A journalist, an erotica author, poet, singer, and podcaster, Aastha Atray is a wonder woman who never ceases to work hard. She believes in the power of imagination and defends stereotypes associated with books. She weaves ‘happy ending’ tales & a surreal world she can escape into. Her inspiration lies in observing people, listening to their stories, and fantasizing.
Candymag caught up with Aastha to learn more about her, the books, and the podcasts.
Q. Tell us a bit about Love Aaj Kal & how it changed your life in the way you perceive the very concept of love?
Aastha is optimistic about the concept of love but ponders on the way people take it. “I think I have always been very positive about finding love, and the whole feeling of it. But as I have done the show I have realized most people harbor very negative feelings about love. They feel they will never find this elusive creature. In the ways the universe works, having that kind of feeling ends up pushing love away from them even more. So the show aims to help them believe in love a bit more and navigate it with optimism”.
Q. Discussing sensitive subjects ranging from interfaith marriages to why men rape is a daunting task, how do you choose & what preparation goes behind the podcast?
So early on, we tackled lighter topics like if a boy and girl can just be friends, or how to get over heartbreak. But as we grew, so did our audience. So we decided to do talk heavier. Preparation is a mix of research and personal experience. Ankit and I have both been journalists so that has helped us have more knowledge. We also get On a Guest whenever we feel we won’t be able to do justice to a topic. That’s when we ask the guest questions and many times we come away amazed at the answers.
Q. Having been India’s second Mills and Boon writer, a successful journalist for fourteen (19) years now, poet, singer & now a podcaster. Take us back to your journey.
It’s been a long journey. I passed out of college in 2002 so almost 19 years now. Till 2011, I was ambling around stuck only doing one job, that is working as a journalist. I think the fact that I was going to turn 30 gave me a push and I then took part in the M&S competition, won it, and hence my first book happened. Then everything just fell into place. I think the one thing I have never done: thinks that I can do only one thing. Or be afraid of judgment. Did I want to sing? I released four original songs. Did I want a podcast? I did that too. I do all that I want. The main thing is that everything in my life stems from my love for love and words. So my journey has been one of just organically doing everything my heart desires, and never standing in my own way.
Q. In your experience over the years, how the role of women has changed the landscape? Are they taking charge of their emotions?
I think women are more equipped to handle their lives by themselves now. But I think women, and men, all see relationships in a very wary way and have become more cynical and skeptical of it. I don’t need a man to be complete— that’s a mantra in a way. But I feel that’s the wrong way of looking at it. We are telling the universe you don’t need a partner. Phrase it differently. I am enough. I am complete. I love myself. And then be open to the possibility of meeting someone and falling in love or friendship. That’s a wonderful thing. And love can be such a wonderful experience. So I feel we have got more sorted in life, but more cynical about love and men.
So all the young women I meet and who talk to me again say, love doesn’t exist, all men are bad, Dating sucks, I will never get over my ex. I think we need to still work on our emotions in a more positive way instead of being so extreme about everything.
Q. How do you view podcasts as a genre?
It’s growing! Massively! Also, it’s a great way to say whatever you want to say, even if it’s very niche. Do you want to talk about knitting? Start a podcast!
Q. The pandemic taught us life lessons & taking up emotional health serious is one of them, what are the few things that you would like to share with the readers about keeping good emotional health?
Try and not to take any extreme sides. Work on a balance of emotions.
Also, do yoga and meditate and be okay with being alone.
And try and always see the positive of things. It’s a cliché but everything happens for the good. So use your energy to create, to plan the future, to dream good dreams for yourself.
If you are upset, create. Write, paint, podcast, sing… anything. But keep creating.
Q. Your take on dating in today’s digital era?
Very fleeting. Everyone wants the next best thing. I feel we should pause and give one relationship a good shot. Most people move on as they are under the illusion there is something better out there.
Q. Your next book?
it’s about all I have, Learned doing the podcast. Basically, a manual of love for the youth. It will be out this year through Harper Collins India
Q. As a journalist, for publications such as Tehelka and Open, addressing serious issues. How do you balance the serious stuff & fantasy weaving in your mind?
It’s so strange. I won the laadli award in 2011 the same day I won the mills and goon competition. I don’t think about it. For me, everything is a story and everything is about people. I write about people — be it a blast survivor, a Muslim girl who plays basketball in Nagpada, or a fictional character who is making love to a disgruntled artist.
Q. You write your own lyrics and your sound is reminiscent of singer-songwriters like Carole King, Jewel, and Taylor Swift in your early days. How music happened & is it your emotional outlet?
I think music has always been a part of my life as I am a good listener. I still spend one day in the week looking for new music and adding to my playlist. Growing up, my salary was only spent on books and music. So it’s ingrained in me. And writing the lyrics was like writing a poem, and it just worked, cos they are simple and relatable. I have a lovely friend, Natania, who gave music to my words, and then it was just about going into a studio. Which I did, as I want to live out every dream. It’s been quite fulfilling to see the songs also find an audience, even when I am not a full-time singer.