Lakshmi Raj Sharma on How His Writing Draws Inspiration From Women
Lakshmi Raj Sharma teaches at the Department of English and Modern European Languages at the University of Allahabad and writes about women across the world, exploring their changing roles in society. He is best known for his novel,The Tailor’s Needle which looks into the British rule in India, and also for his collections of short stories,Marriages Are Made In Indiaand Intriguing Women. He recently released his first novella, Saba & Nisha: A Love Story , which deals with a love triangle with a communal angle.
Your recent book of short stories, Intriguing Women , has intrigued many. Did you first write the stories and then compile them into a book or did you begin with the idea of a book on certain women?
After I completed my first novel, The Tailor’s Needle (Penguin Books India, 2012), and even as I was writing it, stories kept cropping up in my mind and I couldn’t but write them. Once written they need a home. Stories are like babies struggling to be set free from their wombs. About three years after The Tailor’s Needle , I discovered that a number of stories written in this period centred on women. I thought it a good idea and my literary agent in London agreed that these woman-centric stories could be collected together into an anthology of stories, that we called, Intriguing Women .
What do you mean by the term, “Intriguing Women”?
By “intriguing women” I mean women who are interesting because they are a little different to the women we generally see around us. I have been fascinated by the way women have evolved and advanced in the last two or three decades, often leaving men behind in life’s race. I feel that this is the age of women rather than men. They are coming forward with amazing success. Of course, some do fail in reaching the highest positions. I have taken interest in activities that I consider “the softer aspects of life”, like music, painting, dance, badminton and women. I have often avoided the rougher aspects, like boxing, wrestling, football, and outdoor life in general. My mind tends to be drawn towards the arts and towards the softer sensibilities of men and women; I have celebrated everything good in successful women. This has come naturally to me. In my early life I have observed woman-behaviour and woman-psychology a little better than the affairs and activities of men. I have enjoyed studying some powerful women and have been fortunate to have met some.
In both of your collections, a lot of your stories deal with love and marriage across time. Is this a topic close to your heart?
My imagination has often toyed with the idea of love and marriage. Having taught a number of Shakespeare-plays, at the University of Allahabad, for over three decades, I was often conscious of the interest the bard showed in these subjects. His comedies move towards love and generally end in marriage. His comic worlds do not reveal the after-marriage scenario. In his tragedies, such as Othello and Hamlet, we do get a glimpse of what marriage can entail. I believe that marriage is a social institution, and therefore a somewhat unnatural one. It has so much value because of the security it provides but it does not happen as naturally and innocently as leaves come to a tree. It is often a result of subconscious calculations and machinations that are given the name of love. Whatever is not natural comes at a price. Time has shown that almost all social arrangements, made by us, change with time. Marriage is becoming a more and more difficult game to keep up. Sometimes love can be found in the home; but at other times it is missing there because of which people are driven to seek it outside. Marriage and love are therefore apt subjects for stories; they invite the interest of the married as well as the unmarried. Those that have seen and tasted what marriage is and those that yet have to come to terms with it, both want to piece together the jigsaw puzzle called marriage. A writer can piece it together to an extent for those who cannot do so themselv
This book “Intriguing Women” is a beautiful read and you can find the book review here at GoodReads.com
I rarely write with too much planning. A plot just flashes in my mind and grips me so much that I begin writing under its spell. This YA novel is one such work. I have been struggling to round it off for some years now. But it has been taking newer turns and left me craving to add more and more layers to it. Yes, ideally a novelist ought to think about his readers before deciding what to write. I have been deficient in this. I tend to become a victim of a plot that comes to my subconscious mind. It drives me on much more than I manage to control it. Children and their stories have fascinated me as much as the stories for adults have. But I am not sure how many children’s books I will find the time to write. I already have two or three adult novels chasing my imagination. Each novel takes years to crystallize fully and get on to the page.
I don’t think my students have been responsible for my stories directly though they do peep out of my stories here and there. Though I do love them and sometimes write for them. I have taught thousands of students, and have tried to make them understand the nature of literature and how it is appreciated. Somewhere in my imagination my students do play a very significant part. They could be said to shape my fiction to an extent. An author’s mind is shaped by whatever they see around them. To that extent my students influence my fiction.
You’ve got a wonderfully informative website. It gives information about upcoming projects you’re working on right now but it didn’t specify the release dates. What book do you have coming out next?Thanks for your words about my website. It was designed in the UK and is handled by someone in my town. It is never easy for an author to give the exact dates of their forthcoming books because after the writing is over, there are others who control it and it can take even up to a year or more for that work to see the light of day.
I published a novella recently, on the 21st of September. It is called Saba & Nisha: A Love Story . This is a Literary Thriller, set in Allahabad. It is a Hindu-Muslim love story which is like a comet that has a burning tale in its tail. My next novel, To India for Love , which I hope to bring out in December 2017 or January 2018, is again a novel of multicultural fiction, set in America and India.