The Grammar Nazi is in the house y’all people! She’s a scary woman, really. You’ve got to be careful of what you write around her, including her name. You spell her name with a less “a” and you’ll be sorry. Over to the woman with the double “a” at the end, Anaghaa Venugopal.

The pretty lady!
The pretty lady!

Reader Bio: Anaghaa is a self-professed bibliophile and Grammar Nazi. You’d know she’s not kidding when she tells you that she stops her parents in between a bhaashan/argument only to correct some tiny thing they said wrong. Reading books has been her love since school days, when she was pretty much a loner, and immersed herself in the wonderful works of Roald Dahl, RK Narayan,etc. For her, studying Julius Caesar over a period of 2 years, with every nuance pointed out was like Christmas in Disneyland every single day. She says, “Thank God I wasn’t one of the popular kids. I wouldn’t love reading then! *shocked face*.” Apart from books, Anaghaa is a Mechanical Engineer (We told you we know too many engineers!) with a keen interest in teaching, singing (classical or otherwise) music and Vedanta.

Anaghaa, if not reading, what would be your guilty pleasure?
Writing is one of my pleasures, so is singing all day long, and I wonder why you wrote the word ‘guilty’. The guiltiest pleasure I have had is to download fashion magazines and read them, and follow fashion blogs. You’ll know why this is a ‘guilty’ pleasure when you know me better. Oh, there’s also the time I read Sophie Kinsella (although I keep saying I don’t get why chick-lit exists). It’s fun for a while. You have got to admit.

Among all the books that you’ve read, who is your ultimate fictional hero/heroine? Why?
Ultimate hero has to be Howard Roark. The man with his rugged features and orange hair (which they totally overlooked in the movie. But wait, wasn’t it a B&W movie? Never mind!), and with his quiet determination towards his passion (architecture) is enough to get any girl going ‘hubba hubba’. I read this book at a time when I was questioning my place in the run-of-the-mill engineering education system in Mumbai, and this man (even now  I can’t seem to call him just a character) struck a deep chord, and I resonated with every one of his principles.

Imagine that a supernatural being is documenting the stories of people in your city as a novel. What would you do to become the protagonist of that novel?
I’m pretty entertaining as I am. Protagonist, I probably don’t want to be. Maybe just that side character who keeps cracking lame jokes?

What are you currently reading?
84 Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Which, according to you, is:

Best book you’ve read this year:
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Worst book you’ve read this year:
The Secret of the Nagas
Book that you resolved to read this year, but did not:  
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Most overrated writer:
All of those CB wannabes. Durjoy Dutta being the first followed by a host of others: Sudeep something, Ravinder Singh and so many more that are coming up now that “readers” are so many. (God, I wrote that “readers” in so much contempt.)
Most underrated writer:
Ameen Merchant. I read a book called ‘Silent Raga’ by him. And the depth of knowledge that this Parsi (I think) writer has on Tamil Brahmin culture, not just our way of life, but our quirky little idiosyncrasies, the way we talked, even how we arrange our kaapi packets on the shelf, left me in wonder as I raced through the pages. It portrayed to me a life I’ve known, smelt, tasted, touched and lived and never realized could be told so elegantly.
Best book-movie adaptation:
Hands down, The Namesake. I always say this is the only movie that’s better than the book. With a cast like THAT, what can you expect?
Worst book-movie adaptation:
Slumdog Millionaire. The original book, Q and A, had so much depth, the characters were handled so well, and India even. From the love stories that unfold while waiting to use the common toilet every morning in the slums of Dharavi to the servants of a once-glamorous actress sitting in the servants’ quarters late into the night betting on how many times she’s had plastic surgery, the range was shown so well. Vikas Swarup is a good writer. The movie…well..read the blogpost I wrote in a fit of rage after seeing it.

If you were to write a book, what would be its first line?
‘Just hours after birth, she knew which coo in front of whom would get her the most doting smiles.’

In your opinion, why do books affect readers the way they do?
Readers don’t just read books. They’re part of the world of those characters for a while. I was, as were many others, there when they celebrated Christmas with Marmie by the fire, stitching her presents because they couldn’t afford to buy them. There when Jo’s manuscript was thrown in the fire. We were there when Meg is embarrassed at the first party she attends. We were there to see Jo’s feelings change from causal indifference to poignant love for Laurie. We were there by everyone’s side when Beth…I can’t go on. I’ll tear up. And this is just one book. They’re people for us now. Do you see what I’m saying?

Give one word/phrase for:

  • Open endings: No! Please let me feel like I finished the story.
  • Magic realism: Not much of a fantasy person.
  • Once Upon a Time…: Ah, the good old days of school essays.
  • Screenplays: …of movie adaptations should be 17 hrs long to do justice to the books.
  • Sylvia Plath: Need to read. Soon.
  • Macbeth: Fascinating
  • Cherry Blossom: Shoe polish that Chaplin endorsed? *confused*
  • Bookhad: Family 🙂

A (book) quote that you would like to part with…
“Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too.” – Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach

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Do let us know in the comments what you think, and watch this space for some more interviews.

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