Author Interview : Krishna Udayasankar

Author Interview : Krishna Udayasankar
“The Mahabharata was fed to me – quite literally”

Her book series ,
 THE ARYAVARTA CHRONICLES is a commendable effort  in reclaiming the history in a way that is congruent with the present. Here is a peak into the beautiful and scholarly mind of our next #SuperWomanWriter (5). 

I was a terrible eater as a child, and my gastronomical idiosyncrasies finally drove my despairing parents to try different ways of getting me to eat. The poor, harassed couple were at the end of their tethers, when they that realized that epic stories often left me with my jaw hanging, making it easy to stuff green veggies and all the other healthy stuff I refused to eat. 

 I also recollect playing make-believe battles on the lines of the Mahabharata  – With a tricycle for a chariot, sundy bedsheets as tents and most importantly, a pink rubber teddy bear as Commander in Chief of the armies!
But as I grew older, I felt the need to be able to make sense of these stories as plausible reality.

 “I wanted to see these as tales of humanity, not divinity; as something that could have been history and not some improbable fantasy-tale that defied all logic and science”.

So after researching and writing so much , who is your favourite woman in Mahabharata?

At this moment, it is Uttara. I love Panchali, and all that she stands for, but Uttara is a character that has turned out different from what I’d thought. She still continues to surprise me with her behaviour, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Do you think Draupadi as a woman is overhyped or underrated in the Mahabharata?

Both. I think it is overhype, to the point of a kind of ‘victim-blaming’, to say that the Mahabharata war was the result of her vengance, or because of what happened to her after the dice-game. In the same vein, we underrate her if we think that her anger, her defiance came from a personal insult alone. Panchali was, in my view, the first one to question a system that allowed a monarch absolute power, even when such a ruler abused his authority. That side of Draupadi is often lost. Surprisingly, I’ve encountered people who think that the enraged, sworn-to-vengenace Draupadi is actually a figure that empowers women. The compassionate side of her, the part of her that sees humanity as a whole doesn’t come through – and to me, that is the really empowering thing about her!

What are you writing next? When is it coming along?

I am currently working on Book 3 of The Aryavarta Chronicles: Kurukshetra. It should be out later this year. Am also working on my next poetry collection, which is tentatively titled “The Innocence of Envy.” Finally, I have a mytho-historical novel on the founding of Singapore by a Srivijaya prince… Yikes! I’d better get back to work!

How would you describe yourself as a woman? What are the traits in yourself that you cherish?
Human. That’s my reference point for being a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way denying my gender – I want to celebrate the universality of it.
As for traits I cherish… I’m far from perfect, if perfection even exists, but I’m comfortable and at peace with pretty much everything about myself – including the fact that every now and then I find something I don’t like about myself and agonise over it 😉 Yes, I do show self-contradiction on occasion, and I’m quite ok with that too.
Any weakness that you would like to rectify in yourself?
My first reaction is to say “wow, I have so many; where do I begin.” But the more I think about it, I realise there are things I want to learn, to develop, ways in which I want to improve – I’m not sure I want to call them weaknesses – in me or in anyone else. The one quality I wish I could overcome, though, is anger.
Did you face any hurdles in the process of being a published writer? How did you juggle your daily job with writing?

I’ve been quite lucky in my publishing journey. My agent – Ms. Jayapriya Vasudevan of Jacaranda – signed me on when I had nothing but a 50 page draft! Similarly, Hachette India bought not just the book, but the entire series, based on the first complete draft I had! It doesn’t get easier than that!

But then, luck isn’t infinite! I won’t pretend its easy to juggle family, work and writing. I still don’t know I do it, beyond the fact that it happens in bits and spurts, and I am perpetually in a daze! Of course, my family has their own theory – they think I spend too much time on Twitter and Facebook and don’t get anything done!  
Your message for thousands of women aspiring to be successful writers.

Don’t be bound by gender or genres. 

What we can do or want to do is for us to decide, and it has to come from a place that is beyond labels and distinctions, or even our own identity. I was once told “you write battle scenes like a man”. It was both the best compliment and the worst insult I could have received. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t write chick-lit or romance if you want to. But you don’t have to. Just as you don’t have to write blood and gore to prove yourself. 

Finally, don’t be bound by silly advice. Including the above 🙂 

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