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From writing fiction to covering the latest in pop culture, Kasturi Patra is one effortless writer (or well, she makes it look like that certainly!)
What distinguishes her work is a deep humanism that makes you truly ‘feel’ the characters she is talking about, be it about ordinary women in tough situations, people she knows ‘in real life’ or an actor who has spoken her mind on social media. Non-judgemental and genuinely supportive, her writing may deal with difficult themes but often leaves you with a sense of dawning hope.
You can find Kasturi’s writing on Women’s Web here, and at her own blog. Kasturi Patra is one of our three featured authors for June 2017.
Authors are often asked this question, but everyone has their own reasons, very personal to them. So, why do you write?
Ever since I can remember, books have been my best friend. Being raised by a single parent, I had always been a sensitive child. I looked for a certain depth in relationships and that at times would leave me alone even amidst crowds. It was then that books embraced me into their fascinating world. I could read about people like me, who felt lonely, who were not popular and yet, who had the power to change the world. Books spoke to me much beyond the superficial level of a lot of human conversations and hence, I’d been a bookworm all my life.
However, writing came to me much later. You see, I didn’t come from an economically strong background and hence even though I loved English (which was taught as a first language in my school) and scored well in the subject, I opted for Economics in college because it would offer me better job options. To take English for further studies seemed like a luxury to me those days, a decision which I’ll regret for the rest of my life.
After obtaining a Masters in Applied Economics and then further an MBA in International Business, when I finally started working, my soul started haunting me. I never felt fulfilled in my roles as a consultant or a business analyst. I was always looking for something else. What that was, I was yet to figure out.
Finally, after I started working in my current job as a financial analyst almost three years back, I found out that I loved to write. I write business articles in my day job and while writing those articles on mergers and acquisitions or quarterly earnings, I realized that I wanted to write about other things, too — the issues that move me, the stories that are curled up in balls and sleeping inside me, waiting for me to release them to the outside world.
In hindsight, I think what prevented me from writing for so long was ironically, my love for books and my reverence towards my favourite authors. For me, those authors are like superhumans creating a spell with their magic wands, moving me beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. How could I even dare to think that I can meddle with the art that I hold so sacred?
Once I started writing, I realized that this was my calling that I’ve failed to recognize for so long. Perhaps, my soul had spoken to me before, but its little voice got drowned by the clamour of our society’s flawed expectations and measures of success. However, after I started listening to my soul, I felt a lightness in my being. I experienced the joy of creation, a blissful state that I might have been unknowingly searching for, all this while. Writing lets me be my messy, imperfect, and eccentric self. Like Haruki Murakami said in Norwegian Wood,
“It just happens to be the way I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.”
Writing gives clarity to my usually tangled thoughts, it gives me a deeper insight into my own being. Also, like I’ve written before, writing is the way for my lonely and introverted soul to talk to the world at large. To show you my messy insides and sometimes when we’re on the same plane, to discuss and exchange ideas, thoughts and dreams. Writing, to me, is like coming home to the comfort of my own bed after traveling the whole world. Writing feels like home, it lets me be unapologetically myself.
When and how did you first begin writing?
I began writing around a couple of years back. In my current day job, I write a lot of business articles and that made something click inside me, giving me the confidence that I can write about things close to my heart, as well. There was this small post, a micro fiction on a woman undergoing chemotherapy that I’d written and shared on Facebook. After reading it, one of my oldest friends, Trina, told me that I should take up writing seriously. I don’t know what happened that day. People might have said good things about my writing even earlier, but her words seemed to have come like a message from the Universe. I really started thinking about taking writing more seriously and so, here I am aspiring to be a full-time writer someday.
Do you have a muse?
Not really. I’d say that my personal experiences and the books I love influence my writing to a great extent, but I wouldn’t be able to zero down on a specific muse.
Where do you get your ideas from? Everyday life? People around you? From others’ work that you read? Anything else?
Yes, from all the above spheres, of course. But I also have these ideas that subconsciously keep forming in my head. Ideas which might be an amalgamation of all the above aspects that keep marinating and churning inside my mind and according to my mood that day, I might decide to take out an idea from my inner realms and explore the various facets of it in more detail through my writing.
Also, since I’m a compulsive reader as well as a writer, I love to write about books that moved me or about my experiences and learnings in my journey as a writer. Sometimes, I write about spirituality since I practice meditation regularly, and try following the various aspects of Tibetan Buddhism in my life.
When it comes to writing on/for/about women, what questions and issues drive you the most?
My experiences of growing up as a woman in India, make me question a lot of issues that left me uneasy, angry, and sad. For example, when I was younger, my brother (who is two years younger to me) would get all the freedom in the world while I wasn’t even allowed to wear jeans or Western clothes or go out on my own. I wore my first pair of jeans when I joined college after I turned into an adult! So yes, the dual treatment at home did influence my thoughts that sometimes come out in my writing.
Then, after my marriage, I experienced some of the evils of the Indian marriage system that a woman might have to go through. All these experiences, coupled with the way the world treats women in general, the deep rooted patriarchal mindset in our Indian Society – the moral policing of women, judging a woman’s character, domestic violence, female infanticide, are some of the issues that are still prevalent in our country and these provoke me to raise my voice and state my opinions.
Anything you’d like to tell others who would want to write?
If you are thinking of becoming famous or earning commercial success through writing and that’s your sole motto in pursuing this art, then I’d say there are more stable professions that offer you such perks with almost half the pain.
Writing is like falling in love. Like pursuing your lover, you’ve got to genuinely love your art, not because he or she is rich or pretty or famous, but because of who they are and more importantly, who you are when you are with them. If you love writing with that kind of an undiluted passion, then go ahead. But do not expect anything in return other than the sheer joy of creating something exquisite and magnificent, something that might touch someone at some corner of the world. Your art might or might not sell, but unless you approach it without expectations and with the utmost honesty, the sheer bliss of leading a creative life will not be revealed to you. Like Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her book, Big Magic:
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
Also, writing, like all other art form that you might want to master, requires practice, patience, and persistence. You’ve got to do it every single day instead of waiting for an inspiration to strike. It is sometimes by the sheer force of will that we write, because honestly, your day to day effort might simply go unnoticed. However, unless you write those shitty pieces and practice more and more, how will you write a masterpiece? So, do not be under the romantic notion that writers write when an inspiration strikes them. they do it every single day and get better at it by hard work and practice, just like any other professional.
Last but not the least, you’ve got to love reading almost like you cannot bear to live without it. Unless you have this obsessive love for reading, you might not be able to grasp the crafts of good writing. You might tell a good story but that’ll lack the magic spice to hook your readers. Also, why would you want to write and expect other people to read your words when you yourself don’t like reading other people’s works? As a somewhat experienced reader, I can mostly understand from your writing, how much of good literature you’ve been exposed to, and trust me, I’m not the only one. If you feel reading is like a boring chore, then perhaps, writing is not for you.
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