a community

Listen to a discussion with the young and dynamic founder of Ness Labs, Anne-Laure Le Cuff, whose simple desire to have better learning outcomes for herself led to a highly popular newsletter (>3500 subscribers!) and the creation of a curious and generous international community during the pandemic. In case you’re curious, yes, I am a member and I love it. Find the recording here.

7. A podcast that asks fundamental questions

Listen to a discussion with another super enthusiastic and multi-passionate fellow Singapore resident, Mariyam Haider, who started a podcast Main Bhi Muslim, during the pandemic. Find the recording here.

8. A unique letter writing project

Listen to a discussion with my writer friend who has been wise counsel, soul sister and the person who convinced me to write my memoir, Nandini Patwardhan, is the author of a biography Radical Spirits – India’s first woman doctor and her American champions. the story of Dr. Anandibai Joshee and also the creator of a unique community that uses letter writing to connect people internationally. Find the recording here.

 

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