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Author Interview || Sujata Parashar

Who is Sujata Parashar ?

Sujata Parashar is an award-winning Indian novelist, Poet, Short-story writer, and Founder of The Talk-it-Out-Express (TiOE) which was launched in 2019 and promotes emotional health. Sujata is currently serving as Vice President of WICCI’s Arts Leadership Council (Delhi). She was a founding member of Empowering Minds, a Delhi-based national-level NGO, and contributed to their unique Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) program as a psychosocial trainer.

Let’s dive into an ingenious talk and gain insights about Sujata Parashar..!!

Sujata’s debut novel, ‘In Pursuit of Infidelity’ was released in 2009 and quickly climbed up in the bestsellers list. Since then, she’s written twelve more books so far. The second book in the ‘Pursuit’ series, ‘In Pursuit of Ecstasy’ (2011) was long-listed for the Economist Crossword Book Award 2012. Her third novel, ‘In Pursuit of a Lesser Offence’ (2014) dealt with the subject of the changing face of marriage and relationships in modern times and was endorsed (and recommended to readers) by Shaadi.com – the world’s no.1 matchmaking site.

She also has three poetry – books to her credit under the ‘Poetry Out and Loud’ series. Her collection of short – stories, titled, ‘That Woman You See’ based on different women-centric themes and showcasing the aspirations of the new-age Indian woman was published in 2015.

Her latest book, Sunflowers- Incredible Journeys of Epic Women Artists from India was launched at the NBT-backed Delhi World Book Fair. Pragati Vichaar Lit Fest and WICCI Arts Leadership Council, Delhi co-hosted the launch event. The book is a collection of short biographies of remarkable Indian women artists representing different fields of art.

Apart from writing, Sujata has contributed to the cause of literature and poetry as a planning board member of two different prestigious literary festivals, the ‘Kumaon Literary Festival’ (KLF) and ‘Delhi Poetry Festival’ (DPF) in the past. The author also created, conceptualized, and led a nature-writing initiative under KLF called ‘Fellows of Nature’ (FON) to revive nature-writing and bring the focus back on human – the human-nature relationship.

Awards and Recognitions

Sujata Parashar received the 100 Women Faces 2018 award, instituted by Womennovator and COWE (the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs of India) for her contribution to Indian literature.

She was also presented with the prestigious Karamaveer Chakra Award (in 2016 and 2019). Her other awards include Women Achiever of 2021 and the PVLF Author Excellence Award in 2022. In 2022, she was also recognized as an Iconic Woman by the Women Economic Forum and received the Munshi Premchand Award by Aesthetics International in 2023 for her outstanding contribution to literature.

To explore more about my interview series,
Visit the Meet The Authors Section of my blog.

Let’s get talking to Sujata Parashar..!!

Sujata Parashar: The seed idea for the book had been brewing in my mind for several years and was based on the oft-asked question from people in my circle, ‘So what do you do apart from writing?’ My varied responses (to self and others) led to my writing, ‘Sunflowers.’ In 2020, I also became the Vice President of the Women Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI) Arts Council – Delhi chapter. It presented me with the right opportunity and platform to take up this project.

Soon after joining the organization, I proposed this idea to the Delhi Arts Council (including the National President and National Vice President of WICCI Arts Council). They not only welcomed the idea wholeheartedly but agreed to lend their prestigious platform to launch the book. A couple of artists are also fellow WICCI members from different parts of India. 

Sujata Parashar: Apart from the exceptionally gifted women artists featured in the book, I interacted with several other amazing artists from different disciplines of art, like a couple of well-known filmmakers from Mumbai, a Wildlife Photographer from Bangalore, a few well-known actors from the theatre world and Bollywood, Famous stand-up comic artists, etc. I was extremely keen to feature them in the book and pursued them for a while.

However, the reason most of them backed out was that they weren’t comfortable with the terms of the MoU which involved talking about their personal journeys as well. Initially, the idea was to feature 20 women artists and then because of the immense research required for each story, it was brought down to fourteen artists.

Two of the artists pulled out after I had signed the individual MoUs with them. One of them is a renowned writer based abroad. Time difference and her constant travels acted as a hurdle… Our schedules didn’t match. I had to let go of her. The second artist pulled out at the last moment. Her dropping out was quite painful and disheartening to me not only because I had worked for months on her unique story but also because it was another brilliant story that would have encouraged many artists. But one can’t control these things and one shouldn’t. 

Sujata Parashar: Just like physical health, mental health is also a state of well-being. A state in which a person feels psychologically and mentally strong, capable and healthy to tackle routine issues or stresses of life. Emotional health is a part of the overall mental health and well-being of a person. 

As is evident from the name, my platform The Talk-It-Out-Express is a talk-therapy and expressive-art-therapy-based platform to encourage people to enhance their socio-emotional well-being by equipping them with socio-emotional skills through intimate workshops, talks, and counseling. I have been running it for the past 5 years now and have conducted several online and offline workshops with diverse groups. My focus and work in TiOE are slow but steady.

We have even conducted a couple of International leadership workshops. One with HR Leaders from the APAC region (led by Singapore-based HR group, CoreHR IR) and another with the Youth Leaders of a Hemophilia community from the Philippines called Hemophilia Advocates Philippines (HAP). Many other intimate workshops with women support groups and mixed workshops have been conducted in Delhi and other parts of India to enhance the emotional well-being of people in the workplace and at home. 

