My mother is my biggest inspiration: Sudha Menon  | books | Hindustan Times
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My mother is my biggest inspiration: Sudha Menon 

Author Sudha Menon talks about her journey from being a voracious reader as a child, to a journalist and ultimately, an author. Adds that her mum is her biggest inspiration

books Updated: May 18, 2018 18:10 IST
Anjali Shetty
Anjali Shetty
Hindustan Times, Pune
Sudha Menon
Sudha Menon

When Sudha Menon gave up her career in journalism, that spanned over two decades, she decided to write books, which was, in many ways, a dream come true for her. As a little girl, growing up in a Mumbai suburb in a family of limited means, it was an audacious dream to want to see her name on the jacket of a book, but she dreamt of it anyway. Sudha says, “I firmly believe that if you really want something and do your best to achieve that, then everything in the universe works with you to make that happen. I also believe in destiny and miracles. I think of my life as a miracle that I could work my way out of the severely challenged circumstances I grew up in, and made it to where I am today. I also believe that my parents — simple, honest folks — shaped the destiny of their children in the best way they could. What they could not give us in terms of material comforts, they gave us in the form of an endless supply of books. We only got two pairs of clothes each, for our birthday and Diwali. But we got books every month, bought from old bookshops and roadside booksellers in Mumbai, who knew our father cherished books and kept aside their best books for him.”

EARLY DAYS

Sundays and holidays for Menon meant sitting on the old, beaten sofa in her drawing room, reading American or Russian classics, dad’s collection of PG Wodehouse or Sherlock Holmes. At the age of 10, she was already reading books such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, AJ Cronin’s The Citadel, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, Émile Zola’s L’Assommoir (The Dram Shop) and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. “My baby steps towards becoming an author were taken all those years ago when I would get lost in the worlds created by the authors I read,” says Menon.

Sudha’s books highlight women and explore their journeys. When asked about who has been the most inspirational woman in her life, she says, “My mother is my biggest inspiration. It is from her that I learnt to never let hardships and challenges knock me off my chosen path. From watching her resourcefulness and the determination with which she gave us good education, I learnt that a woman can do everything if she puts her mind to it. From her, I learnt about kindness, compassion and generosity, which she practised even though she hardly had anything to raise her own children with. Even today, when I sometimes tell her that I have done enough and am ready to retire, she reminds me that it is my responsibility to use the good education that they gave me for the larger good.”

Sudha with mom Pramila, sister Sangeeta and niece Aarya (UMA DHANWATEY)

PROS AND CONS OF WRITING

What Sudha enjoys most about writing is that it allows her to retreat for a while into another world, get into the skin of other people, and try and understand their lives and reality. She likes to think that writers have the power to positively impact the lives of people by giving them food for thought, inspiration, motivation and lots of entertainment, without having to spend an arm or a leg for it. “I sometimes shamelessly use my writing to escape from the things that I don’t care much about, such as socialising or playing a hostess to friends and family. The flip side is that writing is an intensely solitary affair and there are days when I have no contact with the outer world at all because I am prone to sitting in my pyjamas and hacking away at my computer, surfacing only for a lunch at the work desk. Writing takes up most of my time and I have lost so many of my friends over the years because I just did not have the time to nurture those relationships,” she adds.

FUTURE WRITERS

Her advice to aspiring writers is to read a lot of good books. “If you want to write good stories, then learn to become an observer of people, of life itself. Watch how people eat, laugh, cry, love and behave with each other. Observe the unravelling miracles of nature, the changing colours of leaves, seasonal flowers and fruits, the moods of the sky. Absorb everything around you like a sponge and bring it alive in your own unique way,” she explains.

About choosing writing as a career, she signs off, saying, “For me there is no safe career option. I have seen millionaires go broke overnight and broke authors become millionaires overnight. The only safe career option is the one that your heart tells you to follow.”