Renuka Guru, debutante author of ‘Anita: End of a Beginning’ is a writer as well as a children’s book illustrator. In the future, she hopes to write more fiction as well as children’s picture books.
Q: How did you become a writer?
A: It started with the thirteen-year-old me reading ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank borrowed from my school library. I loved books, thanks to my dad who was always reading. But it was this book particular that showed me the power of writing. Through the diary of the thirteen-year-old Anne, I saw the entire scenario of World War II play in front of my eyes. Her journal entries that started with ‘Dear Kitty’ were so powerful that I realized your diary can be your best friend. Though I gave up on my short stint of writing my own diary, I, however, fell back on writing whenever I needed a good friend to confide in. The more I wrote, the better I liked it and here I am with my first book ‘Anita: End of a Beginning.’
Q: From what/where/whom do you derive inspiration from? How do you keep that inspiration alive in the long run?
A: Honestly, I sit down to write, and then inspiration comes. If I were to wait for inspiration and then write, I wouldn’t get any work done. In my reading journey so far, this is the first book where I’ve come across the topic of inter-religious and inter-race adoption. What compelled you to choose this particular theme? The story could have well fit with everyone belonging to the same race.
The underlining theme of my book is in the characters’ identification with race, caste, class, religions, and so on. The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads say that the root cause of misery is in the soul’s identification with the body.
I have tried to show how each character is trapped in identifying itself with a particular affiliation that the body is born into. But when the person frees himself of these bodily identifications, he is free to lead a happy life.
Q: What do you think about immigrants? Displaced or simply in want/need of better opportunities. I, for instance, know a lot of immigrant Indians who in-spite of being well settled on foreign lands, crave their homeland ultimately returning after a stint.
A: We Indians are very different from the Western people. In my observation, we are both two different species. Geography, in terms of land and weather, defines what we are to a large extent. Our dos and don’ts are very different from theirs.
We have a glorious past that is rich with knowledge and they have a sophisticated present that is highly advanced in technology. This leads to a juxtaposition of tradition versus technology. Though most of us would opt for technology, the carving for tradition remains unfulfilled.
If a child graduates out of their school system, he is theirs, unless parents are highly traditional like in the case of Gopalan and Ramaa. But for the first generation of immigrants, it is definitely a never-ending tug of war in their hearts.
Q: In the fight to empower oneself, most women forget that there are thousands who want her repressed and many a times she becomes a prey, especially to the people whom she knows well (or not so well) What is your guidance for such women?
A: I am not a feminist. I believe that men and women are intrinsically different from each other. What a woman can do is for her to do and the same is with a man. Identifying our strengths and working on that is more beneficial than trying to compete with each other.
We women are very strong and we need to realize it. Letting people dictate what I need to do just to appear equal to men is not necessary, in my view. I saw a poor woman running her family successfully after throwing out her abusive husband and I also saw a successful doctor kill herself leaving behind two young children, unable to stand up to her husband’s bullying. We as women need to know our own strengths.
Q: What do you think of India as a cultural and tourist hub? With the number of visitors increasing every year, what major changes (or not) would you like to see in the country?
A: Culture is attractive. Americans throng to United Kingdom because of cultural tourism. However, we Indians do not value our culture as much as we need to. When I visited the mighty castles of UK and saw the way they have maintained it, I was feeling quite embarrassed at the vandalism that goes on in our historic sites.
Our cultural sites have so much potential. Education to revere and preserve them should start from our schools.
Q: Whom do you look up to as a reader and as a writer? Any favorites?
A: Even if one reader who is in a dire situation similar to that of Anita, feels inspired to get up, roll up his/her sleeves, and start life afresh after reading this book, I would feel successful as an author.
I am deeply moved by ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ with commentaries written by His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
On the literary side, I am inspired by the writing style of Ian MacEwan, Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, R K Narayanan, and classical writers including Charles Dickens, Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, William Golding, Colleen McCullough and many more.
Q: A message for your readers.
A: Do read ‘Anita: End of a Beginning.’ I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as have I enjoyed writing it. Thank you.