In Conversation with Vanitha Vaidialingam

Vanitha Vaidialingam

About Vanitha Vaidialingam

Dr. Vanitha Vaidialingam, PhD, IRS, is a distinguished figure with a multifaceted career spanning literature, civil service, and philanthropy. With a Doctorate in English Literature and a background as a retired Civil Servant, she embarked on a new journey in 2007, delving into the realm of writing.

Her literary endeavors have yielded notable accomplishments, marked by the publication of her debut book “The War Within” in 2014, followed by the critically acclaimed “Close Encounters of the Mystical Kind” in 2015, which garnered prestigious awards. Driven by a passion for nurturing young minds, she has authored numerous children’s books and activity guides, captivating the imaginations of young readers.

Beyond her literary pursuits, Dr. Vaidialingam is an avid explorer of philosophical thought, contributing insightful articles on Upanishadic philosophy to various online and offline publications. Her enthusiasm for technology finds expression in her two books on MS Office tailored for students, demonstrating her commitment to empowering the next generation with practical skills.

However, her dedication extends beyond the literary and academic realms. Dr. Vaidialingam is deeply involved in humanitarian efforts, spending considerable time teaching underprivileged children in the slums surrounding OMR, Chennai. Through her tireless advocacy and hands-on involvement, she endeavors to uplift and empower marginalized communities, embodying the spirit of compassion and service.

LiFT: Tell us about your book, the journey of writing it and its content.

Vanitha Vaidialingam: I am passionate about story-telling and was always known in the family circles as a good story teller. This book started out as a means of distracting an elderly relative from dwelling on her ailments. I would write a story and encourage her to discuss it with me after she had read it.
Over time I found that I had penned a number of stories and everyone who read them, said they were good enough to be published and hence the War Within was born. This collection of
stories was originally published in 2014 as “Pedestals and Other Stories”. When I reviewed and
updated this book in 2023, I felt that “War Within” is a better title as it truly reflects the nature
of the stories.
The stories speak of prejudices, habits, upbringing inputs that make a person what they are.
These prejudices or whatever we may call them, makes us react in peculiar ways to very
ordinary situations.
Pedestals is a story of a person who values his integrity and is pained at how the world views his
stand. He even begins to question his stubborn adherence to his principles in the face of the
world’s onslaught.
The Triumph is a story of a young man struggle with prejudices against rats and his effort at
getting rid of the pest. At the point of winning the battle he is moved to compassion. Will
compassion overcome his prejudice?
Buried Alive is the story of miners trapped in a mine. Gradually it dawns on them that their
rescuers may never come. Everyone reacts differently. What drives them? Do they act or react?
The Precipice is a story of a young boy whose father committed suicide by jumping from a
height. Now standing on a cliff top, he wants to relive the last moments of his father’s life and
understand what drove his father to suicide. Does he succeed?
The Birth is a story about obsessions with male children. Giving birth to a female comes with
consequences. Can the couple overcome the prejudice?
Shackles is a story of a woman suffering the impact of tradition and child marriage. Should she
bow down to the dictates of society or should she break the shackles and move on?
Imaginary fears can be as crippling as real ones. The Squeeze Machine is a story written from a
child’s perspective. Can she gather the courage to enter the Squeeze machine and come out on
the other side brave and unscathed? The story dwells on the child’s inner turmoil.
Prejudices and beliefs consciously or unconsciously imbibed in childhood can be crippling. The
Seeding is the story of a man who was seeded with false information in childhood and has spent
his entire life under its shadow.
Truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes fiction can be stranger than truth. What is the truth?
The Yogi is the story of a journalist who struggles with fiction and reality.

LiFT: Why you chose this title?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: It most aptly describes the inner battle that each of the characters experience in an otherwise ordinary situation.

LiFT: When did you realize that you want to be a writer and what’s your inspiration behind it?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: I have always been passionate about story telling. I suppose, I always wanted to reach out to others by telling them stories, real and imagined. I realized that I too could pen a popular book when I first published “War Within” in 2015 and followed it up with my award winning book “Close Encounters of the Mystical kind” in 2015.

LiFT: Where do you see yourself ten years down the line in the world of literature?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: I am a writer at heart and will remain so till I die. However, I would love to see myself contributing quality work that can stand the test of time. I would love to have my books regarded as classics and must reads on every book shelf.

LiFT: How much do you think marketing or quality of a book is necessary to promote a particular book and increase its readers?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: Quality is primary. Super marketing can make you book a best seller for some time. But if your quality is poor, your book will die with the hype. Books that have stood the test of time are books that have excellent stories, well told. However, it is important to market your book too. If you write a book and do not market, no one will know it exists. So, marketing should bring your book to the attention of readers. The quality of the book will ensure that it stays in the hearts and minds of the readers.

LiFT: What is the message you want to spread among folks with your writings?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: Civic and moral education are sadly missing from our school curriculum. English education also makes us dismissive of anything that is native to our soil. It is important to inculcate the right thoughts and values in our children. I would like my books to spread the message of civic sense, moral and human values. I would like to reach out to the youth of our country and tell them all valuable things that lie hidden in our ancient texts in a language that appeals to them.

LiFT: What do you do apart from writing?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: I work with underprivileged children in the slums of OMR, Chennai. I equip them with life skills such as public speaking, computer basics, spoken English and human values. I have about a 100 students in all these slums and work with them constantly online and offline addressing their various problems and helping them resolve them ethically and practically.
I am a very creative person and like to work with my hands. I make paper handicrafts and sew by hand or machine. Most of my handiwork is distributed among the poor and needy or as gifts to the children in the slums.

LiFT: What are the activities you resort to when you face a writer’s block?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: I distract myself from writing. I sew or make some handicrafts till I am ready to tackle writing again. I love to draw and paint and illustrate all my children’s books myself. So, sometimes when I have a writer’s block I begin illustrating for my children’s books.

LiFT: Are you working on your next book? If yes, please tell us something about it.

Vanitha Vaidialingam: I like working on several books in parallel. On the philosophical side I am working on two books –“Practical Hinduism” which explores Hindu thought and “The Secrets of the Upanishads” which focuses on revealing the secrets hidden in the ten major Upanishads. I continue contributing articles to magazines on this subject. On the children’s book front, I am writing a book called “Tony and Tina go camping” and am busy making the illustration for the same. Another collection of short stories are in the making titled “Coffee Bytes”. On the technical side, I am writing a book titled “Advanced Excel Formulas’ Practice Exercises” for use of students round the world.

LiFT: What are your suggestions to the budding writers/poets so that they could improve their writing skills?

Vanitha Vaidialingam: Writers must ensure that their books are excellent in terms of story content, language and grammar–whatever the language they use. Only quality books stand the test of time and will remain their legacy to the world.

Click here to order Vanitha Vaidialingam’s Book – The War Within

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