Defying conventional expectations, Sundari Venkatraman didn’t think of retiring after sixty. She was determined to take a path less travelled. With a relentless spirit and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, she proved that age is no barrier to the pursuit of one’s dreams. Her late-career start became a testament to the idea that it’s never too late to chase one’s aspirations, inspiring others to break free from the confines of tradition and embrace new opportunities, no matter when they come knocking.
Sundar, during her lifetime, tried out many occupations. She spent many nights worrying about whether it was too late to become a novelist. She spent weeks weighing the advantages and disadvantages of changing occupations.
But gradually, she ignored the expectations for mature behaviour and drew motivation from well-known writers like Mark Twain, who made his debut when he was in his fifties. For the next 13 years, she didn’t care if her hair was greying. At the age of 53, she used the Kindle Direct Publishing programme to publish her first book, “The Malhotra Bride.”
She is currently recognised as a best-selling novelist not only in India but also in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 52 of her works have been published over the course of her creative career.
When asked what led her to begin her new chapter, Sundari proudly says that it was a matter of fulfilment and providing a platform for her creative space.
“I’ve always been an avid reader, but I never gave writing any thought. I followed the “normal” course of life, earning my B.Com, getting married, and starting a work. It appeared as though I suddenly woke up in my 40s.
The fact that Sundari enjoys reading passionate romances adds intrigue to her quest. Writing “happily ever after” tales came naturally to me after reading fairy tales, comics like Phantom and Mandrake, and books by Mills and Boon.
When she proudly shares something, there are often critical looks and sighs. Sundari has gone a long way from being crippled by fears and self-doubt to discovering her uniqueness via storytelling and from being a slave to a 9–5 job to becoming her own boss. Both detractors and supporters are in awe of her.
Why I never started writing earlier
Sundari, who is originally from Chennai, was raised in a home where reading and education were valued. She received assistance in mastering the English language from her grandpa, an attorney who worked during the British Raj. When there weren’t many options for amusement, Sundari sought comfort in books and local periodicals.
“Charles Dickens and Mills and Boons’ romantic and unconditionally lovable novels turned me into a voracious reader. However, I was never drawn to Western culture, and I always pondered what it could have been like to read these novels in a desi context. I’d picture the characters against a background of India. In my teen years, I started to practise storytelling,” recalls Sundari.
Sundari followed in the footsteps of her accountant father and earned a B.Com despite the fact that writing was not yet a well-known career. She got married and relocated to Mumbai in 1984.
She worked at an ICSE school for some time where her love of writing was further nurtured. “Even though I worked in the administration division, I frequently reviewed first- and second-graders’ compositions as extra labour. The inventiveness of them astounded me. I desired to follow suit. When my kid was in class 10, I quit my work. But looking back, I should have used those articles as motivation to start writing fiction,” she says.
She subsequently continued working at tabloids and food-tech startups as a copyeditor, writer, and blogger while taking pauses for her kids. Unaware of it, she continued to put off pursuing her job until a pivotal evening walk.
Call it a midlife crisis, poor self-worth, or a lack of job satisfaction, but by the time Sundari turned 40, she felt lost and aimless. She was burdened by duties and her duty as a wife and mother for the most of her life. In 1999, she went for a stroll after returning from work. She had an idea when she got back from the walk, so she immediately started writing. Even though she was worn out the following day from work, she persisted with the narrative, and 35 days later, The Malhotra Bride, her debut book, was complete.
“I experienced delight. Over the following six months, I wrote two additional novels, Meghna and Madras Affair. I had a fantastic narrative to tell, but finding publishers was a different matter entirely. I revised the stories after receiving helpful criticism from relatives and friends and sent them out to publishers,” she explains.
She utilised the Yellow Pages and the addresses of the book publishers because there was no internet back then. She would give them hard copies of her manuscripts and wait anywhere from six months to a year for a reply. Upon understanding the genre, some flatly rejected her, while others refused to read the synopsis at all. The most painful rejection was received from Mills and Boons. She passed a few rounds before being eliminated in the last. The entire procedure took two years and was agonising. After receiving 28 rejections, she nearly lost all hope.
She started blogging in 2010 and began posting chapters from her book on a weekly basis. Rubina Ramesh, a friend of hers, informed her about self-publishing four years later.
“During a writing contest, Sundari and I became friends. Although we were both fresh to the writing world, we weren’t hesitant to venture into the uncharted territory of independent publishing. On her site, I came across some lovely tales, and I was astounded to learn that a writer would offer up so much for free. I lived in the USA during a time when independent authors were well-established in the field of independently published books. She eventually established her name there after I encouraged her to pursue e-publishing, says Rubina, the US-based best-selling independent author Rubina