Dipa: Sometimes I read what I wrote a few years ago and feel embarrassed. It’s not necessarily bad – it’s just that my priorities have changed. I look back and am relieved I didn’t publish it. You’ve studied numerous books. What is the trend that you’ve noticed between an author’s earlier works and later works?
Uma: What I have noticed in terms of most author’s evolutions is that they become more mature in their voice. It’s not like they consciously write for older audiences or that they change their story to sound more mature. It is an author’s discovery of their true author’s voice. And with this discovery comes a wiser and older tone. The innocent voice that the first work possessed gradually develops into the writing style that defines that particular author.
It’s the same with any form of art really, be it a musician, a painter or anything else. With their own creations, they learn more about what they want to say and how they want to say it. And the confidence with which an artist says something can always be felt by the audience.
Dipa: Many creatives change direction at some point in their careers and no longer feel connected to some of their earlier works. Why do you think this is the case?
Uma: People change. That is fundamental to human behaviour. And as you mentioned, when we change, so do our priorities and tastes. When a person moves on from who they were at a particular time, they look back from a distance.
Yes, you still relate to your old self but that just isn’t you anymore. And when this distance becomes prominent, you adjust your style to who you are now.
In the case of an author, the books you read influence your writing. But as a person changes, so do the kind of books they read. So obviously, this affects your writing style. It is natural to not feel connected to your old works anymore. But keep in mind that it doesn’t affect the value of your old work.
Dipa: A lot of youth – myself included – are discouraged from studying the arts. What made you decide to choose English Studies at university? Who supported your decision?
Uma: My primary school English Teacher put the thought into my head when she saw how much I loved the language. And later on, when I learnt how much the field of English Studies had developed beyond engaging with books–although I wouldn’t exactly mind that–it felt like a dream…everything that I wanted to immerse myself in, all together in one category.
As I grew older, I understood that the world doesn’t really value an education in arts and humanities. But that didn’t bother me. Even after exploring other opportunities in high school, nothing changed my heart.
So, I went for it.
I was lucky enough to have parents who supported my decision. Considering that I made this choice when I was so young, they made sure that I had been open to other options. But when they saw that I was sure about what I wanted, they gave me their full support.
Dipa: Critically acclaimed authors are often dismissed by the common man whilst commercially successful writers are shunned by literary critics. What is the reason behind this divide?
Uma: There is a certain sense of elite gracefulness that art is expected to have. Think of anything that comes to your mind when you hear the word art. You definitely associate some kind of grandeur or complexity to it. Literary critics tend to give value according to this quality.
But popular culture, on the other hand, is decidedly exciting but simple. Something that the common masses easily connect to. And it grows to become somewhat of a guilty pleasure- not high in value, but enjoyable all the same.
People often have a hard time admitting that these two are not mutually exclusive.
Even Shakespeare was a part of popular culture during his time. Critics gave no value to his work. But centuries later, he is considered by many as the father of English Literature. This is the first thing I learnt as an English student. There is nothing more that separates some books from the others than our deep rooted perception of things.
Uma Anilkumar is captivated by new, interesting ideas, especially that of pop culture and is always in search of learning something new. A lover of all kinds of art, she is a writer and poet during her free time and dreams of publishing her own work in the future.