On a blisteringly hot May morning, the weather Gods decided to shower us heat stricken Gurgaon folks with kindness. The rain came gently but surely, cleansing the dust away, leaving a cool breeze in its wake. But, that was not all! The air was rife with excitement as everyone was looking forward to meeting a writer who had managed to make a place in our hearts with her heart – warming, witty stories about characters who were quirky and mad and intelligent, all at the same time!

As Ms. Anuja Chauhan strode into Takamaka to talk about her newly launched book, Baaz, the atmosphere was charged with expectation. Radiating elfin charm in an endearing jumpsuit that only she could carry with such panache, she flashed her dimpled smile at one and all. As she stepped on the podium, she kicked off her shoes, tucked her legs under her and sat “aalti paalti maar ke”! It’s hard to not admire a woman who is so comfortable in her skin!

The interview was conducted by Nawaid Anjum, a journalist with The Indian Express. As the conversation moved to “Baaz”, Ms Chauhan talked about the genesis of the novel along with its theme and characters. As we all know (from Wikipedia of course!), she hails from an Armed Forces background with her Dad having served as an officer in the army. Not only that, her uncles were commissioned as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force. These people were some of the earliest influences (as shared by her father with the blogger!) in her impressionable years.

While The Zoya Factor (which is my favourite book), deals with the idea of Good Luck or Lucky Charm versus Merit and hard work; in Baaz, the debate is between Ideology and Reality, as also Humanity or Patriotism/ Nationalism. It is the story of Ishaan Faujdaar, a farm boy from Chakkahera, Haryana, who is an adrenalin junkie! It is also the story of Tehmina Dadyseth, famed bathing beauty, and sister of a dead fauji, who makes him question the very concept of nationalism and whose eyes fill with disillusioned scorn whenever people wax eloquent about patriotism and war… (Google books) It is not only about two countries going to war but also two ideologies that are at loggerheads. As someone once said, there are no winners in a war; this book explores that some more. Pulsating with love, laughter, and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan's tribute to our men in uniform.

As the floor was thrown open to questions, a lot of hands shot up! While someone wanted to know about her writing habits, another wanted to know how she went about editing her novel before publishing. Everyone was curious to know when the movies based on her books (namely, The Zoya factor and The Battle for Bittora) were going to be made and released. A lot of excited chatter ensued as people tried to guess who would play what character! When asked how she developed the characters in her books who were in such contrast with each other, she said that she observed people and confessed to “eavesdropping on private conversations” to help her flesh them out! 

We could have gone on and on, given her easy manner and ability to connect with the audience. All we needed was a glass of wine and some music in the background to reinforce how she made us feel – as if we were all gathered in our drawing rooms, chatting with an old friend.

Pictures Credit: Priti Sagar of Peggy Clicks 

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