Saaz Aggarwal talks about her multi-faceted life


Saaz Aggarwal InterviewAuthor Saaz Aggarwal interview with AnuReviews.

Saaz Aggarwal Interview

I am really curious to know if you chose the sequence of those pieces, or was it as random as it seems?

Saaz Aggarwal: Actually the book is divided into sections which represent the broad divisions of my life experience: being a ‘madam’; the spiritual journey (and being rather loony); my early childhood; applying inner resources to create supportive devices; loneliness – desolation – and the growth it brings; thoughts about being a mother; stories from my husband; experiences with my parents as they aged; and finally, the last section in which I am pretending to be other writers. I had wanted readers to get a feel of each of these in the separate sections. I now feel it might have worked better if I had explained this intention at the start of the book.

How do you feel sharing your mundane day to day life with your readers on a regular basis? Do you feel exposed or do you feel connected for the same reason?

I started writing these columns in my late twenties, as a single mother who needed to earn a living without leaving the house. Over time it became a habit – and I suppose my skill at presenting trivial situations in a readable way, or of infusing the unmentionable with charm, grew. To be honest, when I do this I’m not thinking about anything – just behaving like an artist who has something inside which is working its way out.

I have a feeling that you would have some interesting stories in the reader’s reaction. Would you like to share one with us?

I have been really surprised by the number of people have written to tell me that they could completely relate to many of the things I’ve written about; that they felt they were reading about their own lives.

Are you related to Bachi Karkaria or do you think she has an influence on your writing style?

I was a fan of Bachi Karkaria and, when I started sending unsolicited contributions to the Times of India (in the late 1980s), was flattered that she liked the way I wrote, published my stuff, and then recommended me for a wonderful job I was really not qualified to have. It was even more gratifying when I started painting (in the mid-2000s) and she became one of my first buyers.

Though you come across as an immensely multi-talented, multi-faceted personality, your focus seems to be centered firmly on your kids and your home. Your comments.

Thanks so much for the compliment Anuradha. Well, I understood very early in my life that my most important priority, without which I could not be happy, was my family. I went to work for economic reasons but ignored a number of opportunities for career recognition and power because they were time-consuming and would have resulted in someone else bringing up my kids. My biggest career achievement is that when the school bus arrived, I was always there. I’m not sure my kids appreciated this, though – or even noticed it! But I’m extremely lucky that I was also able to be there to take care of my parents when they needed me and I think they definitely appreciated it.

How do you balance so many roles that you play? Which of these roles did you enjoy the most?

Saaz Aggarwal: I think I’m really lucky to have a lot of energy, and the ability to prioritize and choose things I can do easily and which will give tangible results. What I’ve enjoyed and been most grateful for is that I could develop my leisure pursuits into professional skills.

When you sit down to write a piece, do you have a format in mind, or you just go with the flow?

It usually starts with a concept which first grows in my mind. By the time I start writing, the structure is already quite clearly defined.

Do you follow a writing routine?

Yes – I sit in front of my laptop pretty much all day long – though I spend so much time on Facebook that a lot of people think I don’t have a life J

As a ghostwriter, how do you feel when someone basks in the glory of your work? Unless you are under contract can you talk about any of your ghostwritten works? In fact, you can talk about how the whole ghostwriting works. 

Saaz Aggarwal: I enjoy ghostwriting very much and don’t do it for glory. Here’s something I wrote for Open magazine which describes my philosophy of ghostwriting.

To me, it’s a skill at which I excel and the biggest recognition is when the reader reads to the end of the work, enjoying and reveling in the voice of my subject – and then realizes with a start that it was actually written by someone else. Of course, the second-biggest thrill is when others appreciate this skill by asking me to ghost-write for them.

One of my most successful books was There’s No Such Thing as a Self-Made Man, the memoirs of PP Chhabria who came to Pune to work as a servant in the home of a relative and is today the Chairman of Finolex.

Tell us about black-and-white fountain publishing house?

Saaz Aggarwal: For years I wrote a book-review column. And in 2009 I started blogging the books I was reading; by then it was mostly south Asian books. I was discussing possible names with my children. We came up with black-and-white fountain. Basically representing the happy proliferation of the written word, and ‘black-and-white’ also denoting the calm, matter-of-fact, and unpretentious obvious.

Some months ago I decided to extend my book-writing services to offer a turnkey solution to my corporate clients. And give them not just a manuscript but also design, production, and publishing: a finished book. So black-and-white fountain evolved into a publishing company. Though it has a commercial justification, and you could say The Songbird on my Shoulder was a pilot project. At present, I am using it to have fun. I’m working hard to get my next book out in November and really excited about it.

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  1. I loved her piece about ghost writing and also this interview.
    “Most of us go through life leaving the really important things unsaid.”
    To have such a way with words….


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