1. Akhila Saroha: I would like to begin by congratulating you on the publication of “Sleeping Without The Maid.” How has the response to the book been so far?
My sincere and humble thanks to you, for your kind wishes. My gratitude to you knows no bounds, for the generous review that you have given my book in THE RISE INSIGHT.
The overall response to my book “Sleeping Without The Maid” has been overwhelming and cheerfully positive, both from readers who are connecting with me for the first time, and from dearly cherished friends who joke that I am a public nuisance who ought to be confined to a padded cell with enough books, chocolate and music, to keep me out of circulation and mischief for a lifetime.
Their good-natured ribbing done, they hasten to express wonder that I still remember some incidents so vividly, from a rather embarrassing past that many of them have shared, individually or in good company, with me. The uncomfortable awkwardness of those memories make me kick myself often enough, and I can easily understand the discomfiture of my friends, though they can rest perfectly assured that no references or revelations will ever be made about their identities.
Unable to contain my rising embarrassment beyond a point, I chose to write it all as some rudimentary sort of confession, with no hope whatsoever for succour or redress or forgiveness, by wringing the piquant essences of those past misdemeanours into this book “Sleeping Without The Maid”.
Well, not all of those incidents have been included in this book. Many of them will show up, in all their shocking mischief and graphic glory, in the next few books that I will be publishing in the months and years ahead.
The embarrassing lifetime of a doddering idiot, blundering through the merry shoves and yanks of fortune, knocking head and limb and funny bone with alarming frequency on the occasional tunnel walls of life, can hardly be condensed into any one book without making that book too heavy for even a staggering trailer truck to lug around without careening out of balance.
2. Akhila Saroha: What led to the idea of writing “Sleeping Without The Maid”? Were there any events that inspired the work?
Being socially awkward to the point of embarrassment when I was a kid, and being unable to articulate any sentence coherently without hemming and hawing, unless I was with friends who knew the devil I could become at a moment’s notice, reading has always held a special place in my wayward saunter through life.
When one reads a whole lot of fiction, while studiously avoiding non-fiction, the news, politics, studies and religious texts, there comes that critical threshold when the balance of understanding that teeters precariously on the fulcrum of inquisitiveness, swings away from the safe territory of intake, to the dangerous realm of output.
That, aided by the lazy eye that dreams and sees far beyond what the active eye can even dream of seeing, adds outlines of colourful fantasy to the rough sketches that real-life incidents draw on the mind’s fertile – and often virgin – playfield of possibilities.
I easily drown in reveries of my embarrassingly colourful past, marked by deeds and incidents that often catch me shaking my head in indignation, laughing shamelessly at myself, or muttering nonsense to myself, at the sheer shame of it all.
Remembering people, places, indiscretions, incidents and misdemeanours, my ever-inquisitive mind found an outlet for evocative expression through writing this book “Sleep Without The Maid”. There is quite a bit of steam and sizzling narration yet to burst forth, but that will have to wait till my next book gets published.
3. Akhila Saroha: How easy or difficult was it for you to decide the placement of poetry in “Sleeping Without The Maid” and keep it simple to understand for the readers?
Choosing poetry as the medium of expression challenged me with arriving at an appropriate ‘flow’ or sequential placement of the story-poems in “Sleeping Without The Maid”. Chronological sequencing lacked verve, and alphabetical sequencing peeled the narrative nude, to the point of the superficial pretentiousness that commonly afflicts today’s world.
Having spent hours, weeks, months and years in crystallising my thoughts into concepts, then etching those concepts into words, and then eventually stringing those words into poetic flow, helped me to structure this body of work into a fairly rational stream, with the rhythm of a babbling brook.
It is a humble wellspring that seeks paths for its water to flow without shame or excuse for its girlish giggles, or apology for its roguish laughter, as it tumbles downstream of its own volition, seduced by its undeclared ambition to become the soul of the ocean by eventually flowing into it.
The reader can open this book to any page, and enjoy a truly satisfying read, because all the stories are standalone entities in their own right, and each story sits and fits within its own individual page. It can hardly get any easier or entertaining than that, for any reader.
4. Akhila Saroha: What are your views about present-day writing? Do you think it does complete justice in depicting human nature in the light of “Sleeping Without The Maid”?
