Lalitha Balasubramanian is currently a freelance Journalist. She schooled at Auxilium, Wadala, graduated in Chemistry from Mumbai University and then went on to do a Post Graduate Diploma course in Journalism from Bhavan’s College, Chowpatty. She worked in the Publications Department of the Institute for Research in Reproduction for a few years, before turning to freelance writing.
She has contributed more than 200 articles to various leading newspapers and magazines apart from authoring a book in the mystery/adventure genre for children “The Twins at the Ancient Villa”. Her latest offering is “Kerala – The Divine Destination” published by Leadstart Publishing Pvt.Ltd., a book which describes her journey through some of the most beautiful and prominent temples that dot the verdant green land of God’s own country.
What inspired you to start writing?
Dreams! During my school days, I was labelled a day dreamer by my friends, and more often than not, my writing would be an extension of my dreams. Coincidently, my first published short story was titled “Dreams come true”. Later, however, when I took up writing as my profession, facts and factual reporting took precedence over fiction. I have always felt that when I write, I have the freedom to give expression to my thoughts. These thoughts translate into words, which in turn connects me to my readers and enables me to either give them useful information or entertainment.
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
Like almost everyone else, I grew up reading Hans Anderson and Grimm’s fairy tales, Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Ruskin Bond, Little Women etc. But, side by side, I was fed with a diet of mythological tales by my Grandmother, which I think I enjoyed the most, probably because she was a fantastic story teller.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Every book presents its own challenge. The challenge I faced while writing ‘Kerala – The Divine Destination,’ was in collecting authentic information about the prominent, as well as, not so well known temples, which required a lot of time, effort, travel and research. But, according to me, in the hustle bustle of city life, the main challenge lies in finding a daily tranquil time slot conducive to putting your pen to paper with undisturbed concentration.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
My new book is a travelogue and I have covered more than 50 prominent temples in the State of Kerala. It is meant to be a verified, authentic guide for religious tourists to God’s own country. So it was mandatory for me to widely research the locations, visit and talk to the locals and temple authorities regarding legends and festivals associated with each temple.
What motivated you to write the book “Kerala: The Divine Destination”?
As I mentioned earlier, I loved listening to the mythological tales narrated by my grandmother in my childhood. And as Kerala is my native place, I have been a frequent visitor to the beautiful temples there. My interest in the tales and legends surrounding the various temples became a passion with the passing years. Before long, I began exploring the intriguing customs and rituals associated with the various festivals.
The idea of putting this information on paper came later, when, during one of my visits, I saw an elderly couple turn back disappointed from the Shatrugna temple at Payammel, which had closed its doors. They had completed their darshan at the Rama, Bharata and Lakshmana temples, and this was the fourth and last place of their Nalambalam Yatra. Not being familiar with the route and timings, they had missed the darshan by 15 minutes. This incident made me think about compiling the information I had lovingly collected into a book, to guide other pilgrims in their search for solace. I penned my thoughts and experiences, hoping to provide a clearer insight into the legends and rituals that characterize each of these magnificent temples.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Kerala: The Divine Destination”?
This book is a collection of my personal experiences on a journey to explore the cultures, traditions and religious beliefs of a beautiful state and its amazing people. Though Kerala is the preferred destination of many a tourist, not much is known about the magnificent temples in this state. Hence, I have focused on temples and temple towns.
I have tried to make an ordinary pilgrim’s journey easier. I have included fact files with locations, temple timings, pooja information, festivals, etc. Another interesting aspect is the detailing of special offerings at each temple and in what way these are believed to be beneficial for the devotee. I have also added accommodation and shopping related information in these temple towns and cities.
How did you come up with the idea of writing travel genre book focused on Kerala?
The rain-kissed tropical terrain of Kerala is famed for Mother Nature’s benevolence, the harmonious co-existence of all religions, its folklore and grand festivals. The combination of natural beauty and the people’s deep spirituality has contributed to Kerala becoming one of the most prominent pilgrim destinations in India. There are many travel brochures and books on Kerala, which provide information on prominent tourist destinations like Kovalam Beach, the Alapuzha backwaters, Thekkady and Munnar but not much information is available on the ancient temples. So, when I decided to write a book in the travel genre, Kerala was my obvious choice.
Who are your favourite authors?
Arthur Hailey, P.G Wodehouse, Ayn Rand, Marie Corelli, Alexander Dumas, Sidney Sheldon, the list is endless. I love reading original ancient texts on mythology too.
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
I spend maybe an hour or so on writing daily, but when there is an incessant flow of ideas and words, I do write at a stretch for a few hours.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Be passionate about your writing, choose a comfortable genre and believe in what you write. Results are automatically positive.
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