Author Saaz Aggarwal interview with AnuReviews.
Saaz Aggarwal Interview
Saaz Aggarwal: Actually the book is divided into sections which represent the broad divisions of my life experience: being a ‘madam’; the spiritual journey (and being rather loony); my early childhood; applying inner resources to create supportive devices; loneliness – desolation – and the growth it brings; thoughts about being a mother; stories from my husband; experiences with my parents as they aged; and finally, the last section in which I am pretending to be other writers. I had wanted readers to get a feel of each of these in the separate sections. I now feel it might have worked better if I had explained this intention at the start of the book.
How do you feel sharing your mundane day to day life with your readers on a regular basis? Do you feel exposed or do you feel connected for the same reason?
I started writing these columns in my late twenties, as a single mother who needed to earn a living without leaving the house. Over time it became a habit – and I suppose my skill at presenting trivial situations in a readable way, or of infusing the unmentionable with charm, grew. To be honest, when I do this I’m not thinking about anything – just behaving like an artist who has something inside which is working its way out.
I have been really surprised by the number of people have written to tell me that they could completely relate to many of the things I’ve written about; that they felt they were reading about their own lives.
I was a fan of Bachi Karkaria and, when I started sending unsolicited contributions to the Times of India (in the late 1980s), was flattered that she liked the way I wrote, published my stuff, and then recommended me for a wonderful job I was really not qualified to have. It was even more gratifying when I started painting (in the mid-2000s) and she became one of my first buyers.
Though you come across as an immensely multi-talented, multi-faceted personality, your focus seems to be centered firmly on your kids and your home. Your comments.
Thanks so much for the compliment Anuradha. Well, I understood very early in my life that my most important priority, without which I could not be happy, was my family. I went to work for economic reasons but ignored a number of opportunities for career recognition and power because they were time-consuming and would have resulted in someone else bringing up my kids. My biggest career achievement is that when the school bus arrived, I was always there. I’m not sure my kids appreciated this, though – or even noticed it! But I’m extremely lucky that I was also able to be there to take care of my parents when they needed me and I think they definitely appreciated it.
Saaz Aggarwal: I think I’m really lucky to have a lot of energy, and the ability to prioritize and choose things I can do easily and which will give tangible results. What I’ve enjoyed and been most grateful for is that I could develop my leisure pursuits into professional skills.
It usually starts with a concept which first grows in my mind. By the time I start writing, the structure is already quite clearly defined.
Yes – I sit in front of my laptop pretty much all day long – though I spend so much time on Facebook that a lot of people think I don’t have a life J
Saaz Aggarwal: I enjoy ghostwriting very much and don’t do it for glory. Here’s something I wrote for Open magazine which describes my philosophy of ghostwriting.
To me, it’s a skill at which I excel and the biggest recognition is when the reader reads to the end of the work, enjoying and reveling in the voice of my subject – and then realizes with a start that it was actually written by someone else. Of course, the second-biggest thrill is when others appreciate this skill by asking me to ghost-write for them.
One of my most successful books was There’s No Such Thing as a Self-Made Man, the memoirs of PP Chhabria who came to Pune to work as a servant in the home of a relative and is today the Chairman of Finolex.
Tell us about black-and-white fountain publishing house?
Saaz Aggarwal: For years I wrote a book-review column. And in 2009 I started blogging the books I was reading; by then it was mostly south Asian books. I was discussing possible names with my children. We came up with black-and-white fountain. Basically representing the happy proliferation of the written word, and ‘black-and-white’ also denoting the calm, matter-of-fact, and unpretentious obvious.
Some months ago I decided to extend my book-writing services to offer a turnkey solution to my corporate clients. And give them not just a manuscript but also design, production, and publishing: a finished book. So black-and-white fountain evolved into a publishing company. Though it has a commercial justification, and you could say The Songbird on my Shoulder was a pilot project. At present, I am using it to have fun. I’m working hard to get my next book out in November and really excited about it.