Laxmi Hariharan: Writing with Lightning

Sunetra Senior Tuesday 01st December 2015 16:17 EST

‘Pulse racing, I rush forward, bringing the blade down on him’: this line taken from Laxmi’s latest piece of fiction, short story ‘Untamed’, published as part of the magical and morphed anthology ‘Uncommon Bodies’, is the perfect little reflection of her unique, writerly approach. Magical Realism and Fantasy are literary traditions notorious for blurring the boundary between reality and abstraction through inversion and exaggeration, but Laxmi attacks her subject matter in such a way that destroys the line completely. As we read through the fevered first-person eye of Leana the wolf-girl, on an epic mission to right a family wrong in a hybrid-filled cosmopolitan Bombay, we practically become one with the evocative atmosphere, and are never really released until the final, gasping throe. “Why do I write?” Laxmi asked us. “It’s the intrigue to understand myself better. Why is it that I do the things I do and the things I don’t do? Why do I react to situations in a certain way? Realising the answer to these questions helps me jump forward to the bigger questions, ‘Who am I? Why am I here?”  Not afraid to reach into the furthest recesses of herself – even if it takes her somewhere dark – the journalist-turned- writer helps us negotiate emotionally all those larger cerebral concepts: coping with a conflicted identity, the seeping through of globalisation into the personal sphere, and an insatiable, existential yearning for a set purpose in our lives. Living life to the full as she writes it, Laxmi has already received several awards for her novella series, ‘Ruby Iyer’ since her plunge into fiction-writing, following careers in television and commentative writing– she has launched TV Channels for MTV and NBC Universal Syfy, and contributed to publications such as ‘The Gaurdian’ and ‘Huffington Post’. As the writer herself best surmised then, there is every reason that through her stories and “shared experience, you can find yourself too”.

 What type of writing are you currently exploring?

I hope to keep writing, in all forms. Short, flash, novels, novellas, novelettes, poetry, haikus ... It’s a marathon not a sprint.

You have had a ‘near death experience’ that motivated you towards starting a more creative career. Could you expand on this a little?

I'd always written since I was very young, but moving countries and travelling, and then trying to find my feet in a new country, UK, took precedence. Then in 2011 I had a near death experience. When I came out of it, I realised if I died tomorrow the one thing I would regret, was not writing. I became aware that time was not infinite. And writing does not mean sitting alone in a basement and staring at my computer screen, though I do that too sometimes. No, for me it was stripping away a lot of the pretence I had gathered over the years; putting an end to all the roles I thought I should play, and instead doing what feels more natural and me.

What attracts to the tradition of Magical Realism?

Perhaps it's because I believe the everyday is not as mundane as it seems. I think everyone has a secret and I often feel the unseen layers around us we all plug into. It controls us, and I often sense it; I like mystery and perhaps that's why I engage in a genre where things might not be as they seem.

‘UnTamed’ was full of rich and raw imagery. Where do you think that life comes from?

I am told I write like that - 'raw.' That's how it comes out, right now. I love writing fast, and action paced, and externally it's very physical. It keeps me riveted, and that's important as an author. Over a period of time I realised it's even more potent if I also shared my characters inner turmoil. It's very freeing for me to reveal what's in their head-cathartic, even. I can't do that in real life—not yet. A few years ago, I wrote the episode of Leana the wolf girl meeting Aki the swordsman and this strange surreal conversation they had, leading her to the Hugging Saint. I used that as the spring board to the story. The Hugging Saint—Hug Boy—she calls him, was inspired by a real life visit to the living Hugging Saint. Amma. And it was amazing. How could one person hug thousands every day and still stay fresh and smiling at the end of the day?

Name an interesting book you have read recently?

Alison Ripley-Cubitt's, Castles in the Air, a memoir. It’s set in Malaysia, Hong Kong and London. An eight-year old girl witnesses her mother’s secret and knows from that moment that life will never be the same.

Finally, what would be your advice to other creative souls who might be feeling a little nervous about getting started?

The more you do, the better you get at it. I get my inspiration from doing it every day. The question is do you want it badly enough to make space for it? J

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