Meet the Writers: Anuja Chandramouli on Mythology and the Divine Feminine
Anuja Chandramouli is the best selling author of four books. Her debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in the Indian Writing category for the year 2013. Kamadeva: The God of Desire and Shakti: The Divine Feminine are her other bestsellers. Penguin Books has just released her brand new book, an epic fantasy called Yama’s Lieutenant. She speaks to ShethePeople.TV about Indian mythology, her writing process and more.
1. When did you get into writing and why?
I seriously wish there was something exciting to put down here! The boring truth is that there are few things in the world I love better than reading and writing. Both have been a consistent part of my life for the longest time and they always will be even if I follow through on my very first ambition — which was to grow up and be Madhuri Dixit, complete with the graceful moves and the killer smile!
I seriously considered writing as a career, the first time I won an essay writing competition while at school, and realised it was something that I enjoyed immensely. This came back to me, when my plans to become a criminal psychologist and/or investigative journalist fell through even before they got underway. Mercifully, I had my Eureka! moment and knew that no matter where life led me, I would be happy as long as I could read and write.
2.Why did you choose Indian mythology as your subject matter? What about it drew you in?
Indian mythology is endlessly fascinating and I love it to pieces. This was true for me, aeons before it became the hottest genre in Indian writing and will remain so, long after it is relegated to dead cash cow status. Arjuna is the great love of my life and it made sense that my first book would be about him. Likewise, Kamadeva, Shakti and Yama are very special and I was drawn to them enough to devote a big chunk of my life and heart to them. I guess for me, the subject matter will always boil down to the things I give a crap about or things that manage to capture my fickle fancy.
3.You have written four books in a short period of time…What is your writing process like? When do you write, what is research like?
I am a part-time writer. It is a very demanding and draining process, which is why I try to devote myself to it solely for a limited duration only, as otherwise, I will be running the risk of my caffeine and sugar habit getting exacerbated past the point of no return, my stress levels climbing to dangerous heights and the patience of my loved ones wearing thin. Keeping this in mind, I devote a few hours every day for research and writing. But after I am done with a book, I go cold turkey for a bit and refuse to write even grocery lists unless under duress.
4.Has there been a shift in the way the younger generation can perceive stories of Indian goddesses. Is there room for goddesses and their stories to be recast into feminist icons? And why/if you think it is important?
One of the best things about GenNext is that everybody is more open to new ideas in addition to being tolerant and accepting of various ideologies. This is a beautiful trend and one I hope gains momentum especially since traditionally conventionality is often confused with morality. Stories in general and those pertaining to our Goddesses in particular have always been subject to interpretation and a lot of it was subverted by the chauvinism of a patriarchal society. Which is why it is imperative that the Goddesses — rather than be recast as feminist icons — simply reclaim their original glory as well as the awesome power of the divine feminine.
At heart, our Goddesses and mortal women throughout time have always been incredibly strong and unstoppable forces of nature, more than capable of handling anything life or their male counterparts threw at them, blessed as they were with the ability to bring out the best within themselves and without. They never ever had cause to find recourse in victim-hood or servitude and today’s men and women will do well to be inspired by and learn from them through the precious gift of stories.
5. Why do you think mythology resonates so much with Indian audiences? Are there enough unique stories to keep it going?
The lure of Indian mythology lies in the fact that it represents the very best of being Indian. We have always had the ability to assimilate all things worthwhile and uplifting from other cultures and foreign influences while retaining the core values that have long guided us. Today we find ourselves wrestling with our conscience as a nation given the violent, intolerant, turbulent times we live in and insist on clinging to the glories of the past in the fond hope that we will succeed in recapturing it sometime in the not too distant future.The bounties offered by Indian mythology will never run dry despite a recent tendency to overdo it to the point where one may find the taste cloying.
6. What is the next project you are thinking of?
There is a sequel to Yama’s Lieutenant happening and I am working on a couple of projects in the Historical epic as well as Mythology genres. Hopefully, I’ll pull it all off without having a nervous breakdown!
7. Would you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Never forget that in order to be a writer you have to read, read and then read some more. The next step of course is to sit yourself down and start writing. Keep at it even if you want to fling your laptop out of the window and take up something less stressful and more lucrative like alligator wrestling or landmine removing. I promise it will be worth it even if your hair turns grey and your waist burgeons to exceedingly generous proportions.