The Writer

Introducing Lakshmi Sreenath, an Author, a Motivational Speaker, a Nutritionist, a Certified Yoga Trainer, and an Entrepreneur, 
Cochin, Kerala, South India. 

Growing up in a traditional home, Lakshmi believed in magic and, was entangled in a world of mysticism and mythology Her childhood was filled with tales of Gandharva’s (celestial beings) and Nagadevatha’s (snake Gods). For Lakshmi, writing is natural. She wrote her first poem at the age ten. Scribbling her thoughts and emotions has always made her stronger as a person and kept her at ease. Unaware of her calling, she toiled in the world of atoms and particles, numbers and graphs, for more than a decade. And she felt forever lost in expanse. Nothing fascinated her until she found herself through nature and her writings. 

Once Lakshmi started making her own choices in life, she uncovered her potential and thus began her entrepreneurial journey and growth. Her passion for all things natural and handmade led her to launch an artistic bath and beauty essentials firm named Herbal Sutras. Lakshmi’s love and dedication to her writing lead her to author her first book. She is unstoppable now. 

Join us in conversation with Lakshmi Sreenath,
Author, ‘The Sparkle-Eyed Photon, The Missile Man and the Mystic Me’ & Founder, Herbal Sutras. Let’s discover her journey into the world of words and entrepreneurship. 

A conversation with Chippy & Lakshmi Sreenath.

Chippy———————–The Sparkle-Eyed Photon, The Missile Man and the Mystic Me. Wow.
Lakshmi, What an incredible title for a book, welcome to the conversation.
LakshmiThank you so much. It has been years since I wanted to publish a book, become an author, and I am glad it’s now a reality. I am excited.
ChippyAnd first of all, congratulations on your book.Yeah, it’s not easy getting a book out. You know, it takes a lot of effort, it takes years of prep, a lot of affirmations and manifestation.
LakshmiYes and yes, it was very difficult to get it out because first I had to have the conviction that it was possible for me to write. And only maybe a few of the people have just commented in the same way as you have done.

It’s a fact, it is difficult to bring out the book. ‘Self Publishing would have been easy for you?’ ‘Oh, you just self-published on Amazon, it’s just nothing. Too easy.’ These are some comments I heard from near and dear. People tag self publishing as an easy way to be an author.The fact is the writing definitely wasn’t easy. Getting out was even more difficult for me but at last it’s out, that’s one thing so now it’s out but then people just start reading it so that’s the second thing.
ChippyThis is your debut book. A combination of poetry and philosophic dialogues with two departed spirits. Did I get that right?
LakshmiIt’s a mix of fact and fantasy. A cluster of 17 poems with illustrations and story lines. Each poem flows smoothly, with readable stanzas and sonnets, entangled with imaginary conversations with Dr Kalam & Sushant Singh , where they speak about all things under the Sun, which point towards love, betrayal , emotions, relations, social issues, philosophy and mysticism. It’s metaphysical and sometimes, seems to be of not this world. 
ChippyWhat is our takeaway from this book?
LakshmiThere are deep underlying messages and analogies of important life events , which the readers will easily relate to. There is history, epic-rewritten, movie adaptations, a mother’s plea, nature’s wrath, the mockery of death & funeral and the zen moment, where my poems give the readers the realisation of who you actually are. There are analogies, smilies and satires that bring a smile on your face. In fact, you may periodically find yourself in my poems. 
ChippyThis is incredible. Was there a writer in you always? How did this happen?
LakshmiIt was during COVID. To be precise, June 2020. I started re-writing my book. The idea originated in 2018. That time it was a 50 page book. And with those 50 pages, I went to my Professor, she said, ‘Lakshmi you will have to polish it.’ She loved my idea and pointed out some issues with my take on it, made suggestions and asked me to work on it.’  

So, I brought it back and kept it inside my cupboard and locked it and said to myself, ‘this is not going to happen.’During June 2020, death of Sushant Singh caused a void and it reprised me to open my cupboard and start jotting down my thoughts again. The book starts on that day. I had writer’s block for a few months and then started writing again in September 2020. Ultimately, my 50 page book expanded to a 200-page book.
ChippyAnd it’s self published.
LakshmiEven though I have been an avid writer since age ten, I didn’t know the nuances of professional writing, hence I researched how to write professionally. I wanted to learn how to write effectively and interestingly. I learned from Reedsy. I learned there the art of publishing, self-publishing, and even how to write a book. So, I did study, I have notes, how to write similes, how to write sentences, how to make a page interesting. How to make your reader go forward. I have literally learned writing from the internet. 

