• SUDHA MENON

    • March 5, 2017
    • 5:20 PM

    "Women in my book, DEVI, DIVA OR SHE DEVIL, are completely unapologetic about their ambitions"

    After having a successful and highly rewarding career as a journalist, Sudha Menon embarked on a glittering career in writing that would see her showered with oodles of praises. Her books 'Legacy: Letters from Eminent Parents to Their Daughters', 'Gifted: Inspiring Stories of People with Disabilities' and 'Leading Ladies: Women Who Inspire India' have been well received by the readers who love to read non-fiction. And now, the woman of many words has just arrived with her new book titled DEVI, DIVA OR SHE DEVIL. In this excerpt from a long interview conducted by Mohnish Singh, Menon reveal what led her to write DEVI, DIVA OR SHE DEVIL. She also shares her thoughts on the art of writing and the painstaking craftsmanship she brings to her work.

    Tell us something about your forthcoming book, DEVI, DIVA OR SHE DEVIL!
    The book is about successful women who are ordinary, the career choices they made, their personal lives, and also what they went through to find a fulfilling life for themselves in all fronts. She is a diva who wants to live life on her own terms. If a female boss is assertive she becomes an aggressive woman and when a man does it it's always "he is getting the work done". When I started writing this book I spoke to women across the world such as Rohini Iyer, who runs country's leading media management company Raindrop Media, and Farah Khan, who is one of India's finest female filmmakers. So these are the questions I have asked. Women in my book are completely unapologetic about their ambitions.

    When and where did you get the idea to write a book like this?
    Shashank is a fantastic writer. He writes things in a way which don't need many improvisations on the sets. Usually, I have to connect with my characters, but with Vaidehi, she is a very ambitious girl and I could connect with that immediately. She is very forward thinking, despite being a small town girl.

    What do you feel is the difference between Vaidehi and Alia?
    I was a journalist before for 23 yrs. I wrote my first book in 2010 'Leading Lady- Women who inspire India'. After that I went on to write Gifted: Inspirational stories of people with disabilities'. As my life progresses, I am constantly trying to inspire women. I never was wanting to write a book; it just evolved in my mind. Initially, I never thought that this book of mine will turn as a survival guide, but while giving interviews I understood that it could be one.

    When are you planning to release the book?
    The book is actually in the market for more than two weeks now. The whole perception surrounding women has changed. Back then in 90's there was always this community pressure and globally also we were expected to perform very well. But slowly it's changing and women are admitting that rest of their lives need to be sorted. It's a matter of being clear of what you want at which point in your life.

    Can we expect that all the leading ladies who find a mention in your book will grace the book launch event?
    Two of them were present at the Pune launch event. All the leading ladies in the book are incredibly big. So I am hoping that as I go through each city, some of them will join.

    Since all the women featured in your book belong to different walks of the life, it is sure their challenges, their problems will be different. But there must be some common issues that they face in their day to day life. Please, tell us something about that.
    No matter how successful you are when you come home you have to take care of the household responsibilities. Largely women do 90% of the work be it in any part of the world. This is the common trend that women continue to do the bulk of the work. But then at the same time it is also very overwhelming.

    If I am not wrong you were about to come up with a book called 'Telling Our Stories' before DEVI, DIVA OR SHE DEVIL. What happened to that book?
    'Telling Our Stories' is actually a project which sees senior citizens telling their stories of their era and some also belong to the pre- independence era.

    All your books have been in non-fiction genre. Does fiction genre never attract you?
    I am completely fascinated by fiction. There is this little secret that I have a lot of fiction stories stored in my computer. They all are at various stages. I always felt that I need to capture the real life stories when the people are around. Writing fiction really intrigues me. I am working on that area and I write a column for a Pune magazine. I am going to do that. I also write a lot about women and few years ago I have started a project called Get Writing with women which caught on for so many years where many people come to me asking whether I can write it for them.

    You spent more than 20 years of your life working as a journalist before turning a full time author. What made you take the plunge into the world of writing?
    I think it was a natural progression. I was going through this phase that "I have done this and now I can sleepwalk through this". It was convenient for me breaking precious stories. Everyday I wanted to see my bylines. Then I started thinking that how many more years of this? I wanted to make my experiences to be more lasting. That is also why I think I write nonfiction, because after getting trained for so many years they (journalists) are always after hardcore facts. So when it comes to fiction you have to retreat into yourself.

    There are a couple of authors who also dabble with screen writing. Would you be interested in taking up film projects in near future?
    I have thought about it. As a person from a creative world I would love to do that. I like accepting all aspects of creativity. So I would love to do that. Though it is very very different from what I am doing right now.

    Tell me something about your favorite author.
    Maya Angelou is my favourite author. Everybody should read her books. And Jhumpa Lahiri is also one of my favourites. P G Wodehouse is also one of my favourites and we grew up in a house with lots and lots of books. I would read P G Wodehouse while travelling to my college in train.

    How many hours a day do you devote to writing?
    When I am at the final stages of writing a book, its' 10 hours. It's kind of zombie like stage.

    When not writing, what keeps you occupied?
    There was theatre group where I would go Sunday afternoon. I like to do new things. I have known Salsa for 2 years but every time I go to a dance floor I scream. I get a lot of opportunities to met people, that is what keeps me interested. When I hit a roadblock in writing, I visit a mall to unwind and watch movies.

    What advice do you have for writers?
    If you have to write a lot you have to read a lot. That's completely non negotiable. Great writing comes from reading great stuffs.

    What is next after DEVI, DIVA OR SHE DEVIL?
    Every time I write a woman oriented book, my male friends say that you always discriminate the males. So, I'll give women a bit of a rest now. In the next one and a half years, I will be writing fiction.