Word power

There’s no time like a pandemic to get busy. Author Samhita Arni tells CE everything she has been up to these days and how she’s been coping with the bleak times
Word power

BENGALURU: Most enjoy receiving gifts on their birthday. But author Samhita Arni decided to bring in her 36th revolution around the sun doing something different this year. The writer has given away all 15 slots for free for an upcoming creative writing workshop that she is holding this Sunday. “I like to feel good and giving things is one way of doing that. In a way, it’s selfish but also not, at the same time,” says Arni, who celebrated her birthday on June 5. Like many others during this pandemic, Arni spent the big day indoors, at a surprise party thrown by her friend.

The pandemic, however, has been eventful, thanks to a plate full of different work opportunities that she has been immersing herself with. A teaching job (literature, creative writing and storytelling) at Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology, and starting a venture with a friend to provide educational content and consulting for a startup has left Arni with hardly any time to herself. “Want to ensure job security in a pandemic? Have five careers instead of one,” she says with a laugh.

The new normal for her meant navigating online classes as well, which came with its own share of ups and downs. While saying goodbye to a two hour commute came as a blessing, being unable to tell what problems the students are facing posed a challenge. “Something that stayed with me is that kids feel a need to connect and are looking for guidance. And sometimes, literature offers answers to what we can do in times of uncertainty,” says the Cooke Town resident, who, interestingly, has also been turning towards sci-fi series on Netflix to cope with the situation. 

Though discontent with not finding the time to pen her next book, the accolades for previous works don’t stop coming her way. Recently, Arni’s book The Prince was shortlisted for the 2020 Neev Book Award. The historical fiction based on the Sangam era in Tamil Nadu is her fourth book after The Mahabharata - A Child’s View (published when she was 11 years old and which then went on to be translated in seven languages), Sita’s Ramayana and The Missing Queen.

Arni believes epics have shaped the lives of many generations and even calls them the most foundational stories one can come across. Having spent parts of her life in Pakistan, Thailand, Italy and the United States, Arni finds a sense of connection and rootedness in the Indian epics. “I feel like I don’t belong here but looking at these stories and finding space for oneself in them is a way of asserting the right to belong,” says the writer. Interestingly, it is in Bengaluru that Arni has lived the longest in one place, with UB City emerging as her go-to spot during a writer’s block. “People-watching there really helps me get my creative flow back.”

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The New Indian Express