Let me be open, all this was possible and still is possible because of Sreenath. He was my support system through out, moral & emotional support and also financial help, he spend for the entire work, he lost sleep to learn with me about publishing a book and he is the reason my book is now out there for everyone to read, I just did the writing part. My son Maddy was understanding and absolutely rooting for me and still does.
ChippyWorld has changed, we can learn everything if we set our mind to it. And now you’re a published author. 
LakshmiYes, I have a journey in front of me. Yes, I have a journey. A very long one.
Chippy———————–I know you’re going places; you’re going places and you will go. Where did Lakshmi begin? 
LakshmiI was born, brought up in Cochin. I went to school, did my pre-degree, undergrad and postgrad, all my studies and certificates and everything in Cochin. 
ChippyLet me guess, you majored in literature. Am I right?
LakshmiOh dear. Don’t ask me that. I will cry. Even though I used to scribble and jot down my thoughts, write poems and literature pieces, I was not sure what I wanted to choose for higher studies. The pressure from family was huge and therefore I let my Achan (father) choose for me. I know. I was young and clueless. 

I did Science, Maths, Chemistry, Physics for Pre-degree, I enrolled for B.Sc. Physics for undergraduate studies, and along with this I also completed the GNIIT Program from National Institute of Information Technology.

I was literally flooded with studies and my life was not going anywhere I wanted, I danced to the tunes of others and I let that happen for a long time. Then I decided to attempt to be a Chartered Accountant. (C.A.)  In 2001, I did my articleship and in 2004 I got a job offer with a bank, I took it and after one year in the bank, too much cross selling and sales and targets I decided, I’ll do one more try for C.A. before I decide on a different path or anything else. So finally in 2006, I cleared C.A. Intermediate. When I entered into the final year I realised this is not what i want, I felt if I completed my C.A. I will remain a Chartered Accountant throughout my life, and there will be no looking back and that was not the life I had wanted. 
ChippyFirst, this is a shocker. Second, WOW, you did all this. I cannot imagine doing all this studying.  Did you find the missing piece? Why was that you were never content in any field you ended up in?
LakshmiSimple. My heart, it was set. Literature. Chippy, I always wanted to be a writer, I wanted to write. I always wanted to do literature. I wanted to pursue arts but I let others dictate and decide my life for me for a long time, for almost a decade or more. 
ChippyWhen did love for literature begin? Let’s hear the origin story.
LakshmiI remember in fifth grade summer break, Achan, my father out of the blue said, ‘why don’t you write something?’ I said, ‘write?’ What should I write about?’ I didn’t know how to write. But my fathers push got me writing. Then one by one I started to fill my books with poems and started scribbling down my feelings and I kept my notebook closer and when a thought pops up in my mind I jot it down. I wrote poems about rain, seasons, feelings, and my dad just gave the key to the door, he opened a door that I didn’t know could be opened. 

I  lived in Fort Kochi. Rain Trees everywhere, and my class overlooked Santa Cruz Church. I lived in the past, and present in Cochin. The old Portuguese and Dutch buildings, the streets and the pathways, the beach, I lived in a space that was apt for a writer. So, you can imagine the feelings I lived with and within. 

So that was the beginning of my writing journey. In sixth grade, watching the rain, I wrote my first poem and I kept on writing the next poem, and it went on and on.
ChippyYou are a dreamer.
LakshmiTrue. I love to dream. I dream and then I used to write about my dreams. I think I started scribbling everywhere. You know, jotting down small, small snippets of poetry. And then I remember in seventh grade, school said we’re publishing our first school magazine. You’re supposed to send us a poem. And then I wrote a poem about ‘Amma’. (mother)
ChippySo is that your first published poem.
LakshmiLet me tell you Chippy. I gave the poem I wrote to my teacher, and unfortunately the school magazine did not come out and thus I lost my poem. I was a child and I didn’t know that I had to make a copy of my poetry that I wrote. Poem lost forever.
ChippyMust have been devastating. 
LakshmiIt was a huge lesson I learnt. I learned my lesson and I kept writing and didn’t let this affect me at all. I started joining for essay competitions. I said okay, I loved writing because it made me express more. I used to vent my feelings, emotions. I am a very emotional being. I become angry fast. I became sad very fast as a child. Yes, I used to cry a lot. With a lot going on in my life I wanted to write.

