We recently interviewed author Ratna Rao Shekar
Ratna Rao Shekar has been a journalist for nearly three decades working and writing for leading publications in India and abroad. She helped to launch two magazines, Housecallsa general interest magazine for physicians, and the only one of its kind in the country, and the very successful city magazine, Wow! Hyderabad. She is currently the editor of both these magazines.
The Purple Lotus and Other Stories is her first book of fiction.
The book Purple Lotus and Other Stories is a collection of 13 short stories, stories of men and women who love, who dream, who look at their life and its ironies with humour, and more importantly move on with the natural ebb of life. The stories vary in length and style from one story being told in just 600 words, and another only in the form of a long dialogue. A third is in fact a monologue.
How did this book happen and why did you choose to write about it?
I have always done feature writing and the long format of writing was what interested me. After writing journalistic pieces for so long I wanted to do something different, and began writing short stories as and when inspiration came upon me. At that stage, I was writing simply because I was enjoying doing the stories, and was not sure if I would ever get them published. But I did publish them eventually, as I thought it would be nice to have others read and enjoy the stories.
Where do you usually write? What is your favourite setting to write in?
Most of the stories were written during a summer when Hyderabad gets so hot that you dare not step out. So I would sit in the coolness of my room, at my desk, look out of the window at the bhel, the seethaphal and guava trees in the garden, and at the lotus pond, and retreat into a world of imagination.
Did this story come to you easily or did you find yourself stuck with a writer’s block sometimes?
Once I was clear what the story should be about, the stories came easily. I wouldn’t say they flowed easily but things would fall into place. Some were written in one go, even if I had to edit and rework them later to make them sound better. And the ones that flowed easily were the ones people liked a lot. This is true of the universally favourite story, My name is Meenakshi which I wrote in some three or four hours and which people have said is the best story in the book!
Tell us about your life online and the sites you maintain
I don’t have an online life. I don’t think it’s a real life. I would much rather take a walk in the park. Or go people watching in a mall!
What are your thoughts on life – The one thing that it takes to live it?
I believe life has to be lived with grace no matter what surprises it throws at us. And we have to treat life and people with kindness, and we too will find the kindness in our life!
How has your experience been so far in the literary world? Any highs or lows being a part of this space that you would like to share here?
Though mine is a small space in the literary world, having read one book a week during my growing up years it is wonderful to be part of that great literary universe. I feel grateful that I am known as a “writer” rather than anything else. And with all the literary festivals happening in the country, it’s a good time to be a writer of fiction.
Tell us something about your work & hobbies?
My work as an editor of Housecalls takes me across the country, and the world. Many of the places I write about in the book, I have actually visited them. As the editor of Wow Hyderabad, I interact with young writers, and through them like to pass on whatever I have learnt about journalism and writing.
I love reading, and listening to classical music and dance.
Top 3 All-time favourite books.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Ahmed and Tropical Classical by Pico Iyer. My all time favourite writers are Pico Iyer and Michael Ondaatje. I felt so grateful to my good karma to have heard and met Ondaatje at the Jaipur Fest this year!