Meera Ganapathi is a writer and the founder of the independent digital publication, The Soup, an archive of Indian arts and culture. She is based in Mumbai and writes books for children and short stories for grown-ups. Meera is @onemeerkat on Instagram.
We absolutely love how you always manage to bring out the beauty in the most routine things. Would you say your writing style has always been this way or has it evolved over time? If it has, how did you first start off?
I have always been writing, even as a child and then as a teenager, I was tempted to write stories. Although everything I wrote then was influenced by the books I read about blue-eyed, auburn-haired girls named Caitlin or Abigail. So, yes, (thankfully) my writing has evolved. Since I was a copywriter for many years, my writing at one point was quick, snappy, and tailored to fit headlines and 30 seconds. But all creative expression evolves with your own personal growth, these days I’m being patient and observant in what I see and what I write about.
What is your writing process? Are you an ardent notes-maker? Is there a particular time/place that helps you articulate your thoughts better? We essentially want to know how you get in the process of writing. Is it linear? Does it involve anything peculiar? Our readers would love a personal touch to this question.
For a while, I’d wake up every morning and write for two hours, and this was terribly satisfying because the whole process was smooth and natural. All of a sudden it stopped and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t bring back that spontaneous routine. So instead of stressing myself, I turned to books and movies for inspiration. Now I’ve found a less stressful rhythm where I do tons and tons of research- make copious notes, create a structure or plot, and once I feel I know enough I write for four-five hours a day most mornings. Being one of those annoying morning people, I wake up in a good mood, looking forward to all the quietude morning brings. I cherish being alone before the house awakens (I can just about tolerate my cat circling my feet like a psycho)- so this kind of time, free of distraction, is ripe for research, ideating, and writing.
About spots to write? I feel ok to write anywhere, as long as I don’t have people talking to me. I like to be left alone. I read recently that Agatha Christie would book a room in a terrible hotel where there was no possibility of any entertainment and all she could do was concentrate on her writing. This sounds like a fabulous idea to me and maybe I’ll give it a go one day. I cannot fathom how writers retreat to fabulous places to focus on writing- to be an element of punishment seems, unfortunately, essential.
How would you describe the relationship of your cultural identity to that of your writing?
My cultural identity is a hot mess. Haha. I grew up all over the country in a collection of homes, with an ever-changing circle of friends because my father, an Army officer, got transferred very often. Even the schools were inconsistent as I had to change nearly 13 of them, so I never felt I truly belonged to any place entirely. I’ve had to dig deep to find that I don’t feel connected to my cultural identity, instead my identity is based on memory –– as this is the only thing that grounds me. I relate to old photographs from a time I haven’t even witnessed as these are rooted in stories swapped by members of my family- a sort of oral history, I also feel close to unique aspects of places I grew up in, my grandmother who was always a solid, dependable presence in my life and Mumbai-which is where I’ve finally spent all my adult life. I suppose this memory-based identity reflects in my writing where people are addressing the same anchorless feeling.
What was the impetus behind establishing Soupgram? What are your thoughts on the need for digital content platforms for literature?
It’s The Soup actually, Soupgram is only the Instagram handle.
I had quit my advertising job to start a space where I could tell all the stories I had no room to tell within the constraints of brand work. The internet is free, but readership is supportive and loyal only if you have something urgent or honest to say. At Soup it is an ongoing process of sticking to a certain discipline- of not getting into content contests- but creating stories that are meaningful.
I’ve seen a lot of digital platforms mushroom over the past four-five years- while sometimes there’s too much noise, it has to be acknowledged that all these platforms are distributing the power to be seen and heard. The task as a reader is to be discerning about what you consume. And I’ve noticed that platforms that speak of books and literature tend to dig deeper to find unique voices, stories, poems to combat the clamor online.
‘Onemeerkat’ – any interesting anecdote behind this unique handle?
Lastly, what are some interesting projects that you’re working on currently?
Everything is WIP until it’s out. 🙂 But there are few interesting things in the offing.