1. Hello Reenita mam, before starting, we would like to know when did you realize that you want to be a writer and since when did you take this path of creativity?
I'm not exactly how how to answer that. On one hand I could say that I have always relished the art of story-telling. From the time I was a child, age ten or so, I would write stories and poetry, some of which were published in children's magazines. I remember making profound statements like “one day I will write books” but to be honest, once life set it, those proclamations fell by the wayside. Or at least for a long long time. It wasn't until I was well into my thirties and running an Ayurvedic business in San Francisco that I was seized by a desire to write a book on Ayurveda.
2. What has been the reaction of your family after knowing that you wish to be an author and they saw your first book in the bookshelves with your name on the cover page?
I think the person who took the greatest joy in seeing my first ever book, 'Inner Beauty,' was my late grandmother, Pushpa Vij. Part of this was perhaps because I had dedicated the book to her but more so because she was the link to my by then very late grandfather, Gopal Krishan Vij with whom I had a series of conversations with during my youth – many pertaining to literature and the importance of my writing books. He was my strongest family influence, the reason that I actually took to the pen (yes back then it was a pen, we didn't have computers!) My grandmother was witness to all of this which is why when my first book came out, it struck her more deeply than anyone else.
3. Do tell us something about your latest book “Operation Mom”. It seems to be something different than what is usually published in India’s pulp fiction genre.
Operation Mom explores the story of a Mumbai teen's quest to get her single mother dating again, that too through the online world of wild and wanton weirdoes!
The premise is a little out-of-the-box, I mean typically we have mothers setting up the daughters and not the other way around. And typically the idea of setting up your family member is underscored by the ulterior motive of marriage. This is certainly not the case in Operation Mom.
It is a humorous book. My party line is that appeals to mothers of daughters, daughters of mothers, and anybody who loves humor of dysfunctional family situations. And all who love Mumbai which is the setting for my young adult world! The story is replete with lots of familiar elements – uniquely Mumbai scenes and setting, outlandish characters and contemporary Indian young adult life.
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4. What has been your intention behind writing this book?
Simply speaking to get people out of their Type A existence and have a laugh or two. I think that many of us Indians take ourselves too seriously and really need a whack of our funny bone from time to time.
I grew up reading very serious novels, most of them Classic British literature. It wasn't until I moved to the United States many years later that I discovered the American sense of humor – so basic, so subtle and so able to lighten your mood on any given day. And in terms of context, I had the material right here in my life!
And then there is that whole element of predictability and safety in India. Like I said, you don't find stories where the daughter is setting the mother up – usually it happens the other way around. You don't find stories which expose you to a variety of ethnic situations strewn around Mumbai – all ripe for comedic interpretation. That's what I wanted to do. As a Mumbaikar I feel like I have many affinities – to the Punjabi way of life, to the Parsi community, to places like Swati Snacks and Worli Seaface...all these are part of my ordinary world. The great thing about writing fiction is that through it, you can make the ordinary,extraordinary!
5. How did your relationship with your mother make your work easier while writing this book?
My relationship with my mother is fairly laid back. She definitely played her role of 'Classic Punjabi Mother' during my younger years but as any Punjabi will tell you, the moment you enter into the institution of marriage, the Punjabi mother becomes completely hands-off. My book actually has nothing to do with my own mother but the Punju characteristics definitely carry through, and for anyone familiar with the quirks of this particular community, the anecdotes will resonate.
6. What makes you write chick-lit books without getting skeptical of how will your readers react?
I don't write chick-lit books in particular, or limit my writing to potential reader reactions. Were that the case then all I should be writing are airport bookstore self-help books! I write for the opportunity to share with readers that which currently informs my mood. Sometimes that's humor, sometimes fantasy fiction, sometimes an exploration into battles of good versus evil and other times health, finance, and the eternal question for creating abundance.
7. Have you been obsessive about any pop-star or actor the way your protagonist is mad about Ali Zafar? Till what extent did you go to express your love for your heartthrob star?
Yes! George Michael – the lead singer of Wham! Okay that completely gives away my age :) I was one of many teenage girls in the eighties who was completely obsessed with George Michael to the extent that f ever someone said he was gay, I took it as a personal affront! Determined to meet him in person, I went through lengths to stalk him one summer holiday in England. It took practically all summer for me to track him down and remember this was long before the age of internet or social media, so I really take great pride in my grass roots research skills! I made my way to his father's restaurant and then followed his cat to his house where I had a long chat with his mother who finally pointed me to his management office where I eventually met him. I was 16 or 17 then, obsessive to say the least...or perhaps I should say 'determined,' but this was the one event in my life that propelled me to teenage stardom in itself...as pathetic as that sounds! The anecdote has been cut from my life and pasted in Operation Mom, almost verbatim!
8. Suppose “Operation Mom” gets selected by a leading director of Bollywood for adapting it into a movie, whom do you see as the star casts?
Ooh this is a fun one. Let's see....
Mom – Either Madhuri Dixit or Kajol or Vidya Balan
Ila – Alya Bhatt
Aunty Maleeka – Bipasha Basu
Deepali – Athia Shetty
Pops – Farhan Akhtar or Shahid Kapoor
Dev – Sooraj Pancholi
George Michael as himself
Ali Zafar as himself
Fizz – Boman Irani
Savvy Merchant – Sabira Merchant
Nani – Kirron Kher
Of course this is practically an all-star cast!
9. If you win a major award for your book someday, what speech would you give?
Oh my gosh – I can't write out an award acceptance speech here or I might put nazar on my ability to ever win it! Let's just say that if I do win major award, you will be the first to know and I will make sure to send you photos, speech and all....!
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