So, I bought a 300-page book to make my diary and I started writing the diary every day. Literally, I will journal everything I did from the moment I wake up to the end of the day. I didn’t know how to journal, so I just wrote everything I did. One day Amma asked, ‘who’s Ashwini?’ And those days writing in your pen name was popular and I gave myself a pen name too. End of each day, I signed ‘by ASHWINI’. I don’t use that name now. It was a phase. I was 100% sure my Amma read all my writings. 
ChippyHow was the transition from school to college?
LakshmiAfter 10th grade, for the next five years I lived and breathed Cochin College. Cochin college was Cochin college. The campus, the mates, the professors, all were exceptional. I had a great time there. Once during a routine lesson we were asked to write a story by Prof Anitha Menon, our English Language Teacher. Immediately on to pen and paper, I started to write.

That time I was influenced by O’Henry a lot and he always had an anticlimax to his story. I wrote a story called ‘Fly Allergy’ and this story got published in the college magazine. So, in that year’s magazine I had a Hindi poem, a Malayalam story, and an English story. Even though my studies took me to a different headspace, my sanity remained as I was able to write and I felt good being recognised as a Writer those days too. 
Chippy———————–Was there a time you lost grip on writing ? Did studies, and Physics take up all your time?  
LakshmiPhysics was hard. I was not able to relate and I had to work harder than everyone else. I was not happy at all. But I still wrote, and there were reservations on writing in depth. I was very…let me correct myself, I’m still a very romantic person. A very hardcore romantic duirng college days. I used to write about small, small crushes and small, small heartbreaks. Because at that point of time, you can’t confess your love to somebody or you’re so reluctant, you can even open your mouth. And I’m afraid to jot down because my mother reads everything, and she will question everything. 

So, writing down was a very difficult part for me because every diary of mine would be read by Amma. So, writing actually started slowing down because, one, Amma read everything and second,  Physics- it was getting a toll on me and because of that I really didn’t have a dream as to what I should become. That’s when Sreenath came into my life. And the best part, and the only reason why I think that I went to Cochin college is because I found my life partner there.
ChippyDetails please.
LakshmiFor me, I could not do an arranged marriage. I didn’t believe in it. I wanted to know a person, speak to him, understand the guy, you know, at least fall in love here and then get married. And I wanted to have those butterflies and you know how a writer can be. And I’m so hardcore romantic person. I wanted the butterflies. I wanted to feel it. 

For Sreenath too Physics was Greek. We were buddies always, initially we became friends and from then onwards, we did all the studies together. We were good friends throughout. But ultimately, it’s like marrying the known Devil is better than marrying an unknown angel. So, we decided on mutual agreement that we vibe okay. And let’s get along and make a life together.
Ultimately, when I was of the marrying age, my mom started  looking for some other alliances. And I was so reluctant because I wanted a love marriage. Fortunately my grandfather was very fond of Sreenath. 
ChippyLove is a dream and a dream that can happen anytime in our life. Right. Have you written poems about Sreenath?
LakshmiIn my book, there is one, which is called ‘Mine’. The smallest poem in the book. We are poles apart still we are best for each other. He is very practical. I am not practical. But I think that keeps me balanced. 
ChippyYou are not a writer alone, you are an entrepreneur too. 
LakshmiTrue. Small scale entrepreneur you may call. I have been making homemade oil for my son Maddy since 2014. I found the store bought oils not suitable for my child’s skin and hair. In 2015, I wanted to make a change in my life and so I decided to enrol for a course, Master of Science in Nutrition. While pursuing this, I also completed my Certification in Yoga and I started Tapasya, a Yoga Centre. 

One day my friend requested an oil for her because she has hair loss issues. So, I told her, I have this formula at home and let me see what I can come up with. I made oil and bottled six in total. After giving my friend, there were few left. So, I asked my yoga students if they wanted the oil I made, they said yes.They insisted that they pay the cost for it. So I priced it at Rs. 200/ 200 ml. So, they used it and the feedback was incredible. One friend said ‘we loved your oil. I really want you to make more. So, again I made a bigger batch. My Yoga students and friends referred me to many others and I was getting more orders and kept on receiving more. It was not intentional at all.  
ChippySo, word of mouth.
LakshmiYeap. I received requests from friends and strangers. ‘Lakshmi I don’t like oil on my hair. Can you make something else for me?’ So, I made a hair toner. And by that time, Ambika Pillai had come up with C serum also. So, I was formulating an identical exact formula. I put in the formula and put-up herbals, herbs and essential oils.

