our author: vimala ramu

From starting to pen marvels of words to being the gracious wife of a (now retired) tech officer in IAF and a teacher, Vimala Ramu has experienced life full circle, says Sneha Subramanian Kanta. Talking to her is like the feeling of a warm cup of coffee in winter. Delightful, quick witted and humorous are just some of the many multitudes of shades that she has within her. We leave it to the lady herself to unravel the literary persona that lies behind her enchanting smile -

Q) Do tell us how the writing journey with you has been so far?
A) It has been good, better, best! Having started with Letters to the Editor and tabloids to becoming a columnist in Deccan Herald and graduated to writing in e magazines and blog sites. In the midst of this, I managed to get three books published. None, least of all I, who started writing very late in life, could ask for more.

Q) Is writing something that comes out of a natural flow and spontaneity or is it more planned for you?
A) No, I have never been one to plan my writing. In fact, I write only when the idea strikes me. In this respect, I had some very good advice from my friend Prema Sastri who asked me to go on writing irrespective of the fact whether they are published or not. So, that way, my writing has never been influenced by dead lines. It has to be totally spontaneous.

Q) The Writer's Workshop Calcutta is integral to the literary history of publishing for Indian literature and authors alike under the able wings of Sir P Lal and of course, continues to be so. How has it been publishing three books with them?
A) It has been an extremely pleasant experience to publish my books with The Writer’s Workshop Calcutta.
Though I got him to publish articles which had already been published, I encountered a jibe from another publisher that what I was doing was only Vanity Publishing. P Lal has publicly acknowledged that his purpose is to introduce creative people to the literary world. If every publisher insists on a well established writer, where will the new comers go? That way, Prof Lal is really doing an admirable job. He had immense patience with a new comer like me, putting up with my umpteen additions, deletions and corrections. He is very trustworthy and prompt in his work. The beauty of his products is there for everyone to see. I must thank Prof KS Yadurajan and Shashi Deshpande for leading me to P Lal.

Q) You've written some fiction in your book Wind Chimes. I notice that the structure is firm and each of your stories connects an emotional chord of the reader. Why don’t we see you writing fiction any more?
A) Well, to write fiction, something has to really hit me hard. To make it into a story well worth its name, one needs a bigger scenario than a blog. I cannot painstakingly imagine one and make a story out of it. That way, most of the fiction I have penned, have had a background of real life events.

Q) Being a columnist of the 'middles' with Deccan Herald, what changes do you see in publishing trends with newspapers since the days you initially started penning articles for publication?
A) Since my ‘middles’ started appearing in Deccan Herald only in late 2005, I do not see much of a change in the present trends. The only thing I notice is, some of the old writers are being replaced by new ones. Rest of the things continues to be same. ‘Middles’ still attract readers like before.

Q) With push publication being the order of the day and from ‘blogs’ to so called ‘rants’, everyone who can pen a fancy phrase thinks they can be a writer. What is your take on the publishing scenario in India?
A) You are right. Blogs have wiped out the undesirable culture of ‘rejects’ by the editors and publishers to a great extent. Though this trend tells on the quality of literature put forth, the final choice rests with the readers. For new comers it is an encouraging scenario though.
As for my personal take on this, I do miss a discerning human editor at the end of the line when I write in my own blog site.

Q) You've recently been doing some intense work with the Alvars, translating them from Kannada to English. The Alvars, in a sense encompass the fertile Tamil early medieval period. What made you take up this?
A) Let me be honest with you. I had very superficial knowledge about Alvars and their works. Not being very religious by nature, I have never attended any ‘Nalayiram’ classes. But, I love Kannada and English. Being at home in both these languages, I took up the work since it promised to be interesting.

Q) What do think about translation? There are extreme view points from people about the act of translation. A section of people think it is essential for literary continuity and reach and another, entirely different set think that the original meaning cannot be effectively conveyed while translating. What is your take on this?
A) This is my first attempt at translating some serious matter from Kannada to English.
I’d say that translation if done well is one of the best methods of acquainting oneself with the literature of a language one doesn’t know. But it is just not a school level work, done word to word. One has to be familiar with the nuances, idioms and other finer points before attempting translation. The translated piece should be able to hold its own as a literary piece without eclipsing the original.

I am happy my pains have been rewarded in that quite a few people including a few youngsters have shown interest in reading my piece.

Q) On a lighter note, the only poem of yours Why Is It? that I've read of you till date in your book Dew Drops mentions that there's no more enthusiasm counting the number of red and white flowers at the either end of the railway track. Is it that the feeling of age setting somehow for the evergreen, light-hearted writer?
A) Ha, ha, you don’t expect me to bet on the flowers even now! For one, I do not take any more rides on trains as I travel by air whenever making a visit to another other city or country. The enthusiasm still continues for similar things. I remember how when we were flying over Japan on a clear day, I was so excited to see  from air, the whole of Japan with Fujiyama laid out like a contour map.

Q) An article of yours mentions Khushwant Singh's letter to you reacting in a lighter tone about a piece you wrote sometime ago - of being unable to differentiate one Sardar from another. What exactly did he tell you and what was your reaction?
A) I had written a letter to him not as a fan but as a fellow columnist. Since I used to stay in Sujan Singh Park, New Delhi on the IIIrd floor and he used to and still does on the ground floor in the same block, I knew his exact postal address though I had not met him in person. When my article on Sardars was rejected by the publication I was writing for, I immediately thought of the ultimate Sardar in the literary circles and sent him the article with a covering letter.

I was very much moved to see that he had actually read my article. He replied to me in a post card in his own handwriting as to how even in his college in England, the problem of identifying always existed between him and his two Sardar friends, but fortunately not among their girlfriends! He also added that his mother could not differentiate between one shaven man and another.

Even when I sent my first book Rain Song to him, he wrote back saying that he would certainly read it.

Q) From being a columnist to a writer and keeping in today's time with push button publishing, I'm sure it has been a fulfilling journey for you. Having been there and done that what advice would you like to give to aspiring writers yearning to make their presence felt in the literary scenario?
A) Yes, it certainly has been. My advice to youngsters is never give up hope. When the time comes, every thing falls into place like it did for me. God sees the truth, but waits! So, do not hurry him.

Q) Finally, leave us with one experience of yours which has somehow impacted you to great heights as a writer and which has made you see the lighter side of life as your writings portray them.
A) Well, when my first ‘middle’ was published, I saw it only when someone saw it and rang me up. After that, many people have complimented me on my ‘middles’ as the newspaper had a great reach. So, my confidence also grew little by little. When people started mentioning the humorous angle in my writing, I felt I had arrived if not at the great heights you mention, but a lurking somewhere at least on the literary scene.

Q) What do we have next from you after you’re done with translating the Alvars? Any future projects?
A) My comfort zone is blogs. I never have any grandiose plans. If something falls in my lap by chance, I would like to try the limits of my capacity.