Q. Did you face any challenges while drafting your recent book? Walk us through your research and analysis that has undergone for the book.

Sujata Parashar: There were several but the one I would like to highlight is: 

Collecting the information on each artist correctly and presenting it seamlessly while ensuring the individual stories are engaging to the reader was the biggest challenge for me. To ensure that I don’t bungle up on that count, I developed two different sets of interview questionnaires for the artists and a separate one for family friends and associates. The virtual interviews with each artist lasted 3 to 4 hours spaced out over two days (nudging them to go back to their childhood and youth and share their adventures and experiences in detail).

Imagine the amount of material that must have been generated from these discussions and then there was enough on them from my desk research some of which I used (but a lot of it was left out). So filtering the vast information was a huge task. I wanted my writing to give a fresh perspective on each one of them… so when I finally got down to writing the stories, I was lost. I didn’t know what to include and which aspects to leave out. Also, the views of family, friends, and associates had to be incorporated at the right places and played an important part in ensuring it gave a wholesome picture of the artists.

Plus, these are personal stories…and it was important that I, as the biographer, didn’t portray something that would be counted or seen as insensitive by their families and others. The 12 contributors had put their complete trust in me and I had to honor that while also being true to the intent of the book – portraying compelling real-life stories (including their struggles and failures) of these fabulous artists. 

Sujata Parashar: Being a writer is most certainly a gift from the universe. While we all have stories to tell not all can write and get published. As an accidental writer, I feel fortunate to have come this far. 

However, nowadays it’s also a curse and I would blame excessive exposure to writers via social, media. In this era of influencers and whatnot, there’s immense pressure on writers from all sides to keep up with the image. At times, writers share inconsequential things on social media just to attract attention or be in the limelight.

I imagine; therefore I create.
Photo Courtesy: http://sujataparashar.in/

As they say, ‘Jo dikhta hai woh bikta hai.’ The sad part is kitab se zyada aaj kal author dikhta hai aur kitab bik jati hai. And then hundreds of reviews on the book on Amazon follow and the book becomes a bestseller. Now we all know most of these reviews are either bought or by family and friends. Genuine reviews are rare and one can easily filter them from the fake/ superficial ones. But who cares! I find this trend ridiculous but sad to say I am very much a contributor…one can’t help it…I’m consciously trying to reduce my SM time or taking it too seriously.

But let’s see…only time will tell. I must also put it on record that for years I have been approaching a reputed platform for helping me out with genuine reviews for my books. The publisher sends out X number of copies to the members (mostly bloggers and book lovers or aspiring writers) of the platform and in return, they do a fair and honest review of the book. I quite prefer it that way.

My target is not beyond 25 reviews (which include friends who have bought and read the book. This exercise is only to ensure that future readers have some idea about the book and get inclined to buy it. Also, no one in my family reviews my books). Sharing it here because you asked that question😇🙂

Q. Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

Sujata Parashar: The top three or four writers I can remember who have impacted my writing are, the French writer, Gustav Flaubert who wrote the classic, ‘Madame Bovary.’ I think that was the first novel where I encountered a female character who was so flawed and overambitious in life that I was captivated by her personality. Ema Bovary didn’t shy away from her desires or her ambition to become rich. It was a refreshing change to see a woman’s character portrayed as such. He was a bold writer. The other writer I found fascinating was Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. I read the English translation of his Bengali novel, ‘Shesh Proshno‘ or ‘The Last Question

In this book again, the woman protagonist, Kamal was way ahead of her time and boldly questioned society about their unjust rules and norms. I have also loved and cheered the poems by Kamala Das and Maya Angelou for they are bold and confessional in style and they’ve talked about the love and sexuality of women in a way very few writers have dared to. Reading these writers must have subconsciously influenced me because most of the heroines in my books are presented as odd and flawed women

Sujata Parashar: Yes! Which writer won’t? As the creator, naturally, I feel good when the book is praised and bad when there’s a negative review. Earlier, I used to get excited and respond to bad reviews publicly. I don’t do that anymore… unless deliberately tagged or asked to respond. 

Sujata Parashar: I plan to take it easy for the first half of 2024 and mainly focus on promoting my new book (perhaps a book tour to a few cities) and also reinitiating my talk-therapy-based platform, The Talk-It-Out-Express which has been slow and mostly ignored in the last couple of years due to my complete focus on finishing my book. 

Sujata Parashar: His name is Lokevidu which means the learned one. He just turned twenty and is pursuing his graduation from a prestigious university abroad.  My book on single parenting, ‘Going Solo: Raising Happy Kids‘ is inspired by my own experience as a single parent living in Delhi, India. However, 50 other single parents have contributed to that guide. It’s the first and only book on single parenting in India and won a prestigious literary award in 2022. Now the book is being translated into Marathi by the same publisher. The book is dedicated to single parents. It is also a gift and my salute to my son, Lokevidu who is an exceptional child.

Additionally, you can also go through my Author-Interview Series -> Here
My Review On Author’s Book: SUNFLOWERS By Sujata Parashar
Author Website: http://sujataparashar.in/
My HandleKiran_Kumar_Adharapuram
You can also explore my Non-Fiction Section -> Here
You can also explore my other works -> Here

Regards
Kiran K Adharapuram

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