So, I had three products by now. Then one day a friend suggested I showcase my products in Kochi Info Park. Sreenath immediately suggested ‘first thing, you need a brand name. You need a logo. You need stickers and you need good bottles and packaging is vital.’  Then I started thinking about it. So, at that point I was learning Yoga Sutra. I named my brand Herbal Sutras.
ChippyAmazing. How did it take off?
LakshmiI went to the first exhibition at Info Park. It was actually a hit, everything sold off. And the first day I actually made about 20-25k return. I was like, oh my god, this is good. This is good money in one day. Like, it’s really good money. And a second exhibition happened. In August 2017, Flea Kochi happened. Flea Kochi is a posh flea market in Cochin. I had a stall at their second edition. Herbal Sutra kept growing.  

Then a friend asked ‘Lakshmi why don’t you make soaps? Please make soaps at home because my child has eczema.’ I said okay, even my child has eczema. I will, all right. Then I started reading, researching and I started learning aromatherapy and not everything is available, when you do small courses. I started doing herbalism. I started to read Ayurveda. And developed a formula for a soap.I read a lot and so, each product evolved. There was a time when I had 42 products. Sreenath said, ‘42 products. You cannot make it on your own. Not possible.’ So, I scaled it down for 20. And so now I make soaps. I make artistic soaps. I enjoy making soaps, and oil. 

Chippy———————–During Covid you not only managed to write a book but also completed a postgraduate degree in Nutrition.  
LakshmiYes, it was a challenging time. Yet, I completed MSc in Dietetics and Food & Service Management in June 2021. I want to bring out a book that can generate awareness on nutrition, for sportspersons, especially in India. The children who are coming into sports are not aware of what they should eat, how they should and when they should eat. So, I did my research thesis when I did my PG. 

My aim is to create awareness on eating healthy and wise, what do you eat before a match? What to eat after your match? What do you eat before your training? There is no awareness. Bad nutrition actually affects a child’s growth, no matter the training. So, I am thinking of bringing out a book, it’s not a detailed book. It’s more like a manual, a kid can take it and then refer to it before a match or before a training session or during recoveries, so it’s like a small guide. ‘How to eat like a Sports Pro’, that’s how I’ve titled it as of now, because my presentation which I had done for the children has the same name. 
ChippyYou are literally, “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” person. An Author, an herbalist, a nutritionist and an entrepreneur. 
LakshmiI will be juggling between things. And I will not be restricting myself to a single thing. Because I am an Aquarian so I get bored fast.
ChippyAny upcoming books?
LakshmiYes, yes and yes. I love to write and I aspire to be known as a Writer more than anything. I have a vision board and I hope to reach my goals soon. My next hopeful project is a series of poems. I am excited about this and cannot wait to share with the world. I have plans for fiction too, a long way to go on it. Another one I wish to do is a book on nutrition. As I said, I just completed my studies and I have a lot of work to do on it. 
ChippyOne final question. If you ever get a chance to meet your 18-year-old self, what would you tell her?
LakshmiOh Chippy, please don’t ask such a question, there are so many things I would have wanted to reverse. But as seen in the movie Navarasa’s Project Agni using a Time Machine the protagonist altered just one thing from his past and in the present his wife never existed. So, I will not change anything. But I will tell myself, ‘Lakshmi, pluck up courage, please leave Cochin. Go abroad, find a course, study something that you really want to, nutrition or writing, go to Oxford, or Harvard, See the world, and go find yourself, “jaa Simran jaa, jee le apni zindagi”. (‘go girl go, go live your life.’)’. Knowing what I know now, I would have gone places. I would have loved it. 
ChippyThankyou Lakshmi for this amazing conversation. I wish you all the best for the new book and the  upcoming books. You have lots to do and achieve, and I am sure you will always discover a path forward because you have the determination and drive.
LakshmiThankyou and thank you for having me. 
Lakshmi Sreenath
 Herbal Sutras
Lakshmi Sreenath, Author
Click here to buy 
‘The Sparkle-Eyed Photon, The Missile Man and the Mystic Me’

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