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  Books   14 Jan 2023  Interview | ‘I write every weekday unless I am teaching’: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Interview | ‘I write every weekday unless I am teaching’: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Published : Jan 15, 2023, 12:43 am IST
Updated : Jan 15, 2023, 12:43 am IST

Indian American Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has published 'Mistress of Spices,' besides the much-feted 'Arranged Marriage.'

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. (Photo by arragement)
 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. (Photo by arragement)

Why do you write?

I can make up a logical answer, but the truth is, the creative process is neither logical nor in my control. Ideas arise inside me; characters appear. They push against my chest, demanding to be let out. I HAVE to write them down.

Do you have a writing schedule?

I write every weekday unless I am teaching (Creative Writing at the University of Houston) or out of town, doing events. I try to write early in the day and then again late at night. Night is my favourite writing time.

Ever struggled with writer’s block?

All the time. I just have to power through it by making notes, writing drafts, or reading other books on the subject which make me see the issue differently.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever got?

Read like a writer, with a pen in your hand, marking up things you admire.

Do you keep a diary?

No, although I keep an e-notebook of writing ideas for future reference.

Describe your favourite writing space.

My writing desk — it’s quiet and comfortably messy, and there isn't much to distract me there.

Who are your favourite authors?

So many! I'll mention six. Tagore, Chinua Achebe, Mahasweta Devi, Amitav Ghosh, Jennifer Egan and Margaret Atwood.

Which is the most under-rated book?

The Bhagavad Gita. So many people do not think it is relevant to their lives. The Gita is, to me, the best book in the world, a manual to live by. It transcends religious differences. In my opinion, everyone should read it. Many times!

Which classics do you want to read?

I would like to re-read all the Greek tragedies. I read them when I was young and foolish. I think I'll get a lot more out of them now.

Which book/author should be banned on grounds of bad taste?

None. Books should never be banned. Period.

What is the book you have enjoyed writing the most?

Currently, it is Independence. I loved intertwining the story of the three sisters with the birth of a nation. It allowed me to explore what independence truly means, and how it can have a unique meaning for women.

Which book do you wish you had written?

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. Masterfully woven plotlines, vibrant characters and narrative techniques, and a great surprise at the end. Plus, it won the Booker Prize!

What is the thing about JLF that you are most looking forward to?

What I enjoy most about Jaipur Literature Festival is the positive energy, being around large crowds of people who love books and are interested in meeting their favorite authors. So many people come up to me and tell me what my books have meant to them. It is at once inspiring and humbling. Writing is a lonely profession — you never know if your books are making any difference in the world.

Tags: chitra banerjee divakaruni, author interview, bhagvad gita