It is quite interesting to read the works of today’s writers, which is not very unlike those of writers from other decades, centuries and millennia, at least in terms of the understanding and the depiction of human nature. Each writer has their own take on human nature, in their analysis and their attribution of characteristics to individual characters within their narratives and stories.
There are so many gifted writers in this day and age, who have the advantage of inspirations and idioms from the golden past of literature. They are blessed to have a much wider palette of experiences, literary nuances, and greater literary freedom afforded by social media and a rapidly evolving lexicon of new words, expressions, idioms, ideologies, philosophies, verbal chutzpah, and candid depiction.
Present-day writing is so varied in essence and character, language and expression, soul and substance, and so much else that it would be unfair to view a few genres with compassion while merely paying lip service to others. The good part is that now there are so many writers and writing styles to choose from, with thousands of books being published every day, of both fiction and non-fiction. The reader is so spoiled for choice, and writers have fewer restrictions to navigate through.
5. Akhila Saroha: “Sleeping Without The Maid” shows the uniqueness of your
style of writing. Are there any authors that you enjoy reading or any books which are your favorites?
To answer your question as accurately as possible, I will need to explain a bit about my childhood. Back then, I was a rather sickly child, often ailing from frequent and acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis. That led to me seeing my family doctor more often than my school or my teachers. As a fallout of that, I always fared far below average at my studies.
The only thing that has more red lines (for failing in any subject) than my report card from my school years, is probably the US national flag. I was consistently ranked at the bottom of my class.
Surprisingly, there was another thing I was consistent at: I nearly always ranked among the upper few of my class in English. That anomaly unfailingly baffled my teachers and my parents. However, that mystery was easier solved than defined or explained.
Long hours in the waiting room of our family doctor’s clinic, stuck in between patients, coughs, sneezes, and the perpetual smell of antiseptics, could have easily filled those boyhood years with damning ennui. However, there was the silver lining of a rather interesting escape mechanism, for my young and impressionable psyche. That escape was a tiny magazine that made my doctor’s waiting room my temple of joy, the Reader’s Digest.
The stories and articles in the Reader’s Digest kept me enthralled to the point of mystique, admiration, hero worship and what else have you; often steeling me against the fear of the dreaded but imminent injection needle.
I will forever be indebted to DeWitt Wallace and Lila Acheson Wallace who co-founded the Reader’s Digest. What a priceless gift of lucid literature they have birthed into this world, with its priceless treasury of stories and much more! The Reader’s Digest brought together the works of a multitude of fine writers, in an easy-to-read format that I could easily read, understand and enjoy, even as a child.
There was yet another way in which the Reader’s Digest changed my life. The fascinating ads in this little magazine inspired a great yearning in me to make a career in advertising. That is how I became a copywriter, and then a creative director, before I ventured into business, by establishing my own tiny advertising agency.
6. Akhila Saroha: How would you categorize “Sleeping Without The Maid” as
its appeal seems to be to a broad audience?
I dread to do anything as daring as categorising this book, since I have neither discipline in my choice of subjects, nor any consistency in the style of my writing. I know many who will debate this hotly and hate me for having stated this, but I strongly aver that consistency is the hallmark of mediocrity. That said, the most I can gather courage to hope for is that “Sleeping Without The Maid” will be read by an adult and mature audience, since many of its story-poems are not appropriate for innocent sensibilities.
7. Akhila Saroha: “Sleeping Without The Maid” has given a powerful introduction to your potential as a writer. Can the readers expect more from you in the future? Please share about your future projects.
I have two books that are going through the pangs and pains of birth, even while this interview is happening. Yet, they are in no way identical with twin characters or similar substance.
One is a narrative prose version of “Sleeping Without The Maid”, though with a different title, and aimed at entertaining a more universal, and wider, audience. Poetry is not necessarily everyone’s goblet of heady wine. It would be unfair to withhold all that wild mischief that is writhing within “Sleeping Without The Maid” from those who would rather have a spade being categorically called a spade, without the lyrical rhythm and rhyme of poetry assailing their more matter-of-fact sensibilities.
If a blow-by-blow account is what it will take to tickle their funny bone or their no-nonsense whims, this humble author would be the last man standing between their need and mine: theirs to be entertained, and mine to be the buffoon doing the literary trapeze act, in comical reverse.
The other book that I am writing, sashays along on the same lines as “Sleeping Without The Maid” with a whole lot more of stories, incidents, confessions and reveries, in the story-poem form. There are so many readers who love the lyrical rhythm of a ballad coming alive at the hands of a reminiscing bard, who is hard put to keep out that twitching turn of phrase that yanks at the coattails for attention and life space, in the written form.
