Suneetha B. is a translator and author who has her own following in cyberworld
– Saraswathy Nagarajan
Suneetha B. is on cloud nine. Her 150-word story has won her the first prize in a mini-story contest conducted by Hindustan Times and Penguin Books. Contestants were asked to write about an amazing incident in their life a la top-selling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s latest book One Amazing Thing, which has a motley bunch of people narrating an unforgettable incident in their lives when they are trapped in a building after an earthquake.
Suneetha, a Facebook fan of the famed author, says she noticed the contest on the last day of the competition and mailed a story at the last minute.
“It was a tale that had appeared in the book Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul. Titled Handled with Care, the incident narrates the day my younger son was born. There was a flash strike in the city and when I went into labour, I was taken to PRS Hospital in my neighbour’s car. However, when the car broke down on the way, it was pushed all the way to the hospital by good Samaritans who came to our rescue,” says Suneetha.
A voracious reader, Suneetha says she is thrilled about the Rs. 5,000 voucher she has received for buying books.
The former employee of Life Insurance Corporation had chucked her job to immerse herself in the universe of words. She has also assiduously devoted time to groom the author in her.
“Perhaps it is the mid-life crisis that hits women in their forties but I felt if I did not quit my job, I would always be behind a desk and not writing the stories that were in my head,” says Suneetha. So the Physics graduate turned into a freelance journalist, translator and trainer.
The Internet opened many doors for her and one thing led to another. Soon she was writing serialised novels for 4indianwomen.com “I completed two novels (The Guest and jaldimatrimony.com). The second one was a satire on the matrimony business in Kerala while my third novel Gandhi Colony was a tongue-in-cheek look at the happenings in a typical residential colony in Kerala. But I got bored after four or five episodes and gave it up,” says Suneetha.
Travelogues, cyber-related stories and articles on contemporary issues found their way to the Hoot.org. An opportunity to interview Jaishree Mishra paved the way to a friendship with the author and Suneetha is busy completing the Malayalam translation of her book Rani for DC books. She is also working on the translation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies.
Suneetha’s writing also won her a place in the Sangam House Residency Programme (2008-2009) run by the international writers’ enclave in Puducherry. “It was a superb experience that helped me a great deal,” recalls Suneetha. It also helped her give shape to the novel in her. Suneetha says such interactive sessions give budding writers the inner and external spaces to work and write and also puts them in touch with other aspirants.
“It is a nurturing network as we motivate each other and give peer support and critique each other’s works too.” Another workshop she attended was held on the campus of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. “That was for science fiction writing. Although it was held in June when the temperature hovered between 45 and 48 degrees, it was an unforgettable experience for us as the three coordinators – Anil Menon, Vandana Singh and Suchitra Mathur – took us through the process of storytelling and writing.
Enthused by the online support she has received, Suneetha has formed her own group of writers that includes two other writers from Kerala as well. “It is essential for us to take a break to free ourselves from the daily job of deciding menus and multi-tasking,” says Suneetha. So for the last three years, for a week, the writers’ club goes on retreat to different places to recharge their batteries.
“It is not easy for women to find the time to collect their thoughts and put them on paper or indulge in discussions with other writers. The residency programmes, workshops and online groups give us that space, time and feedback so essential for first-time writers,” says Suneetha.
An avid reader, Suneetha is currently into reading South Asian and West Asian fiction in English. She also tries to keep abreast with the literary scene in English in the Indian sub-continent, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines as well as the West Asian countries like Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon, which says is “positively vibrant.”