Anuradha Chelliah hails from Banting, Selangor. She received her primary and secondary education at her birth place before continuing her tertiary education at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in the field of Human Development. She also completed her Masters in Teaching English as Second Language (TESL) from the same university. Anuradha writes extensively in Bahasa Malaysia and in English. Her poems, essays and short stories have appeared in Anak Sastra, Iris Magazine, Eksentrika, The Star and Malaysia Indian Anthology. Her writings are also published in Sastera Kavyan. Busana Bahasa (2019), Landasan Hidup (2020), Peluru Aksara (2021), Meredah Kabus (2021) and Suara (Sepihan Memorabilia 2020) are some of the anthologies that features her writings in Bahasa Malaysia. She also has poems published in Dewan Budaya by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP). Anuradha has been an associate editor for projects on short stories - Ikan Patin dan Beruang Besar (2017), Karupaya (2018) and Thirukkural dan Megha Duta (2018) under Kumpulan Saterawan Kavyan (Kavyan).
Anuradha was part of the Malaysian Writers and Readers Get Together event on 14 May 2023. She shares her creative experience in an interview conducted by Uthaya Sankar SB.
What was your ambition as a child?
The common ambition that most kids from Indian families would have – to be a doctor, an engineer, or a lawyer. At one point, I just wanted to sail and travel around the world hoping that it would happen without me waiting for a monthly salary.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I think it just happened and it was not planned because I never thought that I would write. I used to write or just scribble words that came to my mind in my books and note pads. Short quotes, poems, and I just wrote about whatever happens around me. Probably, that made me write and continue writing.
Who are your favourite Malaysian authors?
I enjoy Malachi Edwin Vethamani’s unique poems and short stories, Uthaya Sankar SB’s extraordinary short stories and essays, and Fa Abdul’s bold articles.
Where do you get your ideas or information for your writings?
My senses get attracted to the surroundings and I pen them simply by looking, listening, and feeling everything around me. They give me the best ideas – being attentive by looking at little things, paying attention to the sounds and the emotions around me. Sometimes, I just sit and dream for the ideas to come.
Which was your hardest book/piece to write?
Nothing was hard because I only write when I want to write. I do struggle at the midst of writing, but I will somehow get over it and continue with my writing. I just need a space without disturbance for a few hours when I am into it. I might take a few days as well.
What’s your latest writing project?
I’m trying my best to write about women who inspire me, but I don’t seem to be getting there. I’m finding it so difficult to sit and write although everything seems to be running in my head. It’s like (scattered) all over and I have to put them in writing. I have to do it soon.
What do you do when you are not writing or reading?
I do yoga and bits of gardening as I have a small space beside my house. It’s just for the fun of it. It’s a great satisfaction to see flowers blooming, and eating the mangoes plucked from your own mango tree. I pluck my own curry leaves when I cook. I also listen to talks on YouTube and watch movies.
Tell us about your full-time job.
I teach in a primary school, and I like what I do. I’m teaching younger kids these days and it makes my day when they do their work beautifully and greet me whenever and wherever they see me. The energy that the kids have boosts my energy as well. I have to be really active and keep up to their pace.
What does your family think of your writings?
No one has really commented on it, but I think they like what I write because they read some of my writings although not all. I know they are happy that there’s someone who writes in the family, so I don’t mind whether they read my writings or not. They do encourage me to write by asking me to write on something, but I prefer to write what I want.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I just shut everything, go for a walk, and forget about what I was writing. A little break is really needed to get back into the momentum and I might just get some better ideas from my circle.
If one of your writing/book should be translated into English, which one would you choose and why?
I think it would be “Pulang Bersama Teman” which is in the Landasan Hidup anthology because it was a bold attempt to write such a story. I was very reluctant at the beginning to do it but just went ahead and did it.
How do you promote/sell your books?
I don’t really have a book of my own. Most of my books are anthologies and compilations of short stories or poems together with other writers. So, I just promote them on Facebook. Those who are keen do get in touch with me to purchase the books.
Date: 25 May 2023