Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book Discussion - Story of Sita - Author Nabeena Srikanth

Readers of our blog know our obsession for Historical and Mythological fiction book. We never miss a chance to get review copy in this genre. Today we have Nebeena Srikanth to talk about her latest book "Story of Sita". We would like to thank Nabeena for giving us time for this interview.


Can you brief us about your educational and professional career?
I completed a BSc in Physics and Math at Mount Carmel college and then a Diploma at NIIT. A few years later I completed a Diploma at University of California Santa Cruz in interior design. I have been an instructor at NIIT. I work as a kitchen designer.
What were you like at school/college apart from studies?
For a student in India, I was involved in too many extra-curricular activities. Red cross, Hockey, Basketball, Carnatic classic music. 
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? Which author inspire you the most?
I love reading. I read a variety of books. Historical, mythical, thrillers and romance. Rajaji, P G Wodehouse, Jefferey Archer, Amar Chitra Katha to name a few. Lately I have focused on authors like Deepak Chopra, Amish Tripati and Ashok Banker who have presented an alternative viewpoint of the old.
When did you start writing? (It may be your first article or blog.)
I remember my eighth grade teacher reading out an essay in class. She was impressed by the content. It was a thriller prompt and she said that there was a lot of talent in that writer. Sadly, that very week I scored a hundred percent in my physics test too. My very thrilled parents decided that I should study Math and Science. It took me a quarter century more to discover that I should have just continued to write at that eighth grade stage. I still work my day job as a designer but started writing once my children went to college which is approximately four years ago. 
When did you decide to become a writer?
My children were raised in California. They had some introduction to our rich Vedic culture through Hindu missions here. Amar Chitra katas taught them many of the other stories. As they grew to be teenagers and started questioning these, I was the one helping them solve these problems. I remember when my daughter presented a point on the Mahabharata. Her question was to point out an incident in the story which she could learn a lesson from to suit her lifestyle. She came up with Kunti’s teenage pregnancy. She along with my son who has said the word ‘why’ to me a million times inspired me to collect all those answers in the form of my book and hopefully books in the future.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I have a few ideas for future books. The story lines are mostly based on epics and ancient historical events, not just Indian but worldwide cultures. I would love to be able to quit my day job and write all day. 
How is your day structured to accommodate your writing?
I am the primary homemaker and have a full-time day job. My goal each evening is to spend an hour at the end of the evening to write. My husband usually listens to lectures on scriptures at the same time. Sometimes I hear a titbit from this to add to my story. My son advices me to write first thing in the morning as the morning is when the brain is fresh and well rested.
Is this your debut work?
Yes, it is my first published work. In my school days I would write synopsizes of Sanskrit works for fun and tear them up because my father wanted me to study science.  
What genre are your books?
Mythopoeia, Mythology inspired books twisted into woman’s fiction. I would say it is on the very edge of the tip which would make it feminist

