Bookaholicanonymous today brings to you an interview with author Rita Chhablani, who not only writes but is involved in various other activities like teaching Yoga and working for the cause of education for girls. Get to know this interesting writer…
About Rita Chhablani: She alternates her time between India and Chicago. Rita has written lead articles for reputed Indian and International newspapers. A popular yoga teacher, she went on to author her first book The Joys of Yoga. At the College of Dupage, Chicago while doing creative writing courses, she and her American author friends founded a highly active all women critique group. She is also a dedicated member of a writers group in Pune. Having worked for UNICEF, the cause of education for girls is very dear to her heart. She devotes a lot of time in teaching English to girls from less privileged households.
When and how did you start writing?
I grew up in the small desert town of Adipur, Kutch. With my father being a genius in English literature, it was a natural genetic evolution for me to start writing at a very young age. Had no choice, I guess! Years later laid up with a fracture in bed, I wrote a popular tongue in cheek article and sent it to The Indian Express, and there was no looking back. I was also a columnist on Yoga for Maharashtra Herald. I contributed to international newspapers when in Chicago. It led to a natural culmination to my finally penning books. A love affair of sorts with the written word!
Tell us something about your book on Yoga?
The Joys of Yoga is my first book and holds a special place in my heart. I used to teach yoga to ladies from various International Embassies and in the American Embassy School in New Delhi, under their Adult Education program. In 1989 they goaded me to write a book on yoga as a memento to take away when they returned home after their posting, thereby leading to the book’s birth.
What is the story of Cross Connection all about? Is it a regular boy meets girl story?
Cross Connection is a suspense thriller. The story is about fate bringing two diametrically opposite young girls together. After their lives entwine, neither will be the same. Boy does meet girl, is one of the things that happens in the course of the dramatic twists and turns of the story, but it is not the main focus.
What made you set your story in the hills/Himalayas?
Himalayas, especially the area around Dharamshala and Palanpur has been dear to me and the aura around the place has always beckoned me. Maybe it is because a very special human being resides there…the Dalai Lama whom I admire a lot, or maybe it all started when we were posted in Bhutan, seeing the monks there. The ‘Call of the Hills’, I guess.
Despite Odds is a collection of short stories about women, what makes the lives of women so interesting?
‘Adjust’ is the first word a girl hears the moment she is born. She is expected to be voiceless, may be even faceless, in a patriarchal set up, yet unknown to her the fire of resilience burns within her. All it requires is a spark. My protagonists too have complex and challenging issues in their lives. One day a choice presents itself. It could change her life and will have a ripple effect on those around her, but she needs tremendous reserves of courage. Does she have it to take the jump? It is an interesting watch.
Do choices that women make affect their lives drastically? How?
Even simple choices women make can affect their lives drastically, for choices are made for her since birth and she is supposed to obey. Besides, choice means a change can happen and change is not welcomed and can meet with opposition. So, according to me, wisdom in ‘choosing choices’ is the name of the game! And patience… One step at a time! And one step after another!
What kind of battles do women face every day according to you?
A big challenge facing women is patriarchy. Regardless of her education or abilities, society fosters the perception that women are less qualified and less competent than men and that a strong and intelligent woman represents a problem and is a disruption to the social order. That will be the day when parents greet the birth of a girl with equal pleasure and expectation as the birth of a boy and when girls do not get marginalized. Unfortunately, many times, it is women who stop women from advancing or choosing differently.
Colour Me a Rainbow is an interesting collection of short stories by five women authors. Which is yours and what is it all about?
When I returned from Chicago to Pune, I wanted to put together a Women’s Writers group. Lo and behold, my friends and few others joined and we were on board and the ship sailed.
I have four stories in this book, each one very different. ‘The Chrysalis’ depicts the story of Seema, who as her name suggests, is ‘limited,’ confined, first by her parents and later by her husband, Akash, signifying ‘limitless.’ By a strange coincidence she witnesses the emerging of a butterfly from its confined cocoon, leading to her meeting a woman who becomes a catalyst in Seema’s flight to freedom and feeling truly limitless.
‘Good God, Godbole’ has an underdog, as the protagonist, who is a victim of circumstances and family deceit. He see himself as a failure and is about to end his life. A woman colleague happens to see him, saves him and hands him a letter from his dead aunt, who has left him a huge inheritance. This turns over his entire life. He does not forget his saviour, either.
‘Leap of Faith’ is about a man caught in a bad marriage and what choices he makes to change his life. I do write about men too!
‘Bridal Bedlam’ in a tongue in cheek manner depicts the flurry surrounding an Indian wedding, where the most harassed man is the bride’s father.
Which is easier writing novels or short stories? Why?
Both have their own set of challenges. Short stories have no scope to ramble on and must have a crisp beginning, middle and end. Novels have a journey and more scope for development. So, in a sense short story works easier. A character, his motive, the time frame, and voila you are done.
What are you writing next?
I have a manuscript which is in the process of being edited. Written after years of research and interviews, it is a story about a Sindhi girl. The second manuscript is a coming of age story and is in the process of completion. Lockdown has given that rare luxury of time which can either be wasted or made use of. It is each one’s personal choice.
Bookaholicanonymous thanks Rita Chhablani for this delightful interview…keep writing!
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