That there is another can of worms waiting to be opened will unsettle quite a few friends, acquaintances and colleagues from my colourful past, who had heaved huge sighs of relief when they saw that they had escaped being mentioned in “Sleeping Without The Maid”.
However, I take care to not make any direct references or divulge names, and that is a lifelong assurance from me that can always comfort them, ensuring that my books will never be the reason why they will have to pop in digestives or sedatives to be able to wake up alive and smiling next to their spouse or partner, their conscience at peace, and all direct allusions to the sins of their youth laid to eternal rest.
8. Akhila Saroha: What is the story behind the title of your work, “Sleeping Without The Maid”?
It is quite a story that has its origins in my unbridled fascination for an unusually attractive damsel who made my neighbourhood the centre of the world during my teen years. Fortunately, my passionate ardour found more than equal echo in her reciprocation towards my attentions. The solid wall that stood tall and stately between our mutual yearnings was her governess, who chaperoned the gorgeously attractive temptation of my fantasies with stoic righteousness. It took all my cunning chicanery and conniving guile to overcome that formidable hurdle.
Page 141 of “Sleeping Without The Maid”, if you are reading the physical paperback or hardbound version of the book, has a story-poem with exactly that title, which narrates the rest of that fascinating series of incidents without pulling any punches, while spicing it only with rhyme and meter. I often reminisce about that untamed beginning of wild and amorous bravado in my life, which continues to lead me to risk name and limb and investment, in every quest I undertake.
There are far more intriguing and mystifying stories that make up my book, but that particular story and the train of events that led to immortalising it in my memories, hold a special place in my heart, for more reasons than I can confess publicly. It was only fair that the title of that story-poem became the title of my book, given that it highlights the genesis of crazy escapades in the amorously adventurous side of my existence.
9. Akhila Saroha: Of all the modes of writing, what made you come up with the idea of writing in poetry form in “Sleeping Without The Maid”?
While still a little kid, I discovered that poetry has powers that are denied to other forms of persuasive communication, whether it was directed at my parents, my teachers, my friends, or even my enemies. It achieved over and beyond expectations.
My Mum would find a poem on the gas stove, hoping for a repeat of a delicacy that she had made to perfection a week ago. My sister would find a poem in her school bag, instigating rebel against extended study hours. My friends would find a poem in our team’s common kit, to tempt them with a picnic to break the monotony of rigorous practice sessions. Fast-forward to the present, and my wife and daughter often wake up to poems that suggest a long drive to some interesting destination, a wild expedition into nature’s best, an adventure to make more memories, or a dive into our favourite haunts. It makes them tuck away their other commitments and come away with me.
As I grew up, I discovered beauty within poetic expression, and invariably fell in love with poems that were written by sensitive poets, with gracefulness in their rhyme, rhythm and flow. They inspired me to write poetry to enjoy writing as much as to be persuasive in my private communications. Over the years, I took relief and refuge in writing poetry, whenever I chose to take a break from my professional duties as an advertising copywriter whose creative delights lay in a completely different form of writing.
Since the writing of my book had no deadline to meet, had come alive without a client brief, had nothing to sell, did not seek any specific response or reaction from any target audience, was not built to align with any marketing plan, was not motivated by the quest for profit or remuneration, was not inspired by any branding strategy, or anything along those lines, I had free rein and carte blanche to let rip at will, at my pace, my way.
10. Akhila Saroha: In the present time, the ideas in “Sleeping Without The Maid” do not find much mention. What, according to you, could be the possible reason for that?
We live in times when everyone tries to way too hard to please everyone, while taking care not to step on anybody’s toes. Social sensibilities are fanatically worshipped to ridiculous extents, often at the high price of curbing creative liberties. So many topics, actions, thought processes and isms are taboo, or even considered blasphemous. All kinds of fanaticism and fanatics rule the roost, to the point of ridiculousness and beyond. Folks don’t question anything anymore.
Today, the easy way to live is by staying deep within boundaries, far from the fences, far shy of any controversy or public ire. That has given rise to shamefully vulgar literature and shockingly sensational images and films that try their best to entertain in ways that are laughably funny, more for their desperate trying, rather than for their content. Lack of substance is window-dressed with the superficial sheen of boorish bravado and misplaced sophistication.
