It's time for another interview, and today we are meeting Indian novelist, Bina Pillai.
PB: Hello Bina! Welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your background.
BP: I was born in Trivandrum (Kerala) but I was brought up in Chennai (Tamilnadu), and New-Delhi. I am an alumnus of Good Shepherd Convent (Chennai) and Lady ShriRam college(New-Delhi). I had distinction in Economics in my first year of college, and I was in awe of my father. He loved art and culture which he inculcated in me.
I was married off against my wishes at the age of 18 years, in the middle of my second year to a man 10 years older.
However, that did not deter me from following my passion. I was not able to graduate but held senior positions in corporates, managed a library and I have been a crusader for social issues.
I have been a committee member of our Housing society for eight years looking after facility management. I have two lovely children and three grand-children. My daughter graduated in Electronics Engineering, but passionate about teaching. She teaches Maths and Physics.
My son has done an MBA, and is a private banker in a multinational bank.
I was the citizen journalist on CNNIBN in 2008, because I wanted to create awareness about the lack of schools for Dyslexic children. My grandson is Dyslexic. I was delighted when I got a good school for children with Learning Difficulty next to my house three years later.
I love cooking, painting, teaching, gardening, nature, photography, interior-designing, event management, and travelling. I have travelled widely and I enjoy learning about different cultures and traditions.
PB: What made you decide to become an author?
BP: I had a dream as a teenager to be an author someday. I was involved with my family and I didn’t get time to write but I didn’t give up. I thought I will write once I retire.
PB: When did you first start writing?
BP: Life has its own twists and turns so I was taken by surprise when I was diagnosed with Angina and 5 blocks in 2014. I was sixty years old, and had a By-pass surgery when I was not allowed to do most activities, and I seized that opportunity to write.
PB: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
BP: My first stint with writing was in 1969 when I was fifteen years old. I had written about women empowerment and sent it to the weekly magazine ‘Femina.’ It was returned back with a small message. “It’s written well but we are unable to accept the article as it is too ahead of times.”
I used to note down random thoughts in my diary. I remember writing about Amitabh Bachchan after seeing his first movie, Anand, how he would become a successful hero, and reign for a long time which would end the career graph of the superstar Rajesh Khanna. At the same time, I had also written about the Indian economy.
Later, I wrote snippets on face book and gained confidence, when I had many followers who would appreciate my inspirational messages.
PB: When you begin writing a new story, do you always know the ending?
BP; The first thing I do is decide how I would begin my story and what would be the scene. Then I decide on the title of all the chapters and I write the story according to what fits into each chapter. Once all the chapters are decided I know the end. This way it becomes easy for me to maintain the perennial flow till the end of the story, and I do not need an editor to do that for me. However, I do need a good editor to edit my story because when your thoughts flow, and when you write around 80,000 words you can miss out on many intricate details and your grammar.
PB: I know the feeling! I can relate to that. If you could meet any of your characters, who would you meet, and what would you say to them?
BP: I would express my love to Arjun for taking that one decision which changed her life in Under The Mango Tree.
PB: Where did the idea for come from?
BP: Under The Mango Tree is inspired by my own life and the people around me. It’s partly biography, and I had to weave a story to make it thrilling for our readers. The book is set in an abusive marriage and chronicles Diya's strenuous journey from her teens to her sixties. It talks about the mental strength of a woman, as she fights hard to keep her spirit intact through it all, and becomes a winner with one mantra ‘I CAN.’ Its available on Amazon.
PB: Tell us about your writing process.
BP: I write every day when I feel at peace and my home is surrounded my nature. When I look around and see the beautiful hills, flowers, and the clear blue water, words flow from my heart. I wrote twenty thousand words of ‘Under the Mango Tree’ when I thought I should do a creative writing course. Two weeks later, I meet an author who was staying in our building but I had no clue she was conducting courses on Creative writing. So I got the opportunity to do this course. It was for a duration of six months, and while doing this course I wrote my poetry book, “Lyrical Rhythms of My Heart.” Till then I had not written poetry though I loved poetry during my school days.
PB: Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
BP: I became an author and fulfilled my dream. I won two awards for my poetry book. “Under The Mango Tree” is doing well and has got exceptional reviews.
I hoisted the Indian national flag in August 2019 which was another dream I had, because my grand-father was a well-known public figure in Kerala and I wanted to be a bit like him.
PB: What is your favourite book series to read and why?
BP: I love reading fiction, thrillers, philosophy and self-help books. Fiction with a happy ending, sometimes you like to read stories which at the end of it brings a smile on our lips. Thrillers are intriguing and I love adventure and mystery. Self-help books helps me to become a better person. I love philosophy -our mind is mysterious, and I believe our mind is powerful.
PB: What are your long term ambitions with regards to writing?
BP: I want to write till I have life in me. I have two books in the pipeline. One is ‘Nuggets of Wisdom’ – a collection of short stories and ‘Mystical Dew-drops’(poetry). I'm an Associate editor for the Journal of Asian Art, Culture and literature.
PB: If you weren’t an author, what career would you be in?
BP: I would be a doctor or a counsellor. My son would often says I would have been an asset for the CBI or CIDJ.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
BP: The next target is to get my book of short stories published.
PB: Tell us a random fact about yourself.
BP: I keep my word and my strength is integrity. I feel very happy when people trust me completely. When I say NO everyone knows it means NO. I can laugh loudly even if they are laughing at me. I’m very intuitive, and I can read another’s mind.
Thank you so much to Bina Pillai for taking the time to speak to us today! Don't forget, if you would like to purchase a copy of Under the Mango Tree, you can do so here: