Bookstagrammer Interview Series: Meet Nandini Bhatia

This post is the second installment of a special “Bookstagrammer Interview Series.” Every fortnight you’ll get to meet a bookstagrammer who’s sharing amazing content with all the booklovers, readers, and writers. When Nandini got to know that I’ve started this, she was surprised that I didn’t ask her about this. But even if she wouldn’t have said it, I knew I would reach out to her and I did; I shared a 10-question interview form with Nandini, and her candid responses made this interview possible.

For those wondering how to participate: I handpick people of my choosing via Instagram (your fan base matters the “least” to me, please be assured about it). If you’d genuinely like to contribute to this series, then I’ll encourage you to DM or send me your email at @writerly_life; and I’ll send across the interview Google form to you. Hope you love this installment and other interviews.

Meet Nandini Bhatia (Instagram: @read.dream.repeat)

Guilty of not being able to complete two readathons: Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, though I love both these writers way too much, but wasn’t in the right frame of mind; I think I’ve made it up. Let’s get to know one of my favorite bookstagrammers: Nandini Bhatia.

Image Courtesy: Nandini Bhatia (@read.dream.repeat)

1. Tell us something about yourself. Some pointers: a) Where were you born? b) What did you study? c) When did you start reading? d) If you can tell us the first book that you read or the one that piqued your interest? e) Any special bookish memory?

I was born and raised in Delhi, India. And there is no other place I can imagine my life to be. I’m a postgraduate in Psychology from Delhi University, and am at present taking a gap year, preparing for further studies. My first memory as a reader goes back to fourth grade, before that I don’t think I was as enthusiastic about stories. In fourth grade, my classroom had this wooden almirah that opened once every 15 days. And that, for me, became a magical cupboard. It contained the mysteries of Malory Towers, the answers from The Famous Five, the mischief of Noddy and the lovable characters of Ruskin Bond. And before I could realize, I was hooked. I used to grow physically impatient when I finished the two books we were allowed to borrow, a week before the next opening. I made my friends pick books I wanted to read and still wished for more.

2. When did you start your bookstagram account? (A dropdown selection-based question.)

More than two years (<5 years).

Image courtesy: Nandini Bhatia (@read.dream.repeat)

3. What sort of content do you upload on your bookstagram? Whatever you’d like to answer, in detail or in a single line, feel free to express.

My bookstagram page is a mix of books and everything bookish. I focus mainly on my own reading experiences. Rather than making it generic and unbiased, I make it more personal and passionate. This space for me is not a space to influence, but to come closer to my understanding of things, life, places, people. And it has helped me immensely to communicate my thoughts better, put them in words better. And every once in a while, I share some write-ups as well — mostly reflective and confrontational.

4. If you’re a full-time professional, we’d love to know what you do.

I’m pursuing a few research projects, but nothing official.

5. Do you rate books? If yes, why do you think books should be rated? If no, what’s your politics or rationale behind it?

Initially, when I started with my journey to talk about books, I used to rate, as fairly as I thought I could. But as I grew as a reader and learned to see books as more than just a story, learned to unravel the various nuances a book offers — writing styles, use of words, the discoveries they bring forward — and it became harder and harder for me to quantify it, specially in a more universal sense.

It felt like I was reducing the essence of the book. So I changed my approach a little, started adding more and more explanations to the rating and when even that failed to bring me the impression I wanted to make, I let go of the numbers completely and instead emphasized entirely on my experience with the book, its writing, its characters.

— Nandini Bhatia

Having been the victim of believing someone’s else’s rating to be the objective truth and making the mistake of lowering or raising my expectations unrealistically, I realized my rating could spoil it for someone else, too. Each book is different for every reader. Learned the hard way, but I’m glad I did. I’m sure if I find this method incompetent in the future, I’ll change my ways of expression again. But for now, I’m happy with my choices.

6. Would you like to share a book (or many) that you loved reading the most?

As hard as the question is, some of the many books I’ve loved include The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and, most recently, I fell in love with The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Image courtesy: Nandini Bhatia (@read.dream.repeat)

7. What sort of books do you like? Do you have a certain affinity toward a particular genre?

My taste in reading has drastically changed, and for good. From the aimless fiction I read 6-7 years ago, I now find myself more inclined toward books that critique the society or the issues it gives birth to; or, at least, I try to pick such books more often.

Be it fiction or non fiction, I prefer writings around gender, sexuality, mental health, social injustices, displacement, pain, trauma, war. More than the text, I like the subtext and satire is my personal favorite. It helps me gain perspective and widens my worldview. Apart from that, I like books with atypical or even nonhuman characters — flawed, raw and brutally honest.

— Nandini Bhatia

8. Mix up your favorite books’ names and tell us something about yourself.

If on a cool, summer day, I could figure out the world, I’d break free from the bell jar, breath in the freshness of the gorgeous earth and embrace the things that have fallen apart.

A Note by the Interviewer: I encourage the interviewee to pour their heart out. This is their moment to share what they’ve to say about reading, writing and books, so I don’t edit much, except the style bit. I take a when something is out-rightly offensive and in no way adding value to the whole piece; and for those parts I don’t consult with the interviewee.

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