Romance is as good as dead and as forgotten as the dodo. Extinct, for all practical purposes. Love gets scoffed at. Commitment might as well be sacrilege. Amidst all that darkness, nobody dares to light a candle that might cause all that toxicity of an implosive society to combust, and end life as we know it.
Today, people often consider true love to be embarrassingly old-fashioned. Showing emotions is often seen as a sign of weakness or immaturity. Think about it: when was the last time you cried without being ashamed of your tears? When was the last time you laughed without meaning to ridicule? When was the last time you stood up for tender emotions without any fear of being judged?
Don’t we all deserve to look deeper within ourselves? Don’t we have the courage to question the status quo? Don’t we deserve a chance at true and honest love for the beautiful and serene joy that it truly is? Or are we far too afraid to look at ourselves, in the fear that the naked beauty of pure love will consume us to the point of misery?
We owe a lot to ourselves that we repeatedly deny ourselves and our loved ones, in the name of propriety. We eke out a living from a structured defiance towards the finer feelings of the heart; a pitiable sort of denial that defies all logic. We immunise ourselves against the raw power of really living to our fullest, and loving unconditionally. Worse, we rationalise our insensitivities in terms that will appear ridiculous to us long after the chance to share love has died.
Peer pressure is huge. Societal grids are in firm gridlock. Expectations are as high as they are superficial and unsustainable. We live for weekends. We dread Monday mornings. Is that really living? If we are not willing to stake everything to chase our dreams or love or passion, are we living at all?
“Sleeping Without The Maid” is not a book that aims to defy norms or start a social revolution. All that it hopes to do is to tickle the reader into seeing new possibilities, and into dreaming beyond the usual. I have been fortunate to have friends who are wilder than me, opportunities that are better than I deserve, and options that are not necessarily easy to come by, unless one nurtures a fertile ambience within the mind, soul, heart and spirit that nourishes those options to grow and flourish.
11. Akhila Saroha: If you were to describe your book “Sleeping Without The Maid” in a few words without giving any spoilers, what would those words be?
“Sleeping Without The Maid” is a book that can make you restless and sleepless to varying degrees. It has a proclivity for seeing love beyond the usual, for feeling yearnings above the carnal, and for being unlike anything you have experienced before. That is why the cover hints at “365 unusual stories for unusual people”. If you aren’t unusual already – and all of us are unusual and unique to some degree, get set to experience many unusual feelings in ways you may never have expected.
12. Akhila Saroha: What advice would you give to budding writers who may be planning to write in the same genre as “Sleeping Without The Maid”?
While I fail miserably at pigeonholing “Sleeping Without The Maid” into any specific genre, my humble insights advice might be helpful those who are aiming to write a book of story-poems of any kind that pleases their heart.
Most importantly, let nothing hold you back; neither social taboos nor society, neither fear of reprisal nor bashfulness that you may be judged one way or the other.
Read and read and read as much as you can, without being limited by genres or writing styles. The more you read, the wider you spread the horizons of your awareness, knowledge, idioms, phraseology, possibilities and potential. A point will come when you can contain yourself no longer, and you will want to write and write and write.
When that happens, surrender to the temptation to write when you can discern sufficient semblance of coherence in the stories you want to share. Look for a thread you might want to employ to weave captivating drama and interesting liveliness into your narratives. If your writing appears enjoyably lively enough to you, a week after you have written it, even if you have read it a few dozen times already, you have quite a winner in the making.
Don’t worry about editing and grammar yet. The more important pillars are the strength and grip of your story. Don’t bother with rhyming and rhythm. They will come if and when they have to. Be generous and kind to your story. Lavish it with love. Caress it with care. Be forgiving. Be accepting. The deep truth of it all is that what we write comes to us from a far greater consciousness than we can comprehend with our limited knowledge of the universe. So, respect the gift of writing that you are blessed with, and do complete justice to your skill.
13. Akhila Saroha: Thank you very much for sparing your time. I look forward to reading more books from you in the future. All the best.
Thank you for inviting me to this interview. I must honestly confess that your questions have evoked several new trains of thoughts in my mind. I hope to give them enough rail and play, to go the distance and be a part of my literary journey, in the years ahead.
Thank you for your kind wishes. I look forward to sharing my future books with you, especially since I respect your critical eye, your breadth of perspective, and your honest views.