Sunday, 12 October 2014

Interview of 'Reenita Malhotra Hora' writer of 'Operation Mom'

Timid Fingers: First of all, Loads of congratulations for your book Operation Mom. How does it feel to hold the book in your hands? I know, you are not new to the feeling but still, I am sure it feels new every time.

Reenita Malhotra: It always feel fabulous! It was my birthday recently and for a birthday greeting, my daughter who is in the US, posted a picture of me holding her when she was a brand new baby. Needless to say, when you look at a photo like that it brings on a rush of emotions, memory and pride. That's exactly what it feels like to hold your book in your hands. After all , it's also your baby.

TF: Operation Mom! Quite a unique name to the book. So, how did this idea come into your mind?

Reenita: RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) where I work, runs a charity called 'Operation Santa Claus' each year in Nov/Dec. I guess that's where I (partially)got the idea for the name of the book. In my household, no project comes easy. Everything  requires major consensus and work because every family member's agenda is always foremost. Kind of like what happens during Operation Santa Claus with my colleagues. Hence, 'operation' is a more utilized word in my life than 'project.' It worked perfectly for this story – Operation Mom – a Mumbai teen's mission to get her single mother dating again.

TF: And how is the response you are getting from the book?

Reenita: The response is great. This is the first Young Adult book of its kind both in terms of writing style and genre. The story is definitely a little out of the box for Indian readers but that's what I wanted to do – shake things up a bit, make people laugh. There was one review by Shubham Kumar on Flipkart that really delighted me. He called it “top-notch intellect” and said Albeit it’s a female oriented book but it holds good entertainment value for both the genders.” I was particularly happy about this because even though it is female-centric, I know that a lot of male readers will enjoy it because they will identify these characters with females from their life.
            Shubham also said “I feel that Operation Mom is a top rated season of a famous TV show. It’s finely divided into different episodes, with each one taking the story further. It never felt like I was reading a book. It was more of watching a TV program that would be telecasted on weekends.” Once you’re into the story, you feel like you’ve known the characters for quite some time. Whatever they say, whatever they do, is completely justified.”
            More and more, people reject reading in favor of TV. I know how I love binge-watching my favorite TV shows. How great is it then to bring people a book that make them feel like they are watching their favorite TV show instead!

TF: What about you’re previous works? Could you please give us an insight about what your previous works were about?

Reenita: Previous to this I have written three books about Ayurveda – Inner Beauty, Ayurveda – the Ancient Medicine of India and Forever Young - Unleashing the Magic of Ayurveda. There is also The Chronicles of Arya, another Young Adult book which I wrote before Operation Mom but is yet to be published.

TF: I have seen that the way you have penned your ‘acknowledgement’ section was really very new and interesting. Was it the way you write? Or was it to maintain the flow of the whole story?

Reenita: No that's definitely the way I write. To be honest, much as I love reading, there is a lot of material out there that is boring and in this age of ADHD, it is really hard to grab someone's attention and entice them into reading your book. I find most acknowledgement sections boring in the way they are written so I like to spice up mine with something much more interesting. And this might sound crazy but I also find many author presentations boring. So if I am invited to speak as an author, I make mine as lively as possibly – it's more of a standup comedy show than a classical book reading.

TF: Any of it related to your real life? I mean, setting up your mom etc?

Reenita: Goodness no! In fact my own mom made it a point to stand up at my book readings in Mumbai and make this known to the crowd. She's anything but divorced – a good old Punju lady who's been married 62 years.
The story premise is completely fictional but there are real life anecdotes that I have cut and paste into the book. The story about stalking George Michael for instance, which is something I did as a teen. Or the description of the scenes in the spinning class or flamenco dance class for example – those are lifted from my own experiences.

TF: You really are in love with the people you are always with and it is evident from the way you have used real names in your book. Was it intentional or you just wanted to dedicate it?

Reenita: Wow – you picked up on that!
You know one of the oldest truths that comes out of Vedic philosophy is that whatever is topmost on your agenda today will eventually be reduced to dust and swept away by the winds of time. I think the fear of being forgotten might be one of our greatest and most basic fears. John Green highlighted this so well in his book 'Fault in our Stars' through his character, Augustus who feared inevitable oblivion.
I don't fear oblivion but I do think that through the writing process, an author gets to participate in creating a lasting memory with a timestamp through his/her work. So why not immortalize some of your most cherished relationships and moments through your fiction?

My characters and settings are heavily inspired by my own life scenes so people who know me are always looking to relate a particular character to one of my family members or friends. And while there is plenty overlap with things that have been, as a fiction writer you have the luxury of twisting situations and characters into what you want them to be. It's a great way to immortalize those you walks you always wanted to take down the wild side or seek revenge on those who left you in the lurch somehow.
I'd say, none of my characters are truly one person but more an amalgamation of different people I have come across at different times of my life. In many ways I myself identify with the plight of Ila and her mom, Veena, but the wild and wanton Aunty Maleeka is heavily inspired by a crazy classmate of the same name. She and Deepali, her younger reincarnation, buck the trends of the traditional Punjabi 'isms' that I have dealt with throughout my life and in many ways they are who Veena and Ila live vicariously through. Truth is, I think we all need a bit of Aunty Maleeka or Deepali in our lives!

TF: You are a prolific journalist and you have written so many books. Which profession do you idealize? Being a journalist or being an author?

Reenita: It's not necessarily so different because I look at both as story-telling. So in fact what I am is a story-teller. I use fiction and non-fiction to do that. I use print, radio and multimedia to do both.
 I think that no matter who you are,  the greatest thing you have to offer to the world is your stories. Everyone has terrific stories submerged within the depths of their subconsciousness but sometimes, it can be hard to dig in discover those stories, much less bring them to conscious realms and then disburse them to the rest of the world.
This is probably why I take my role as a story-teller very seriously. Whether it is through my books – both fiction and non-fiction, or radio shows or public appearances, I filter those untold stories, not just the ones that originate from me but the ones that come from you too...the readers, the listeners, the players.

TF: I am sure fame doesn’t touch much of you cause you must be accustomed to it. But still, did being an authoress help your fame of being a journalist or being a journalist played catalyst in bringing fame to your books?

Reenita: To be honest I am not sure what fame is. The nature of my work in journalism requires me to meet a lot of people, talk to them, interview them. They recognize my voice from radio or tweet me when they read one of my articles. Does that make me famous? Perhaps if I did that on TV.  I love the medium of radio because I am the most casual person on earth – my life is a pair of sweats physically and metaphorically. I get to live that life to full capacity on radio and still have people identify with my voice and stories. Is that fame or is it just a matter of running away from TV?!
I certainly have not enjoyed the JK Rowling experience of having throngs of  people line up outside the bookstore to buy my book the day of release. That might bring me to true fame. Something I would absolutely love...not so much for the fame but for the thrill of knowing that people so badly want to read my story. What author doesn't want to write a best-seller?

TF: Really sorry to have bored you so much but for the parting words, I would like to request you to say a few words for my blog and for your readers.

Reenita: As storyteller is always looking for stories so suffice it to say that the world is my inspiration. That means you readers.  So please do stay in touch and bring me your stories too in any way that you can. 

My website: or email me at Or social media – and Twitter - @reenymal

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