CHENNAI: Yashodhara Lal is the author of several books, including Just Married, Please Excuse, and How I Became a Farmer’s Wife. Her latest book, Those Days in Delhi is a bittersweet relatable story about growing up, told through the eyes of Gudia, a middle-class middle-child.
What was your trigger for writing the book Those Days In Delhi?
Now that I’ve written and published several books, I think I’m increasingly more clear about the fact that I like writing stories inspired by real events in my own life. Still, this book was different as it is not about an adult, but a child. This book was originally written on my sabbatical a few years ago — there was no trigger as such except for the fact that I felt I must do it. I find writing therapeutic. These are the books my readers find relatable. Those Days in Delhi is set in the 90s and is the story of Gudia and her middle-class, middle-child woes. It’s a funny book but it definitely has its emotional moments too. It wasn’t easy to write this one, but I’m glad it’s out there now and receiving some really great reviews, too.
Have any of your books been inspired by books in regional languages?
Not so much, but I am a big fan of RK Narayan’s Malgudi Days and Swami & Friends. Those Days in Delhi is a little like Swami & Friends, except that it’s Gudia and friends and set in Delhi.
Do you revisit your writings? Recently, I picked up a copy of my first book Just Married, Please Excuse. I found myself laughing out loud as I read. And also found a few lines I felt I could have done better. I think that’s why I prefer to keep plodding ahead. But there’s merit in going back to old writings, it’s a learning experience.
Have you always seen yourself as a writer?
As a kid, I read a lot and yes, I did imagine that I would grow up to be an author someday. That dream was buried in the corporate craziness for several years, but eventually I did get around to it, helped along by a near-death experience after delivering my twin sons in 2010. The inspiration? The writings of Gerald Durrell, James Herriot, Bill Bryson, Wodehouse. My husband Vijay has been featured as the hero in my first book Just Married, Please Excuse as well as How I Became a Farmer’s Wife. The book might be made into a movie soon.
How difficult or easy is it to get published?
It wasn’t that difficult to get published, but I do know of many first-time authors who struggle to find a good publisher. However, I definitely have had to modify the content of my books. My first book in particular needed a lot of rewriting. In fact, even the latest one Those Days in Delhi needed a lot of structural help to turn it into a coherent story with a proper arc and a theme that brings it all together. I think that’s the danger with memoir-style writing. It can turn into slice-of-life storytelling versus having a proper plot. But I had a lot of help from my editors and it turned out very well.
Who are your first readers and biggest critics?
These days, it is my 12-year-old daughter Anouk who reads my work first. I also have a friend from college, Kunal, who consents to read my work. Then there’s my sister Gitanjali and mother Chitra — they are my beta readers, and also biggest critics.
With the digitisation of books, have you moved to reading books on screen or do you prefer the old-fashioned books?
I’m still an old-fashioned reader and love to collect books. A couple of years ago, I followed Marie Kondo’s advice and threw out about 250 books, but have lamented it. I no longer give away or throw away books, but I am building my collection. In fact, I came up with a rather clever idea for my 39th birthday. I threw myself a party and prepared a book registry, giving instructions to the guests about which books I wanted them to buy for me. Now I have an excellent set of books! I can’t wait to do the same thing for my 40th birthday too.