Saiswaroopa Iyer: Author Interview

Darupadi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

How many of us have really ever thought about Draupadi and everything that she had to go through. We only know things about her that were mentioned in the Mahabharata. Draupadi by Saiswaroopa Iyer brings out a totally different side to her character. When we at thenotoriousreader came to know about the book, we knew we had to talk to her about her book.

Saiswaroopa Iyer holds an MBA from IIT Kharagpur and has worked as an investment professional before turning to her passion for storytelling. Her love for epics, Puranas, and philosophy made her become a full-time author. She has earlier authored three novels, all based on strong female characters from the ancient past of India. She also holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Center for Hindu Studies. She lives in Bangalore.

What inspires you to pick up your pen and write?

Any compelling story, scene, or character from  India’s ancient past. Reimagining the stories of our past is something that happens continuously in my mind, irrespective of whether I am writing a book or not.

Can you please give us some more information about your book?

My latest book is on Draupadi from Mahabharata. While a lot has been written about her, many modern authors have succeeded in capturing only a single dimension of her personality. Some painted her as a victim, some as a vengeful woman who wrought destruction to her enemies. But in my view, Draupadi was a true empress who saw a higher Dharma beyond immediate emotions like misery or anger. My Draupadi is an intellectually empowered woman who knew how to question, convince, inspire, and forgive too.

Can you please tell us more about the main characters of the book?

The book explores Mahabharata from Draupadi’s eyes and delves into her complicated marital life, filled with internal and external intrigues, her unique relationship with Krishna, and above all, how adversity only made her stronger. Draupadi is an inspiration to a 21st-century woman.

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Why did you choose to write about this particular topic?

Not many writers who explored Draupadi’s POV brought out the fact that she was the game-changer in the Mahabharata. Her entry into the lives of Pandavas turned their lives for the better. Her entry into the Dice hall
(like a hapless victim in all popular adaptations) effectively got the fateful game annulled by Dhritarashtra and she won back everything with just one question. Lastly, when the war claimed all her five sons in a midnight massacre, she was the one who put a full stop to the dance of destruction by pardoning Ashvatthama though he was the killer of her sons. We effectively see that she was a course changer all along the story of Mahabharata. I wanted to bring forth this aspect of Draupadi.

Why did you choose this particular genre? Will you be trying your hand at any other genre?

Purana Itihasa corpus that India is fortunate to have has been a childhood companion and it continues to define me, grow with me, and make me grow. It is natural that I am compelled by the many stories in the genre. I would also like to explore the near history, especially south Indian history in the 1000-1600 CE period. There is a lot of history not taught in our school curricula just waiting to be discovered.

When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?

My next book is also set in the times of Mahabharata and it is on another compelling heroine – Rukmini, the wife of Krishna. If Draupadi shows the way by staying by the side of Dharma, Rukmini was the one who single-handedly fought Adharmic patriarchy and made her own life choices as a woman. While her story has been romanticized by many poets, modern readers are yet to discover Rukmini in her full glory and I hope my book will start a journey in that direction.

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If not a writer, what would have been the career of your choice?

Interesting question. I was an investment analyst before becoming a writer and I actually liked the job. Even now, I do like to delve into the business side of writing and put my MBA to use.

Can you tell us about your favourite author/ authors?

While Veda Vyasa Bhagavan reigns over all my favourite authors, I admire other modern authors in my genre a lot. KM Munshi, SL Bhyrappa, Kalki Krishnamurthi, and so on. Each of these writers has a unique way of making their characters and stories come alive. It is like the stories of the past simply chose to happen again in their mind’s eye. I can never get tired of reading their books.

What do you like to do when you are not busy writing?

Running behind my hyperactive toddler! Kidding. Well, not exactly. The role of a mother does dominate my typical day and I fiercely protect my writing time or whatever precious little of it I get 🙂

Are there any words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?

For the readers out there, my appeal is to review every single book they read and like. Leaving a kind line or two on Amazon or Goodreads goes a longer way than they think it does. Our choice of books, in a way, defines our life’s journey. I would also urge one to read multiple genres and reading (as well as writing) fiction helps one develop
empathy and respect. These are the two qualities that would make this world better. For the writers out there, I would say, “write and write more.”

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