In Conversation with Andy Paula

The strikingly beautiful and poised Anindita Sarkar, who writes under the pseudonym of Andy Paula, is a voracious reader, an ardent thinker and an avid blogger. A corporate trainer by profession, her power and passion for gambling with words drove her to write ‘Love’s Labor’. With her enamouring looks and exemplary intelligence, she is a perfect combination of beauty with brains.

Ananya Dhawan: From being a literature professor to a corporate trainer and now also a writer-how has the journey been?

Andy Paula: Very eventful! From an exceptionally early age I knew I would teach. When others played dolls, I prepared separate ‘class-work’, and ‘home-work’ assignments for the neighborhood kids. At all those crucial stages in life- Class 12, Grads final year etc- when my friends puzzled over what subjects to choose, which entrance exams to take, which jobs to apply for, I was unruffled and wondered why did the others not know what they wanted, why should their parents/grandparents/bade bhaiya decide things for them. I still fail to understand such dependence! For me it had to be English Literature, it had to be teaching.

I taught for over nine years and when I was undergoing training in St. George’s College, Mussoorie, my last academic profile, I thought this is what I want to now do. I’ve taught 18years and under, I now want to train 20 years and above. The facilitator, Alu Tata, may have no idea that she had planted a dream in one of her participants’ mind (or heart, depending on where one plants dreams)!

Corporate training happened like a miracle as if my then-boss was waiting for me. She wanted someone with a sound language background who could teach grammar. That’s what I’d done all my life so I took to my new role as a duck takes to water. It only helped that there were no notebook corrections here and I did not have to shout at forty-odd boisterous teenagers constantly! My years of teaching may have given me an empathetic edge, despite the shouting, that the competitive corporate found refreshing. Many of my colleagues told me this or I would have attributed my acceptance by the corporate as sheer good luck.

I quit my corporate job when an onsite opportunity took us to London. The initial euphoria soon gave way to the frustrating feeling that I was a ‘dependant’, my only identity being my husband’s wife. Like all independent women, I detested the tag.  But initially, did nothing about it. After months of UK tour, I took to blogging with persistent online-nagging by my mother in India. Yes, only mothers can wield such power over you! Love’s Labor happened when I had gotten used to the discipline of writing.

AD: In your debut novella ‘Love’s Labor’ to what extent do you relate yourself to the character of ‘Piali Roy’?

AP: To the extent that both of us are certain about what we want to do in life, both are Literature lovers and have a mind not easily swayed by public opinion. In many ways, the professional part of Piali reflects the professional side of me but somewhere down the narrative, she becomes her own person and I have no control over her.

AD: What were your high and low points while writing the book?

AP: The high points were when the characters knew how they wanted to behave and the plot moved effortlessly. The lows were when they didn’t. They waited for my instructions and refused to listen when I gave them. Also, writing is a lonely job. Suddenly you realize you are alone in this big room, the only noise is the fan whirring above and the keys beneath your finger-tips and you feel this immense necessity to be surrounded by people. Only to loathe it when they make demands on your time.

 

AD: How did you come up with the title of the book?

AP: The title was the first thing I typed when I sat down to write Love’s Labor. This story had been brewing in my head for over a decade when it was discovered at home that a cousin had had the audacity to fall for a male from another community. The man in question was well-placed and even offered to take the cousin away to his place of work; she vehemently refused citing filial duty and social disgrace as reasons, and in an unexpected twist of events, one day, she disappeared from home. While initially it was suspected that she had eloped, the lover himself was at a loss because he was very much at home! The labor that my protagonists undertake for love made this my only choice. So while I was open to suggestions on form and style, I was sanguine this had to be the title of my story.

AD: Do you draw upon your own experiences with family and friends as you create characters and plots?

AP: All writers do that, I think. Isn’t art a reflection of reality? Well, now that is like the who-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg debate, but yes, I do. I am hoping that for my first few books I don’t have to chalk out too many characters and situations. Life and its people are inspiration enough!

 

AD: What is your writing regimen like?

AP: I wish I could say, ‘I write every day, through the power-cuts and bad network, I write write write’, but unfortunately, for me, that’s not true just now. There are other commitments I juggle with my writing. My content-development and voice-overs demand attention, and the occasional training. Not to miss the householder’s job that is full-time. I try to write at least one hour every day, and assure myself that when I plunge into full-time writing, when I am holding no other job, I will be more dedicated.

AD: Tell us a little about the cover art and who has designed it? What does the image on the cover depict?

AP: Isn’t it a beautiful cover? Naila Ahmed has designed it and done a wonderful job of it. That’s Piali Roy waiting for her love and you can see Sathya with his back-pack trudging up the hill to meet the beloved he had lost. (I wish they’d given him a beard though!)The grayish bluish mountains create an evocative backdrop.

AD: What made you choose an e-publishing platform?

AP: The platform chose me. A friend told me about Indireads and connected me to Naheed Hassan, its founder. One discussion led to another and before I knew it, I was writing an ebook. The e-platform perfectly suits my current nomadic life, when I don’t know where our next posting will be. With the digital medium, I know I can do it from anywhere in the world. Except Arctic, of course!

 

 

 

AD:How did you reach out to an eminent personality like Dr. Shashi Tharoor for the unveiling of ‘Love’s Labor’? What was his immediate reaction?

AP: Dr. Tharoor is an author whose writings I enjoy and admire. He has authored an impressive number of books- both fiction and non-fiction. The fact that he was recognized as the Digital Person of the Year in the first Indian Digital Media Awards(IDMA), 2010, made him the most suited person for unveiling an ebook. He understands the digital medium like few other politicians do. When I sent him a mail with my request, he almost immediately responded that he would be glad to oblige.  His immediate reaction was, ‘What a fancy name, Andy Paula, why did you…’and he trailed off not wanting to spell out that he liked Anindita better! And then the discussion veered towards other topics.

AD: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

AP: When an idea screams to get out of my head, I wake up at 2am to type it out, much to the family’s annoyance!

AD: What’s next in store for us?

AP: A tale of relationships. I am waiting for the dust to settle after Love’s Labor so I can resume my next manuscript. Just now the promotions are taking up a lot of my time.

  • UK or India – India
  • Chinese or Continental – Continental
  • You in 3 words – witty, sharp, observant
  • (One of )The best day of your life –  When Love’s Labor was launched
  • If you were to have a dinner date with one person dead or alive, who would it be? Rituporno Ghosh , to be able to figure out what gave him such nuanced understanding of complex human issues.

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