After savoring the marvelously spiced up book One Night Affair and Other Short Stories, I got the chance to interview Madhulika Ra Chauhan, the author herself. Madhulika is a published writer, passionate author, and a full-time working super mom. She is already on her next venture, an upcoming novel (oops! Can’t talk much about it at this moment). She also loves to write articles on any topic that interests her. Her works have been featured on various platforms including the Time of India.
Other than her family and writing, she keeps herself engaged with commendable social causes such as improving health and sanitary conditions of the underprivileged women and senior citizens in the area in and around Varanasi.
Let us get to know more about her.
S: Madhu, thank you so much taking time for me, and congratulations for your book. So, tell me more about the book.
M: One Night Affair and Other Stories is a collection of diverse stories based in the Indian landscape. The stories ride through flirtatious infatuation, unspoken prejudices, discomfort of dealing with death, dilemma of facing circumstances beyond one’s imagination and triumphing over life’s battles. Being my debut short-story collection each story is very dear to me. The stories travel throughout India and age with the protagonist — from a middle aged nurse to a young doctor. Each story is a love story of a kind, about love experienced, love lost or love witnessed.
S: There are 7 stories each with a unique and intriguing title. So, what prompted you to go for “One Night Affair” as the title of the book?
M: There is a very interesting story behind the name. I did a little survey with my core group, as I would like to call them and asked them which title would you pick up from a book shelf – “The One Night Affair” or “Salaam”, and was stoned by the fact that “The One Night Affair” won hands down and I was left with little choice than to abide by the wishes of my readers.
S: Which story is your favorite and why?
M: It’s difficult for an author to pick favourite, but I guess the child you toil most for or with becomes your favourite child. For me, that child is “Salaam” – for the sheer reason – that it was difficult for me to write about a protagonist’s inner demons, keeping the sanctity of the story intact. You want your readers to connect with a thought which is close to the protagonist’s heart, without going overboard with emotions and narrating the story through the eyes of the protagonist.
S: Which character you enjoyed writing on the most and why?
M: I’ve enjoyed writing all the characters, as all of them have a unique identity, not overlapped by one another in any which way. One is funny and other is solemn. One is a young doctor, another a solider posted on the border and yet another young wife. They are as different as chalk and cheese. They all posed a little difficulty for me as I was writing the stories in first person narrative, to get into the skin of the character, which were all very different from my real self. Yet, if you were to put a gun to my head and ask which one I enjoyed writing I would say Yashika’s character from the title story “The One Night Affair”. This was the story I wrote immediately after writing Salaam and wanted to have some fun after having written on a rather difficult subject. That’s when Yashika came to my mind and caught my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed writing her.
S: Being published is a dream of almost all aspiring writers. What was your feeling of being published? Share with us please.
M: As a child I always thought that authors’ are people who do no inhabit the earth but come from some far away planet and leave books for us and go away. So for me the feeling of holding my book is no less what Yuri Gagarin would have felt being in space. It’s surreal.
S: Which writers have had the greatest influence on you as a writer?
M: As a child, I was on a story-a-meal diet to keep me interested enough throughout the meal and thus stories became an addiction with me. One of the early influencers were Ruskin Bond, Carolyn Keene and Jeffrey Archer. My all-time favourite is J.K Rowling whose books made me survive the sabbatical I took while I shifted to China bookless. Among the latest Indian authors I absolutely love Aunja Chauhan for her wit.
S: Did you ever hit a low while writing the book?
M: The time I was working on the stories, was practically the busiest time of my life. I was juggling a full-time job, with a new born by my side and the crazy idea of finishing the book. So, I had practically no time for hitting a low. I was too busy finding time to write than to think about anything else.
S: Every writer has to face criticism every now and then. I am certain that you might have also faced them. How to deal with those criticisms?
M: The best way to deal with criticism is don’t deal with it. Just let it be and soon enough it vanishes all by itself. If at all, learn from it as some of it might be quite productive and help you better your art or skill. For me, the high I felt holding my book and the positive feedback I got from unexpected corners, reinforced my belief in myself and the criticism was so few and far between that it could never really stick.
The best way to deal with criticism is don’t deal with it. Just let it be and soon enough it vanishes all by itself. If at all, learn from it as some of it might be quite productive and help you better your art or skill.
S: Did you ever feel the pressure of commercial success?
M: Commercial success is just a by-product never the main aim. I never had the pressure of any commercial success as I had and still have a full time job and money was not the reason I wrote. For me, it was more like chasing a dream. Having said that, earning money out of something you love doing is always a bonus.
S: What other things you prefer to write? Is there any specific genre or topic that attracts you?
M: I write about anything that interests me, it can be an interesting news I read and build a story around that or an observation or just picking up on gossip and turning them into stories, anything I feel passionate enough to write about. There is no genre which I want to limit myself to. I know one genre which I would perhaps never ever venture into – Horror – as I’m too scared to even utter the word horror so barring that I’m open to all genres. I do write articles on e-zine whenever I feel I have something to write about in a shorter forum.
S: What inspired you to write short stories?
M: Short story is a more exciting platform where a lot can happen over a short period of time, and you have more options to play around with your characters. Now, we have the 100 word stories and nano-stories where each word has power to make or break a story. It’s quite exciting actually.
S: What are your writing best practices?
M: I think everyone has their own practice. Some write in the day, some at night, some get inspired by the smell of rotten oranges other by baked bread. But the common denominator among all is that – they write. I think consistency is all that matters and if you keep at it, you keep honing your skill on the way.
S: What message would you like to give to aspiring writers?
M: All I have to say is just write and don’t get bogged down by any aspect just yet – marketing or commercial. All that will follow if you have a story to tell. So work on the story and leave the rest for later.
S: You attended the UPNRI event early this year (2016)? What the experience meant to you?
M: The event was a first of it’s kind initiative led by the UP government to reconnect the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya’s’ to their homeland. It was wonderful event put together by Mr. Sanjiv Saran and his efficient team. For me it was a very humbling experience, to be sharing space with stalwarts like Raja Muzzafar Ali Sahab, Dr. Nandini Tandon, Neeraj Ghaywan, Dr. Ataat Khan among others whose humility and ideas are bound to encourage you.
S: What are the major groups or communities you are associated with? I know you are associated with the rising NGO Vaanprrasth, dedicated to the wellness of women’s health and elderly in rural areas. Please tell us more about it.
M: So far, I’m a part of Vaanprrasth, a non-profit organization, established in 2015 to help improve the health and sanitary conditions of the underprivileged women and senior citizens in the area in and around Varanasi. Our mission is to create a primary health center around Varanasi proving primary health care and consultation to those who do not have easy access to basic healthcare.
Also, as part of our environmental initiative, our organization has been working for the rehabilitation of the ‘house sparrow’ for the last 2 years and so far we have distributed close to 850 bird house free of cost for this initiative.
S: Thank again Madhu. It was a delight talking with you. I wish you all the best for your upcoming projects!!
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