Can you describe your current book in few lines? What’s it about?
The history of human civilization is being rewritten all over again with the discovery of ruins all over India. The picture of the bridge to Lanka by NASA has got Indian historians rethinking the British version of our history. It is obvious that our scriptures are historical documents with a twist. I have tried to simplify the depictions of the characters into real human beings. As we can see in the European version of Indian history, it is the one the winner tells. Similarly, I have tried to unravel what could have been the reality of Ravana and Hanuman if they were humans instead of being demon and monkey. It is the moral values of Ravana and his Lankans which the people of Ayodhya found demonic. If you look back at descriptions of Ravana he was fair and handsome. Not at all ugly and demonic. If Rama could kill an whole army to save his Sita why would Ravana not kidnap for his sister’s honour. 
Give us an insight into your main character(s)
Sita, has been the image of the perfect consort for many thousands of years in the Indian culture. This has been suitable for many mothers in law to impose obedience on their son’s wife. Sita followed Rama literally to the ends of the earth. She was totally loves truck and devoted to him. She assumed a completely reciprocal relationship and even made excuses for him when he doubted her very purity when she came back to him from Lanka.  When did not accept her word that she was untouched by any man other than himself. When it went a step further she finally cracks up. But she continues to lead her life as best as she could. She never gives up completely. She is the epitome of womanhood.  
Where did you get idea for this book?
My children grew up in California. It was extremely hard to make sure they grew up with respect for their origins. The little bit which is taught about Indian history is very inaccurate. We got them as many Amar Chitra Kathas as we could. As they went through teenage they questioned all the stories. Seeking answers for their questions led me to research deeply into the stories of our ancient epics. It seems so much easier to believe in these stories and use these characters as role models if they were more human with the typical imperfections. History is always written by the winner. Our epics happened many thousands of years ago. For a long time these stories were told by word of mouth. It is possible that the story tellers demonized the Lankans to make Rama sound more heroic. Why could they have not been a people with a different set of values which the Ayodhyans could not accept? Every race tends to think of itself as the most superior even today. The book is a combination of all these ideas applied to the life of Sita as it might have happened in reality.
How much research did you do for this book?
The story of Sita has been told to me numerous times during my childhood. I have read this in many books too. The work of Rajagopalachari, comic books, TV serials, you name it. I researched various websites on maps of ancient India to understand the locations of the places described in the Ramayana. That Kekeya is located in the North Western reaches of ancient Bharat led me to the idea that Kaikeyi could have used opium and got her husband on an addiction path to control him. Wikipedia, Google are some of my sources.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Lakshmana. He is the best friend Sita ever had. Through her life she was not sure of who she belonged to or who she could trust. The only one who stood by her cause at all times was this man. When Rama doubted her word on her purity, he was there to protest it. He humoured and entertained her through the hard days in the forest. He gave up his life of luxury so she could be with her love. Every woman deserves a friend like Lakshmana in her life. 
Who is your least favorite character and why?
The men in her life who would not see her point of view, who didn’t have an ounce of respect for her opinions or her needs. Like her father or her husband or Ravana. Is that not the story in every woman’s life? 
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
I believe a little action would make the book more of a seller. I had a hard time trying to add physical passion into the relationship of Rama and Lakshmana. How can there be a marriage where a man spends fourteen years with his wife who is the most beautiful woman on earth and control himself? But I did not feel the physical passion in their relationship. Rama’s marriage was a politically correct move for him. I could not feel his passion for Sita.
You book release date
July 28th 2017
What are you working on at the minute?
‘Shakti’ In this book I am using a different approach. Shakti Kapoor is a representation of Sati and Parvati in modern day Delhi. She goes through her passionate romance with Sada Shivam. While Shakti comes from a wealthy merchant family, Sada is an intellectual self-taught orphan. They fall passionately in love like Shiva and Sati and go through a troubled marriage because of the differences in their social upbringing. I am at the point where Shakti nearly dies in an accident while she is running away.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I have a series in mind. I want to go through the stories of women in Indian epics before moving on to western stories. I would like to show the stories of the great heroes through the eyes of women who struggled to stand by their success. 
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Do not give up hope. Send your book out again and again till you find a publisher. If you can afford it invest in the first one at least. Put all your heart and soul into marketing it. Don’t ever stop writing. It is a form of deep meditation. 
How was your experience with Publishing house (Lead Start)?
I am a first-time author. I have no previous experience to go with. It has been very convenient working with the Leadstar crew. They all communicate electronically which makes it easy for me as I live half a day away from them. 
Would you like to narrate some interesting things that might have happen during your publishers’ meeting or book promotions?
I was very touched by one of Swati’s reactions. Her comment when she completed her first reading of the manuscript was encouraging.  ‘Every married woman will be able to relate with this story’ Was exactly what I was shooting for. Indian women are raised with the notion that to be a good wife one has to be a Sita. This book does not teach otherwise but tells you what it is really, to be a good woman. 
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 
Do not give up hope. Send your book out again and again till you find a publisher. If you can afford it invest in the first one at least. Put all your heart and soul into marketing it. Don’t ever stop writing. It is a form of deep meditation. 
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
My book deviates a bit from religious beliefs. I know that I might lose some friends over this. When I refer directly into the meat eating practices of Rama I might be invent trouble. But I cannot imagine a good person like Rama killing a deer and skinning it to make an outfit for his wife and discarding the rest of the carcass. He had to be able to eat it. Don’t be afraid to express your point of view. 
Links for your book readers
We would like to thank Leadstart Publishers (Frog Books) for providing this opportunity to connect the author. Readers can check their wonderful collection of books by going through this link - Leadstart Books
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