Facial Hair, Writing & Success Baby: My Interview with Madhuri Shekar

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Feels like I’ve been spending a lot of time with Madhuri Shekar these past couple of days. More so than usual, actually, at least during the course of this crazy semester. It all started last Monday evening when I was her date/arm-candy  to the East West Players Gala. Table 60. What a night. We saw awards handed out, performances, ate bread rolls like kings (had to–didn’t know if there was going to be a vegetarian option or not), and of course– heard the line up for EWP’s upcoming season. They’ve got some good plays in the mix 😉

Since Madhuri and I had all this time to share together, I figured I would update my portion of the blog (because I’ve been slacking off, huh?) and interview her.

To spice it up, we went ahead and recorded the interview. Below is the link where you’ll see us discussing her work, her sense of style, hating on Megan Kelly, and other topics.

-Zury

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The Writer’s Workout

Doctor Who inspired me to start running.

If you haven’t seen the show, there’s a lot of running involved. The Doctor and his companion(s) run, all the time, from every kind of monster and creepy crawly and terrifying psychic beast imaginable. I started to think, if the TARDIS  shows up one day outside my door, and The Doctor steps out and offers to show me the ultimate wonders of space and time and bow-ties, I would have to say, you know Doc, I’ve seen your show, and I don’t think I’d last the entire 42 minutes of our first adventure. Sorry mate. I can’t run.

So last summer, I downloaded a Couch to 5K app on my phone, bought a pair of Brooks Adrenaline sneakers, and started running. I was doing well for a little bit- made it through the first 10 weeks of the program- when I hurt myself and took a little break. Somehow that little pause in momentum threw me off completely, and although I’ve been running for six months now, three times a week, I still can’t break one mile without feeling like I have to throw up and die (not necessarily in that order).

So don’t worry, this isn’t a post about the wonders of running. I’m not gonna Murakami you. Running kinda sucks. Maybe it isn’t for me. But I need to find some kind of physical activity to do, because the majority of my time is spent with my butt on a chair (or my bed, or the floor- my butt doesn’t like to fight gravity much), and I hate most forms of exercise.

Also, there have been studies that show that if you have to make several tough decisions in a short span of time, your brain winds up craving sugar. Or naps. Just craving it. And what is writing if not making a series of tough decisions, word by word, under a terrible deadline? I’m practically doomed. [Don’t ask me for citations, it’s Sunday afternoon and this is a blog.]

The brief period in my life when I was actually physically active was from the ages of 16-20, when, on a random impulse that paid off in spades, I joined a Bharatanatyam dance class.

Most Bharatanatyam dancers started dancing when they were 5, or 6, or 7, maybe 10, but rarely 16. However, no one told me outright that I was crazy, so I had nothing to stop me. I was in the beginners class with a bunch of 6 year olds, and felt a little stupid at first, but because my brain was so much bigger than theirs (suck it, pre-pubescents), I quickly advanced through the first few levels until, in less than a year, I was dancing with nine year olds! SUCCESS!

Check out this picture from my very first stage performance, in 2003-

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things is not like the others.

I still hated the exercise. I remember, very vividly, the feeling of utter terror that would grip my entire body each time I was driven to dance class. I could barely breathe. My heart would be racing in anticipation of the brutal workout I was going to put it through.

But I loved the dancing. I loved Bharatanatyam because I didn’t have to be thin to do it- some of the best dancers in the world are older, even larger women. I loved Bharatanatyam because it was story-telling, and I loved it because I got to go on stage and perform.

And, okay, I liked that I got skinny too.

Two years later, with the same group.

That’s me in the middle, two years later, with the same group.

I haven’t danced consistently since I left India almost six years ago, partly because it’s hard to find an instructor in LA who teaches my particular style of Bharatanatyam, partly because I can’t fit it into my schedule, and partly because classes are way too expensive for me out here. So I’ll get back to it one day, but probably not very soon.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to give running a rest, and start walking instead. I do like walking. I’m never too tired to walk. I have like six hundred podcasts to catch up on. And I do my best writing when I’m relaxed and outside the house. So let’s see how that goes.

But don’t worry. If The Doctor does show up, I’ll have my trusty pair of Brooks ready. Just in case.

The Oddities of My Quarters… because a Writer Needs A Room of One’s Own (Whether they Like it or NOT!)

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I hate writing in my bedroom and I wouldn’t recommend it. Oprah would agree with me.  I once saw an episode of her now defunct talk show dedicated to Feng Shui. The guest interior designer stressed that the bedroom should be a place of relaxation, and that work should have it’s own site.  Unfortunately, no matter where I go to write, it just never happens. If I’m at the library, I worry I might need to use the restroom and someone will take my stuff. If I’m at my local café, I become too invested in the music that’s playing or I stare at my favorite barista who I’m convinced has had a sex change, but I just can’t tell. At the end of the day when I’m hitting a deadline and I’ve no work to show for myself, I end up in my room and become the crankiest writer ever. No relaxation takes place here. Oprah would not be pleased.

How can relaxation, and for that matter writing, take place here when it’s chaotic, both inside and out? Despite having installed a chained lock, family members continuously attempt to enter for no good reason. Even our three Chihuahuas—Lita, Koki and Lucky, come by hoping I’ll let them borrow my bed for a good forty winks. When I lived alone I used to dream of this attention, but from one individual, not my entire family. Coming from them, I somehow resent it.

The desk is no good to write on. Not only is it small and wobbly, but also it’s become the crash pad for all the trinkets and toys that haven’t found their proper place in my room, a sort of Island of the Misfit Toys. Rebecca Nutcracker lives there. She hates it, but she hates most everything. She’s lived on my desk since Christmas 2011, when my parents got her on sale. She used to be a simple beauty, sporting glittery heart shaped glasses and head full of brown yarn for hair, but my youngest dog, Rocky (R.I.P., My Love) got to her. Now she reminds me of Little Edie of Grey Gardens—balding, detached from reality, and full of regret. She knows she could have been something better, maybe a pencil, but that was never in her cards. 

Back outside, the neighbors do their best to provide my room with a continuous soundtrack. I know their lives without actually knowing them. The wife and mother, Vera, is always home with the couple’s toddler, Jesus. Jesus is becoming quite the little asshole. I don’t know where he’s learning curse words, but he’s been using them to insult his mother and I don’t like it. I would gladly spank him, if she let me, but she doesn’t know I exist.

Despite the chaos, there is a level of comfort. I’m a nervous person in general– I over-think things in life and in writing. In my room I don’t have to think about theft, music or sex changes because I know the oddities of my quarters. That has to be some form of Feng Shui.